Is there a way to create a Mac guest from an installed system?

Discussions about using Mac OS X guests (on Apple hardware) in VirtualBox.

Is there a way to create a Mac guest from an installed system?

Postby bbowens » 5. Jul 2022, 22:05

Hi, I'm trying to figure out how to create a VM from my Mojave Mac to use virtually in a Monterey Mac Mini (2018, Intel i7). Pretty sure I did a similar thing from an old XP install using VMWare (which created a .vdi file), but I'm not finding a similar product/process for the Mac. Could it be as simple as using SuperDuper to create an image file? I'd rather not have to reinstall all that software once in my VM.
Last edited by bbowens on 6. Jul 2022, 08:52, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is there a way to create a Mac guest from an installed system?

Postby scottgus1 » 6. Jul 2022, 04:03

bbowens wrote:Mac Mini

If this is an M1 Mac, then Virtualbox does not work on M1 Macs. If it's an Intel Mac, you might be able to proceed.

As for disk imaging to bring the Mac OS into a VM, you're trying a physical-to-virtual, or P2V. Web-search "P2V Mac Mojave" or something similar to find out how it could be done.

One idea that comes to mind is to run backup software in the Mojave Mac that can image the whole drive to a backup image on an external USB drive. Then copy that image from the external drive into a mounted virtual drive file on the Monterey host. See https://www.virtualbox.org/manual/ch05.html#vdidetails for the kinds of disk images Virtualbox can use. If Monterey is capable of mounting one of these formats so it looks like another drive in the computer, then you can copy the image file to the mounted virtual drive. Then unmount it from Monterey, and attach it to a new Mac VM as a secondary drive. Boot the VM with the backup software's restore media, and restore the image to the Mac VM's primary drive. Then cross your fingers and try the VM.
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Re: Is there a way to create a Mac guest from an installed system?

Postby bbowens » 6. Jul 2022, 08:53

thx; it is an Intel Mini; I've updated my initial post to reflect that :D
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Re: Is there a way to create a Mac guest from an installed system?

Postby mpack » 6. Jul 2022, 11:27

This is not actually a VirtualBox question. The real question is how happy MacOS will be if the disk is imaged and the image transferred to a new Mac, with hardware differences that may vary from slight to extensive.

I don't recall this ever being discussed hereabouts, so all you can do is try it. If disk imaging tools exist for MacOS at all then presumably it's expected to be possible.

VirtualBox itself has no official support for MacOS guests, so that remains the case regardless of how the MacOS VM originated!
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Re: Is there a way to create a Mac guest from an installed system?

Postby multiOS » 6. Jul 2022, 12:29

Never tried this personally, but it's certainly possible to create a bootable clone of macOS to an external drive (preferably SSD) using third-party software or the MacOS native Disk Utility Restore function. The bootable external drive can then be used to boot another Mac (though that's not straightforward with more recent versions of Intel Macs and macOS) or to restore the OS to either the same or another compatible Mac. In theory, it should also be possible to reverse the clone process to use a pre-prepared VM with at least the same sized Mac formatted virtual disk but, as mPack has stated, there could be problems with the virtual hardware that the cloned install will not recognise and that might also include the Host's CPU if it is of a later vintage than was originally used by the cloned version of MacOS. Apple really likes building in both OS and hardware redundancy by matching macOS versions with specific ranges of CPUs!
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