wassilywabbit
Contributor
Contributor

Running macOS from a physical partition as a VM

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Can VMware run macOS (10.13) as a guest OS when already installed on another partition? I really don't want to have to reboot every time I need to access that partition (I am moving to a clean install but need info from my old boot volume). To me, this seems like running a VM from a Boot Camp partition, but Parallels won't do what I need.

Separately, I need 10.11 for legacy software (I upgraded my SSD, and now my laptop won't boot from 10.11, & I can't install it to a new partition); can I install this into a VM & be able to see my other volumes?

Tim King

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dlhotka
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It's more than that.  Apple is working towards blocking the ability to boot from an external drive - see the recent update from Mike at www.bombich.com on some of the challenges he's having getting bootable clones made.  That's a far cry easier than virtualizing physical partitions.

 

I wouldn't hold out much, if any, hope for this.  There are good security reasons to *not* allow it to happen.  Just build a regular VM instead.

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dlhotka
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Champion

You can migrate the other partition into a new virtual machine, but can't virtualize it in place.  That's only windows.

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wassilywabbit
Contributor
Contributor

I really don't understand why this works for Windows, but not macOS. Is this a problem with macOS or are the software vendors just unable to figure it out. Incredibly aggravating!

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wila
Leadership
Leadership

Hi,

It is probably possible, but with bootcamp the way it is configured is much more constrained. IOW there are only a few possible configurations with 1 bootcamp VM.

Besides that the bootcamp configuration is one that is very commonly used in a business settings whereas the business case for being able to run multiple macOS versions is much less common.

So it is not as interesting for VMware to provide an easy click and point way of being able to do this.

If you do want to do this then you would want to use raw disk mapping for your partitions and you should be looking at something like this:

https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2097401

Note however that current macOS will prevent you to access that disk so you will have to muck around with macOS security settings in order to be able to get access to that partition.

Finally be aware of the limitations (you cannot -should never- suspend that VM or use snapshots with it)

I also have no idea how macOS will react if you first boot into a VM and next up boot it physically again. It might not appreciate that.

--

Wil

| Author of Vimalin. The virtual machine Backup app for VMware Fusion, VMware Workstation and Player |
| More info at vimalin.com | Twitter @wilva
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dlhotka
Champion
Champion

Just to extend on that, Apple doesn't even support MacOS on Boot Camp, so that's part of it.

The other part is that MacOS guests have severe limitations (like not having access to 3d acceleration, which severely limits what runs).  Apple didn't build OSX with virtualization in mind - rather the opposite, it generally expects to be running on real hardware.

And last, MacOS guests are a very small portion of the user base, so VMWare probably has it on the roadmap, but at a low priority.

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haralds
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

You can do this manually by setting up a physical disk descriptor file using a command line and then setting up a VM with that existing VMDK set.

I have done this in the past. It's a little fiddly. I have not tried this with anything lately.

ConnectixVPC4Ma
Enthusiast
Enthusiast

This is something that would give Fusion a leg up on Parallels and should be done. haralds seems to have gotten it to work in the past so VMware should start with that method and work toward making this happen. Haralds can you share with us how you did this? I would like to get it a try if it doesn't have too much risk involved.

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ZPedro
Contributor
Contributor

I am very interested in such a functionality as well (I will let you know how successful I eventually get), and if anyone’s listening, I will tell you why.

Flashback (more specifically, OSX/Flashback.I) has been a wakeup call in many ways in the Mac community; and among the alarms, there was the one bit about the malware attempting to detect whether any of some specific kind of software was present on the system up for infection as a sign that it belonged to someone who should not be messed with: anti-viruses beyond the mainstream, network activity reporters, and most significantly, the optional development tools.

I firmly believe that the Mac community should rely as little as possibly on the anti-virus vendors to monitor threats: it’s part of our jobs as developers. So how can I fulfill that role, while still installing the developer and other monitoring tools that would signal me to malware as someone to avoid? You could try obfuscating your installs (e.g. installing in non-standard locations, etc.), but ultimately it would only result in malware applying smarter checks that you would not know how to fool.

The only significant barrier you can put is to install these tools beyond the virtualization barrier. That is, use Mac OS X in a VM guest as your daily driver, and install the tools in the Mac OS X host (where on the other had you never e.g. browse the web), where they can be used to monitor and debug the virtualized OS (e.g. with network debugging).

But, you might sometimes want to boot that daily driver directly for whatever reason, e.g. games. So for that purpose, it needs to have its own partition, not a disk image. So that is why virtualizing a Mac OS X partition ought to be considered a major use case.

I understand this is non-trivial, what with the host OS adding roadblocks these days to software accessing the raw partitions, and with the increasingly complex volumes of a guest Mac OS X install, but I believe this would be useful as a standard configuration.

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dlhotka
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Champion

It's more than that.  Apple is working towards blocking the ability to boot from an external drive - see the recent update from Mike at www.bombich.com on some of the challenges he's having getting bootable clones made.  That's a far cry easier than virtualizing physical partitions.

 

I wouldn't hold out much, if any, hope for this.  There are good security reasons to *not* allow it to happen.  Just build a regular VM instead.

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DaveP
Commander
Commander
Is this a USB or Thunderbolt attached drive? USB is pretty easy and I regularly do it to check installer macOS USB keys I create.
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ZPedro
Contributor
Contributor

dlhotka, I had heard of these difficulties (or at least the takeaway message: impossible to recover from failure of the internal storage without having it replaced), but your intervention did make me realize an additional challenge of my scenario: the OS on the partition may be surprised by the fact it is driving hardware (the virtualized one) different from the one it was driving at the previous boot (the physical one), since that can only happen if the OS is on external storage (or internal storage you can swap, but is there any Mac hardware left with this option?). So while Big Sur, being able to boot on a number of generations of Macs may not be surprised at being hardware-swapped like this, later MacOS version may become less and less tolerant of this situation.

Of course, sometimes it is precisely the VM's job to fool the OS in this way, but I understand the predicament.

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