Last fall I wrote about the collaborative technical/scholarly process of making some ’90s multimedia CD-ROMs available for a Cinema Studies course on Interactive Cinema. I elided much of the technical process of setting up a legacy operating system environment in an emulator, since my focus for that post was on general strategy and assessment – but there are aspects of the technical setup process that aren’t super clear from the Emaculation guides that I first started with.
That’s not too surprising. The tinkering enthusiast communities that come up with emulators for Mac systems, in particular, are not always the clearest about self-documentation (the free-level versions of PC-emulating enterprise software like VirtualBox or VMWare are, unsurprisingly, more self-describing). That’s also not something that to hold against them in the least, mind you – when you are a relatively tiny, all-volunteer group of programmers keeping the software going to maintain decades’ worth of content from a major computing company that’s notoriously litigious about intellectual property….some of the details are going to fall through the cracks, especially when you’re trying to cram them into a forum post, not specifically addressing the archival/information science community, etc. etc.
In particular, while each Mac emulator has some pretty good information available to troubleshoot it (if you’ve got the time to find it), I’ve never found a really satisfying overview, that is, an explanation of why you might choose X program over Y. That’s partly because, as open source software, each of these programs is *potentially* capable of a hell of a lot – but might require a lot of futzing in configuration files and compiling of source code to actually unlock all those potentials (which, those of us just trying to load up Nanosaur for the first time in 15 years aren’t necessarily looking to mess with). Most of the “default” or recommended pre-compiled Mac/Windows versions of emulators offered up to casual or first-time users don’t necessarily do every single feature that the emulator’s front page brags about.
So what really is the boundary between Basilisk II and SheepShaver? Why is there such a difference between MacOS 9.0.4 and 9.1? And what the hell is a ROM file anyway? That’s what I want to get into today. I’ll start with the essential components to get any Mac emulation program running, give some recommendations for picking an emulator, then round it out with some installation instructions and tips for each one. (You can jump right to an app with this Table of Contents:
- Intro: What do I need?
- Intro: How do I pick what emulator to use?
- Mini vMac
- Basilisk II
What do I need?
There are several free and open-source software options for emulating legacy Mac systems on contemporary computers. We’ll go over these in more detail in a minute.
An Operating System Installer
You’ll need the program that installs the desired operating system that you’re trying to recreate/emulate: let’s say, for example, Mac OS 8.5. These used to come on bootable CD-ROMs, or depending on the age of the OS, floppy disks. If you still have the original installer CD lying around, great! You can still use that. For the rest of us, there’s WinWorld , providing disk image files for all your abandonware OS needs.
A ROM File
This is the first thing that can start to throw people off. So you know your computer has a hard drive, where your operating system and all your files and programs live. It also has a CPU, central processing unit, which is commonly analogized to the “brain” of the computer: it coordinates all the different pieces of your computer, hardware and software alike: operating system, keyboard, mouse, monitor, hard drive (or solid state drive), CD-ROM drive, USB hub, etc. etc. This ensures your computer has at least some basic functionality even if your operating system were to get corrupted or some piece of hardware were to truly go haywire (see this other post). But the CPU itself needs a little bit of programmed code in order to work – it has to be able to both understand and give instructions. Rather than stored on a hard drive like the operating system, which is easily writable/modifiable by the user, this crucial, small central piece of code is stored on the CPU on a chip of Read-Only Memory (the read-only part is why this sort of code is often called firmware rather than software). That’s your ROM file. If the whole goal of an emulator is to trick legacy software into thinking it’s on an older machine by creating a fake computer-inside-your-computer (a “virtual machine”), you need a ROM file to serve as the fake brain.
This is trickier with Mac emulation than it is with Windows/PC emulation. The major selling point of Windows systems is that they are not locked into specific hardware: there are/have been any number of third-party manufacturers (Dell, Lenovo, HP, IBM, etc etc) and they all have to make sure their hardware, including the CPU/ROM that come with their desktops, are very broadly compatible, because they can never predict what other manufacturer’s hardware/software you may be trying to use in combination. This makes emulation easier, because the emulating application can likewise go for broad compatibility and probably be fine, without worrying too specifically about *exactly* what model of CPU/ROM it’s trying to imitate (see, for example, DOSBox).
Not so with Mac, since Apple makes closed-box systems: the hardware, OS, software, etc., are all very carefully designed to only work with their own stuff (or, at least, stuff that Apple has pretty specifically approved/licensed). So setting up a Mac emulator, you have to get very specific about which ROM file you are using as your fake brain – because certain Apple models would have certain CPUs, which could only work with certain operating system versions, which would only work with certain versions of QuickTime, which would only play certain files, which would………
That sounds exhausting.
Wait, if this relies on proprietary code from closed-box systems… is this legal?
Well if you got this far in an article about making fake Macs before asking that, I’m not so sure you actually care about the answer. But, at least so far as my knowledge of American intellectual property law goes, and I am by no means whatsoever an expert, we are in gray legal territory. You’re definitely safest to extract and use the ROM file of a Mac computer you bought. Otherwise we’re basically making an intellectual property fair use case here – that we’re not taking any business/profit from Apple from using this firmware/software for personal or educational purpose, and that providing emulation for archival purposes (and yes, I would consider recovering personal data an “archival” process) serves a public good by providing access to otherwise-lost files. The (non-legal) term “abandonware” does also exist for a reason – these forums/communities are pretty prominent, and Apple’s shown no particular signs recently of looking to shut them down or stem the proliferation of legacy ROMs floating around.
Of course, be careful about who and where you download from. Besides malware, it’s easy to come across ROM files that are just corrupted and non-functional. I’ll link with impunity to options that have worked for me.
[Also be advised! Files made from video game cartridges – SNES, Game Boy, Atari, Sega Genesis, the like – are *also* called ROM files, since game cartridges are also really just pieces of Read-Only Memory. Just searching “ROMs” is going to offer up a lot of sites offering those, which is very fun and all but definitely not going to work in your Mac emulator]
So how do I pick what ROM file and emulator to use?
That’s largely going to depend on what OS you’re aiming for. There are four emulators that I’ve used successfully (read: that have builds and guides available on Emaculation) that together cover the gamut of basically all legacy Mac machines: Mini vMac, Basilisk II, SheepShaver, and QEMU.
As I mentioned at the top, a confusing aspect is that many of these programs have various “builds” – different versions of the same basic application that offer tweaks and improvements focused on one particular feature or another. The most stable, generic version that they recommend for download might not actually be compatible with *every* ROM or operating system that the emulator can theoretically handle (with a different build).
In hunting down ROM files, you’ll probably also come across ROMs listed, rather than from a particular Mac model, as “Old World” or “New World”. These essentially refer to the two broad “families” of CPUs that Apple used for Macs before moving to the Intel chips still found in Macs today: generally speaking, “Old World” refers to the Motorola 68000 series of processors, while “New World” refers to the PowerPC line spearheaded by “AIM” (an Apple-IBM-Motorola alliance).
New World and Old World ROMs can be a good place to start, since they are often taken from sources (e.g. recovery discs) more broadly aimed at emulating Motorola 68000 or PowerPC architecture and therefore could potentially imitate a number of specific Mac models – but don’t be too surprised if you come across a software/OS combination that’s just not working and you have to hunt down a more specific ROM for a particular Mac brand/model. We’ll see an example of this in a moment with our first emulator.
If you are currently using macOS or iOS, you can find some wonderfully detailed tech specs on every single piece of Mac hardware ever made using the freeware Mactracker app. Picking an exact model to emulate based on your OS/processor needs can help narrow down your search.
So with that in mind, let’s cut to the chase – moving chronologically through Mac history, here are my recommendation and install tips:
- Mac System 1.0 through 6.x
- Mac Plus ROM
Mini vMac is an easy-to-setup (but thereby probably not the most robust) emulator for black-and-white Motorola 68000-based Macs. While it’s eminently customizable if you dig into the source code (or pay the guy who makes it at least $10 for a year’s worth of by-request custom setups – not a bad deal!!), the “standard variation” of this app that the Mini vMac page encourages you to download for a quick start quite specifically emulates a Macintosh Plus. The Macintosh Plus could run Mac System 1.0 through 7.6.1 – but the System 7.x versions frequently required some extra hardware finagling, so I’d recommend sticking with Mini vMac for Systems 1.0 through 6.x.
Also, while a generic Old World ROM *should* work since Mac Pluses had 68000-series CPUs, I haven’t had much success with those on the standard variation of Mini vMac. Look for a ROM file specifically from a Mac Plus instead (such as the one in the link above, to a very useful GitHub repository with several ROMs from specific Mac models).
- Download the standard variation build for your host operating system (OSX, Windows, etc.)
- Download a bootable disk image for your desired guest OS – System 1.x through 6.x (note these will probably be floppy disk image files, either with a .dsk or .img file extension).
- Download the Mac Plus ROM, rename it to “vMac.ROM” and place it in the same folder as the Mini vMac application.
- Double-click on the Mini vMac application to launch. You should hear a (very loud) startup beep and see a picture of a 3.5″ floppy with a blinking question mark on it – this indicates that the emulator has correctly loaded the ROM file but can’t find a bootable operating system.
- Drag the disk image for your operating system on to the Mini vMac window. If it’s a complete, bootable disk image, your desired operating system environment should appear!
- From there, it’ll depend what you’re doing – if you’re just trying to run/look at a piece of software from a floppy image, you can just drag and drop the .img or .dsk into the Mini vMac window and it should appear in your booted System 1.x-6.x environment.If you want to create a virtual “drive” to save your emulated environment on, you can create an empty disk image with one of the next two emulators on this list or the dd command-line utility if you’re on a Mac/Linux system (note: creating a Blank Image through a contemporary version of macOS’ Disk Utility won’t work):
[cc lang=”Bash”]$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/path/to/image.img bs=512 count=1000[/cc]
will make a 512 KB blank image (512 bytes was the traditional size for floppy disk “blocks”).You can increase the count argument to however large you want, but be warned that early file systems had size limitations and at some point operating systems and software like the classic Mac systems might not recognize/work with a disk that’s too large. Once you have a blank disk image, you can just drop it into a Mini vMac window running a legacy OS to format (“initialize”) it to Apple’s old HFS file system and start installing software/saving files to it.Generally speaking though, a lot of apps and files from this era ran straight off of floppies, so if you’re just looking to run old programs without necessarily saving/creating new files, dragging and dropping in a system disk and then your .img or .dsk files should just do the trick!
- Mac System 7.x through Mac OS 8.1
- Performa ROM
Basilisk II is another well-maintained Motorola 68000 series emulator. But whereas Mini vMac is primarily aimed at emulating the Mac Plus, Basilisk can either emulate a Mac Classic or a Mac II series model (hence “Basilisk II” – there never was a “Basilisk I”), depending on the configuration/build and ROM file used. As with Mini vMac, this might not be clear, but the precompiled configurations of Basilisk for Mac and Windows offered up on the Emaculation forums – which is where the Basilisk II homepage sends you – specifically offers the latter. So while you may see info that Basilisk II can emulate all the way from System 0.x through 8.1, the version you’re most likely going to be using out-of-the-box can probably only handle the more limited range of System 7.x through 8.1 (the targeted range for the Mac II series).
Note though: this was a kind of bananas era for Apple hardware when it came to model branding. So in terms of looking for ROMs, you can try to find something specifically labelled as being from a Mac II series machine – but you may also find success with a ROM file from a Quadra (largely the same as Mac II machines, but with some CPU/RAM upgrades) or a Performa (literally re-branded Quadras with a different software configuration, intended for consumer rather than professional use). In fact, the Performa ROM and Quadra ROMs on Redundant Robot’s site works quite well, so I’ve linked/recommended that above (the Performa one definitely supports color display, so that’s a good one). These have the benefit of emulating a slightly more powerful machine than the older Mac IIs – but just keep in mind what you’re doing. Your desired OS may install fine, but you may still encounter a piece of legacy software that is relying on the configuration and limitations of the Mac II.
- Download the precompiled app for your host operating system from Emaculation (I’ll assume OSX/macOS here).
- Download a bootable disk image for your desired guest OS, from 7.x through 8.1 – I’ll use Mac OS 7.6.1 here as an example. Note this is right in the transition period from floppies to CD-ROM – so your images may likely be ISOs instead of .img.
- Download the Performa ROM from Redundant Robot and unzip it. It’s a good idea to put it in the same folder as the Basilisk app just to keep track of it, but this time you can put it anywhere – you’ll have the option to select it in the Basilisk preferences no matter where it lives on your computer (and you don’t need to rename it either).
- In the Basilisk folder, double-click on the “BasiliskGUI” app. This is where you can edit the preferences/configuration for your virtual machine:
- In the “Volumes” tab, click on “Create…”. We need to make a totally blank disk image to serve as the virtual hard drive for our emulated computer. Choose your save location using the file navigation menu, then pick a size and name for this file (something descriptive like MacOS7 or OS7_System can help you keep track of what it is). For System 7, somewhere around 500 or 1000 MB is going to be plenty. Hit “OK” and in a moment your new blank disk image will appear under the “Volumes” tab in preferences.
- Next select “Add” and navigate to the bootable disk image for your operating system. So, here we select and add the System 7.6.1 ISO file.
- The “Unix Root” is an option for Basilisk to create a “shared” folder between your host, contemporary desktop and your emulated environment. This could be useful later for shuttling individual files into your emulator later (as opposed to packaging and mounting disk images), but is not strictly necessary to set up right now. If you do choose to create and set up a shared folder right now, you have to type out the full file path for the directory you want you use, e.g.:
- Keep the “Boot From” drop-down on “Any” and the “Disable CD-ROM Driver” box unchecked.
- The only other tab you should have to make any changes on at this point are “Graphics” and “Memory/Misc”. For “Graphics”, make sure you have Video Type: “Window” selected. The Refresh Rate can be “Dynamic” so long as you’re on a computer that’s come out within…like, the last 10 years. The width and height resolution settings are up to you, but you might want to keep them accurate to a legacy resolution like 640×480 for accurate rendering of software later.
- In the “Memory/Misc” tab, choose the amount of RAM you want your virtual machine to have. 64 MB is, again, plenty powerful for the era. Again, you can always tweak this later if it helps with rendering software. Keep Mac Model ID on “Mac IIci (MacOS7.x)” (note: I’ve successfully installed System 7 in Basilisk using this setting and Quadra 900 ROM, so I think the desired operating system, rather than the Mac Model, might be the most important thing to keep in mind here). Also leave CPU Type on “68040”. Finally, use the Browse button to select the Performa ROM file you downloaded:
- At this point, you can hit “Save” and then “Start” at the bottom of the Basilisk Settings window…and you should successfully boot into the System 7.6.1 ISO! The desktop background even comes up with little optical discs to make sure you know you’re operating from a CD-ROM:
- The “disk is unreadable by this Macintosh” error is to be expected: this is the blank virtual drive that you created, but haven’t formatted yet. Choose “Initialize” and then “Continue” (you’re not wiping any data, because the blank disk image doesn’t have any data in it yet!!). You should get an option to name your new drive in System 7 – I generally like to name this the same thing that I named the disk image file, just to avoid confusion and make it clear (to myself) that this is just the same file/disk being represented in two different environments.
- Once that’s done, you should just be on the System 7 desktop, with two “drives” mounted in the top right: the Mac OS 7.6.1 ISO installer, and then your blank virtual drive. Double-click on the Mac OS 7.6.1 ISO drive and then the “Install Mac OS” program to start running the installer software.
- The System 7.6.1 installer in particular forces you to go through a README file and then to “update your hard disk driver” (you can just select “Skip” for the latter).
- For the “Choose a disk for installation” step, make sure you have selected the empty (but now formatted) virtual drive you named.
- From there you should be able to just run the installer. This copies over and installs the Mac OS 7 system from the ISO to your virtual hard disk!
- When the program has successfully run, you now quit out of Basilisk by shutting down the emulated System 7 machine. (Hint: this used to be in the “Special” menu!)
- You can now remove the System 7.6.1 ISO file from the Volumes list in Basilisk’s setting, so that every time you launch the software, it goes right into the System 7 environment now installed on your virtual drive. You can now also mount/add any other software for which you have an ISO or IMG file (CD or floppy, basically) by adding that file to Basilisk’s Volumes list and relaunching Basilisk!
- Mac OS 8.2-9.0.4
- New World ROM
SheepShaver is a PowerPC Macintosch emulator, maintained by the same team/people who run Basilisk II – so you’ll find that the interface and installation process of using SheepShaver are extremely similar. Since we’re dealing with PowerPC architecture now, you’re going to need a New World ROM, or similar specific ROM (I’ve had general success pretending I’m using one of the blue-and-white Power Macintosh G3s).
You might notice that SheepShaver’s maximum installable-OS point is Mac OS 9.0.4 – even though yes, versions of Mac OS 9 existed above 9.0.4. This is because SheepShaver cannot emulate modern Memory Management Units (MMUs) – a particular advancement in CPU technology that we don’t need to get into too much right now (particularly since I don’t totally understand at the moment what it does). But the point is, Mac OS 9.0.4 was the last Mac operating system that could function entirely without a modern-style MMU. If you need Mac OS 9.1 or above, it’s time to start looking at QEMU – but, just speaking personally, I have yet to encounter a piece of software that was so specific to Mac OS 9.1-9.2.2 that it didn’t work in 9.0.4 in SheepShaver.
- Download the precompiled app for your host operating system from Emaculation (I’ll assume OSX/macOS here).If you are using macOS Sierra (10.12) or above as your host OS:
Starting with Sierra, Apple introduced a new silent “quarantine” feature to its Gatekeeper software, which manages and verifies applications you’ve downloaded through the App Store or elsewhere. I can bet that at one point or another you’ve gone to the Security & Privacy section of your System Preferences to allow apps downloaded from “identified developers” or even to just let through one troublesome app that Gatekeeper didn’t trust for whatever reason. Perhaps you even remember the old ability to allow apps downloaded from “Anywhere”, which Apple has now removed as an option from the System Preferences GUI.As a result, some applications that you just download in a .zip file from a third-party (like the Emaculation forums) may not open correctly because it has been quietly “quarantined” by Gatekeeper, removing the permissions and file associations the application needs to run correctly. Obviously this is a strong security feature to have on by default to protect against malware, but in this case we want to be sure SheepShaver at least can pass through. Though you can’t do this in System Preferences anymore, you can pass apps individually through the quarantine using the following command in Terminal:[cc lang=”Bash”] $ sudo xattr -rd com.apple.quarantine /path/to/SheepShaver.app [/cc]
- Download a bootable disk image for your desired guest OS, from 8.2 through 9.0.4 – I’ll use Mac OS 9.0.4 here as an example. This is firmly in the CD-ROM era now so it should be an ISO file.Once you have downloaded and extracted the ISO file, you must “lock” the ISO in Finder. This is needed to trick the Mac OS 9 installer software into thinking it is really on a physical CD-ROM. You can do this by right-clicking on the ISO, selecting “Get Info”, then checking the “Locked” box:
- Download the New World ROM from Redundant Robot and unzip it. Put this in the same folder as the SheepShaver app itself and rename the ROM file so it is just named “Mac OS ROM” (spaces included, no file extension):
- Double-click on the SheepShaver app icon to launch the app. If the app has successfully found a compatible ROM in the same folder, you should see a gray screen with a floppy disk icon and a blinking question mark on it:
(If no compatible ROM is found, the app will just automatically quit on launch, so you can troubleshoot from there).
- In the SheepShaver app menu at the top of your screen, select “Preferences” to open the settings menu, which happens to look pretty much just like the Basilisk II settings window.
- In the “Setup” tab, click on “Create…”. We need to make a totally blank disk image to serve as the virtual hard drive for our emulated computer. Choose your save location using the file navigation menu, then pick a size and name for this file (something descriptive like MacOS9 or OS9_System can help you keep track of what it is). For installing OS 9, again, somewhere around 500 or 1000 MB is going to be plenty. Hit “OK” and in a moment your new blank disk image will appear under the “Volumes” tab in preferences.
- Next select “Add” and navigate to the bootable disk image for your operating system. So, here we select and add the (locked) Mac OS 9.0.4 ISO file.
- For the “ROM File” field, click Browse and select your “Mac OS ROM” file. As long as the ROM file is in the same directory as the application and named “Mac OS ROM”, SheepShaver *will* read it by default, but it doesn’t hurt to specify again here (or if desired, you could select other ROMs here at this point for testing/troubleshooting).
- The “Unix Root” is an option for SheepShaver to create a “shared” folder between your host desktop and your emulated environment. This could be useful later for shuttling individual files into your emulator later (as opposed to packaging and mounting disk images), but is not strictly necessary to set up right now. If you do choose to create and set up a shared folder right now, you should type out the full file path for the directory you want you use, e.g.:
- Keep the options on “Boot From: Any” and leave “Disable CD-ROM” unchecked. Choose an amount of RAM you want your virtual machine to have. 512 MB was plenty powerful for the time, but you can futz with this potentially based on the requirements for the software you’re trying to run.
- For the “Audio/Video” tab, make sure you have Video Type: “Window” selected. The Refresh Rate can be “Dynamic” so long as you’re on a computer that’s come out within…like, the last 10 years. The width and height resolution settings are up to you, but you might want to keep them accurate to a legacy resolution like 640×480 for accurate rendering of software later. Make sure “Enable QuickDraw Acceleration” is selected and leave audio settings alone.
- Under the “Miscelleaneous” tab, select “Enable JIT Compiler”, “Allow Emulated CPU to Idle” and “Ignore Illegal Memory Accesses”. You can select the Mouse Wheel Function to taste. If you’re interested in getting networking working inside your virtual machine, in the “Ethernet Interface” enter the word “slirp” – otherwise, you can ignore this section.
- Hit “Save” to save these preferences and leave the settings window. You should be back at your blinking gray floppy. At this point, the only way to shut down the virtual machine and apply your new settings is to force-quit SheepShaver by pressing Control + Esc.
- Immediately double-click on the SheepShaver app again to relaunch. This time, you should boot into the Mac OS 9 installer CD! The desktop background should make it very clear you are booted into a CD installer:
- The “disk is unreadable by this Macintosh” error is to be expected: this is the blank virtual drive that you created, but haven’t formatted yet. Choose “Initialize” and then “Continue” (you’re not wiping any data, because the blank disk image doesn’t have any data in it yet!!). You should get an option to name your new drive in OS 9 – I generally like to name this the same thing that I named the disk image file on my host system, just to avoid confusion and make it clear (to myself) that this is just the same file/disk being represented in two different environments.
- If it hasn’t already opened automatically, double-click on the Mac OS 9 ISO drive and then the “Install Mac OS 9” program to start running the installer software.
- For the “Choose a disk for installation” step, make sure you have selected the empty (but now formatted) virtual drive you named.
- From there you should be able to just run the installer. This copies over and installs the Mac OS 9 system from the ISO to your virtual hard disk!
- When the program has successfully run, you can remove the ISO file from the mounted “Volumes” in SheepShaver’s preferences. Hit “Save” and then shut down the emulated machine to quiet SheepShaver (hint: the “Shut Down” command used to be in the “Special” menu on Mac OS desktop!!)
- Now, when you relaunch SheepShaver again, you should boot directly into your installed Mac OS 9 environment! As with Basilisk, you can mount floppy or CD-ROM images into your emulated desktop by opening SheepShaver’s Preferences and selecting the image files to Add them to your Volumes list (you’ll have to quit SheepShaver and relaunch any time you want to change/apply new settings, including loading new images!!)
- Mac OS 9.1 – Mac OSX (10.0-10.5)
QEMU is a generic, extremely flexible emulator/virtualization application. It can be theoretically configured to run all kinds of guest operating systems on all kinds of hosts, not just Macs; but the forum users at Emaculation have put a lot of work into assembling QEMU builds specifically capable of PowerPC MacOSX emulation, a processor/OS combination that has generally hounded and confounded the emulation community for some time.
As such, I’ll say up front this is definitely the roughest emulator to use, both in terms of the emulated system not running as smoothly as you’ll see with the other listed programs (audio, for instance, isn’t working unless you use an experimental build) and in that troubleshooting is going to be near impossible without a basic understanding of Bash scripting. (You *can* just follow exactly this guide or the Emaculation tips with a basic text editor like TextEdit, but especially given the fact that the forums are pumping out new builds on the regular, there’s no guarantee these will work/last very long).
The good news is – you don’t need a separate ROM file for this one! I assume the necessary code is just packaged into the provided QEMU builds rather than kept in a separate file. The Emaculation forums provide a few approved builds depending on what exactly you’re trying to do, but unless you’re trying to do some emulated networking (if you’re just a beginner here – not recommended), the first download link on that page is the one you should use. This will let you install any PowerPC OS from 9.1 up that you choose – for the purposes of this guide, I’m going to pretend I’m putting Mac OSX 10.1 “Puma” on a classic Bondi Blue iMac G3!
- Download the precompiled build for your host system. For Mac systems, we’ll be using the first download in this forum post, although again, remember that you will not have audio with this build!! Feel free to explore some of the experimental versions once you have the process down.
- Unzip the QEMU folder and put your MacOSX install disc ISO into that same folder.
- Open the Disk Utility program. Hit Command+N (or go to File -> New Image -> Blank Image) to create a blank disk image for your virtual hard drive (we have now moved up far enough in time that Disk Utility can actually do all the proper formatting/partitioning here!)With the file browser navigate into the QEMU download folder and name your file something descriptive, like MacOSPuma. You will need at least 1.2 GB to install OSX 10.1, so I’d recommend making the blank image at least 2GB – note that Disk Utility makes you enter this number in MB! (so, 2000 MB)For “Format”, select “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”. For “Encryption” select “none”, for “Partitions”, select “Single partition – Apple Partition Map” and for “Image Format” select “read/write disk image”.It will take a minute to create the blank disk image, but you should wind up with a file called “MacOSPuma.dmg” in your QEMU folder.
- In the downloaded folder there should be a file called “qemu.command”. Open this file with a plain text editor, TextEdit will do.
- Much of the text here is good, but we need to make a few substitutions. Namely, we need to attach a virtual CD-ROM drive, make sure it reads our Mac OSX installer ISO, make sure the code reads our blank disk image, and set it so that the QEMU application attempts to boot from the ISO, not the blank hard disk image.First, change the flag for[cc lang=”Bash”]boot -c[/cc] to [cc lang=”Bash”]boot -d[/cc]Change the [cc lang=”Bash”]-drive file=~/Mac-disks/9.2.img,format=raw,media=disk[/cc] so that the path matches the file path of the blank .dmg disk image that you made. Make sure to change the file extension and not to put any extra spaces into the code.Now, add another drive path flag to the code BEFORE the disk image drive flag. It should read something like: [cc lang=”Bash”]-drive file=~/QEMU/Mac_OS_Puma.iso,format=raw,media=cdrom[/cc], only substituting in the correct file path and name for your ISO.All told, the file should now look like this – note how all the code following “./qemu-system-ppc” is all on one line, even though the text wrapping in TextEdit will probably make it look otherwise for you:[cc lang=”Bash”]#!/bin/bash
cd “$(dirname “$0″)”./qemu-system-ppc -L pc-bios -boot d -M mac99 -m 256 -prom-env ‘auto-boot?=true’ -prom-env ‘boot-args=-v’ -prom-env ‘vga-ndrv?=true’ -drive file=~/QEMU/Mac_OS_Puma.iso,format=raw,media=cdrom -drive file=~/QEMU/MacOSPuma.dmg,format=raw,media=disk -netdev user,id=network0 -device sungem,netdev=network0[/cc]Save the “qemu.command” file.
- Now we need to make this .command file (which is basically just a tiny Bash script) executable so that your host operating system knows to run it like an application just by double-clicking. Open the Terminal app and run[cc lang=”Bash”] $ chmod +x /path/to/qemu.command [/cc]either typing out the full file path yourself, or just drag-and-dropping the qemu.command file into Terminal to get the full path automatically.
- Double-click on the “qemu.command” file. If all has been set up correctly, after a minute you should boot into the Mac OSX Puma installer.
- Your blank .dmg file should show up as an available destination disk on which to install OSX! Once the full installer has run (takes a few minutes), the software will eventually try to reboot the machine, which at this point will just take you back into the ISO installer. Mash Command+Q to quit out of QEMU.
- Go back to your “qemu.command” file in TextEdit. Swap the [cc lang=”Bash”]boot -d[/cc] flag BACK to [cc lang=”Bash”]boot -c[/cc], and delete the -drive flag for the ISO installer entirely, just leaving the .dmg file attached. Save the file. At this point, you should now be able to just double-click the “qemu.command” file and launch into OSX Puma, installed on your virtual hard drive!(it may take a minute! remember this is not going to be nearly as quick/smooth as loading on original hardware – and that you’ll have to go through a bunch of Apple’s “registration” nonsense)
- You can always attach more disk images to the emulated environment by re-creating “-drive” entries with “media=cdrom” and the file path to your ISO/CDR in the “qemu.command” file and saving/relaunching QEMU.
3 thoughts on “A Guide to Legacy Mac Emulators”
Thanks for writing this! Got me up and running with SheepShaver in no time, and helped clarify the differences between the emulators.
I guess at some point in the coming years this post will be updated with the inevitable “x86 Macs” section that outlines how to emulate pre-M1/post-ppc macs 🙂
For all those supporting MacOS X from Lion (10.7) to Catalina (10.15), which only can run on x86.
Indeed! Technically this is already possible with QEMU 😄 – though it takes quite a bit of explanation and even obtaining the installation media becomes more complicated. But I will try to update this post when I get the chance, it is worth doing.