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I want to install an older macOS version in a virtual machine (using Parallels) to run old 32 bit apps. I try to download using this page: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT211683

I tried to download High Sierra 10.13 from the it's App Store page. I've read this should lead to a "Install macOS ..." app file which can be used by Parallels Desktop. But whenever I click "Get" on it opens "Software Update" page of System Preferences app

For even older macOS versions, there are links to download a DMG. I've downloaded a DMG of Sierra 10.12 with InstallOS.pkg in it. However, running PKG only shows the message "unable to install" (probably because I have 11.2 Big Sur). Both these DMG and PKG aren't suitable for Parallels as an image file.

How can I get a normal image of MacOS <= 10.14?

I use MacBook Pro 2019 with Intel CPU

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  • 1
    The answer depends on the model/year of your Mac. Can you edit your question and add this information? Also, include the amount or memory installed in your Mac. Jan 6, 2023 at 14:16
  • When you click "Get" it is supposed to open System Preferences, but it should still download that version you clicked. Does it not?
    – Ezekiel
    Jan 6, 2023 at 15:13
  • @DavidAnderson oh yeah, I have added the model, Intel CPU
    – AivanF.
    Jan 7, 2023 at 20:22
  • @Ezekiel Nope, it only opens the System Preferences which says it cannot install an older version, nothing gets downloaded :( Is it possible to acquire the OS installation app another way?
    – AivanF.
    Jan 7, 2023 at 20:24

2 Answers 2

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Note: For acquiring an installer for versions of OS X and macOS before macOS High Sierra, see my other answer.

Starting with macOS Big Sur, the commands --list-full-installers and --fetch-full-installer have been added to the softwareupdate command. This answer includes an example of how to acquire the approximately 5.2 GB full "Install macOS High Sierra" application, which can be use to do a clean install of macOS High Sierra in a Parallels virtual machine client.

Test Environment Stats:

  • Parallels Desktop 18 for Mac (Version 18.1.1 (53328)
  • Mac mini 2018, 3 GHz 6-Core Intel Core i5, 8 GB memory
  • Host: macOS Ventura 13.0.1
  • Guest: macOS Big Sur 11.7.2

The outline is given in the steps below.

Note: I did not use an Apple ID when creating an user account.

  1. Enter the command given below to list available versions of macOS which can be download and installed on the host.

    softwareupdate --list-full-installers
    

    Below is the output from the Mac mini.

    davidanderson@MyBigSur ~ % softwareupdate --list-full-installers
    Finding available software
    Software Update found the following full installers:
    * Title: macOS Ventura, Version: 13.1, Size: 12217512421K
    * Title: macOS Ventura, Version: 13.0.1, Size: 12151255443K
    * Title: macOS Ventura, Version: 13.0, Size: 12151608300K
    * Title: macOS Monterey, Version: 12.6.2, Size: 12395078361K
    * Title: macOS Monterey, Version: 12.6.1, Size: 12399095056K
    * Title: macOS Monterey, Version: 12.6, Size: 12394539947K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.7.2, Size: 12410170728K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.7.1, Size: 12410109410K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.7, Size: 12409605694K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.6, Size: 12412173576K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.5, Size: 12412317772K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.4, Size: 12439328867K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.3, Size: 12435122667K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.2, Size: 12433351292K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.1, Size: 12428472512K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.5.2, Size: 12440916552K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.7, Size: 8248985973K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.7, Size: 8248854894K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.6, Size: 8248781171K
    * Title: macOS Mojave, Version: 10.14.6, Size: 6038419486K
    

    Note that macOS High Sierra is missing, which is expected since a 2018 Mac mini can not install this version of macOS.

  2. Enter the command below to download the "Install macOS Big Sur" application to the "/Applications" folder.

    softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 11.7.2
    

    Note: I did not need to include sudo, however some websites have suggested this may be a requirement.

  3. Use the "Install macOS Big Sur" application to create a Big Sur virtual machine client.

  4. From the client, enter the command given below to list available versions of macOS which can be download on the client.

    softwareupdate --list-full-installers
    

    Below is the output from the virtual machine client.

    dma@dmas-Mac ~ % softwareupdate --list-full-installers
    Finding available software
    Software Update found the following full installers:
    * Title: macOS Ventura, Version: 13.1, Size: 12217512421K
    * Title: macOS Ventura, Version: 13.0.1, Size: 12151255443K
    * Title: macOS Ventura, Version: 13.0, Size: 12151608300K
    * Title: macOS Monterey, Version: 12.6.2, Size: 12395078361K
    * Title: macOS Monterey, Version: 12.6.1, Size: 12399095056K
    * Title: macOS Monterey, Version: 12.6, Size: 12394539947K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.7.2, Size: 12410170728K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.7.1, Size: 12410109410K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.7, Size: 12409605694K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.6, Size: 12412173576K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.5, Size: 12412317772K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.4, Size: 12439328867K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.3, Size: 12435122667K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.2, Size: 12433351292K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.6.1, Size: 12428472512K
    * Title: macOS Big Sur, Version: 11.5.2, Size: 12440916552K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.7, Size: 8248985973K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.7, Size: 8248196334K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.7, Size: 8248854894K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.6, Size: 8248781171K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.6, Size: 8250022229K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.5, Size: 8236829020K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.4, Size: 8250718056K
    * Title: macOS Catalina, Version: 10.15.3, Size: 8184371561K
    * Title: macOS Mojave, Version: 10.14.6, Size: 6038419486K
    * Title: macOS Mojave, Version: 10.14.5, Size: 6033811488K
    * Title: macOS Mojave, Version: 10.14.4, Size: 6036269091K
    * Title: macOS High Sierra, Version: 10.13.6, Size: 5221689433K
    

    Note that macOS High Sierra is now included in the list.

  5. Enter the command below to download the "Install macOS High Sierra" application to the "/Applications" folder on the client.

    softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version 10.13.6
    

    Note: I did not need to include sudo, however some websites have suggested this may be a requirement.

  6. Copy the "Install macOS High Sierra" application from the client to the host. This application can be used to do a clean install of macOS High Sierra in a virtual machine client.

  7. (Optional) To reclaim space, shutdown and delete the macOS Big Sur virtual machine. I also found the was an approximately 13.1 GB macOS image file.iso file which could be deleted. This was the file created by Parallels, then used by Parallels to install macOS Big Sur.

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Note: For acquiring a full installer for versions of macOS after macOS Sierra, see my other answer.

This answer applies to Oracle VirtualBox, VMware Fusion Player and Parallels Desktop.

Basically, if you can not get the installation files for the version of OS X or macOS that you want, then create a virtual machine from files you can get. Next, use the virtual machine to create virtual machine with the desired version of OS X or macOS.

Below is a example where the result is a virtual machine with macOS High Sierra installed.

Test Environment Stats:

  • Parallels Desktop 18 for Mac (Version 18.1.1 (53328)
  • Mac mini 2018, 3 GHz 6-Core Intel Core i5, 8 GB memory
  • Host: macOS Ventura 13.0.1
  • First Guest: OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.5
  • Second Guest: OS X El Capitan 10.11.6
  • Third Guest: macOS High Sierra 10.13.6

The outline is given in the steps below.

Note: I did not use an Apple ID when creating an user account or when accessing the App store.

  1. Follows instructions given in Update 2: How to Get the InstallESD.dmg File from Apple Update to get the InstallESD.dmg installation file for Mountain Lion. Note: These steps will not work for Yosemite, El Capitan or Sierra.

  2. Use the InstallESD.dmg installation file to create a Mountain Lion guest in a virtual machine. You should treat the file as if you had an ISO, even though the file ends with .dmg. In other words, you boot from the InstallESD.dmg installation file after being inserted in a virtual optical drive by Parallels.

  3. Use the host to download the InstallMacOSX.dmg for El Capitan from How to download macOS.

  4. Access the InstallMacOSX.dmg from the guest. Use the file to create the "Install OS X El Capitan" application in the guest's /Applications folder.

    Note: At this point, the "Install OS X El Capitan" application could be copied to the host and then be used to create a new OS X El Capitan virtual machine. In other words, a clean install of OS X El Capitan. Instead a clean install, I will proceed to the next step and upgrade the existing virtual machine to OS X El Capitan.

  5. Use the "Install OS X El Capitan" application to upgrade the guest to El Capitan.

  6. From the guest, download and install all updates available for El Capitan.

  7. From the quest, use Safari to access the website How to download macOS. Follow the instructions to download the "Install macOS High Sierra" application to the guest's /Applications folder.

    Note: This "Install macOS High Sierra" application is only approximately 23 MB in size and therefore is to small to be a full complete installer. This means the application can not be used to do a clean install of macOS High Sierra.

  8. Use the "Install macOS High Sierra" application to upgrade the guest to High Sierra.

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