Microsoft offers free Windows virtual machine images for development. Does Apple have something similar for macOS?


4 Answers 4


No, Apple only gives access to macOS beta for developers that are parts of the Apple Developer Program (more info about the latest macOS version here and release note of the latest beta as sep. 18 2022).

Developed by Apple and free on the App Store, Xcode :

includes everything you need to develop, test, and distribute apps across all Apple platforms.

  • 3
    Anyone can download beta versions now and there is first party virtualization and documentation direct from Apple. Licenses to run these are widely available through several free programs.
    – bmike
    Sep 18, 2022 at 17:12

Apple publishes all the current beta full installers and there are apps and scripts (including the softwareupdate command line tool that ships with macOS) for anyone to freely download these images for development and testing purposes.

You do need to acquire a license either from the free (or paid) developer programs or one of the free (or institutional) seeding programs.

Many virtualization systems work from these installers without requiring modification of the Apple installers which are code signed for anti-tampering and security purposes. The Apple “equivalent” of Microsoft’s first party hyper-V virtualization framework has many videos from WWDC and is officially documented online.

  • If I am not wrong it's available for free
    – nulll
    Sep 18, 2022 at 18:30
  • 1
    You’re not wrong. Most people pay zero for this @nulll
    – bmike
    Sep 18, 2022 at 18:55
  • I might be misreading this, but the OP seems to ask about generic cross platform virtualization images. E.g. Microsoft provides images that will run just as easily on Windows, Linux and Mac. All the links here seem to talk about deploying stuff onto a mac... which seems kind of pointless 😅 . Sep 19, 2022 at 5:52
  • 1
    @DavidMulder, Apple won't allow you to run macOS on anything but Apple hardware, but virtualizing it is anything but pointless. It lets you test your software on potentially-unstable future versions of the OS, it lets you use older versions for testing bug reports, and it provides an easily-wiped sandbox for testing potentially unstable software (came in quite handy once for me when a path-handling bug caused the software to try to wipe the hard drive).
    – Mark
    Sep 19, 2022 at 7:40
  • @Mark: We are talking about "machine images for development". The linked example (for which the OP was asking 'something similar') is not about downloading an old version of Windows, it's about getting a dev environment for Windows desktop app development (preinstalled with the Windows equivalent of xcode). So the real answer is: Apple doesn't want (and actively works against) developers to support their (Apple's) customers unless the developer first invests in Apple products. Sep 19, 2022 at 8:22

You can use this docker image to run mac in a VM. It also allows you to install xcode and use the iphone emulator, it's not very fast though.

If you need something a bit more performant and/or approved by apple look for services like macincloud or similars, it's definitely cheaper than buying a MacBook 🙂

  • 1
    Note this is definitely NOT provided by Apple
    – mmmmmm
    May 31 at 9:46

There is a nice utility on linux for this called quickemu: https://github.com/quickemu-project/quickemu

It does require some knowledge of running linux but if you have a spare computer, you could install something like Ubuntu and use this utility to spin up a VM.

  • While correct, the original question is if Apple makes this provision. So really this could have been a comment than an answer.
    – agarza
    Sep 22, 2022 at 17:56

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