Howto install Mac OSX Snow Leopard in Virtualbox on Linux

Why Mac? You’re a Debian Gnu/Linux user
I did this out of curiosity and just for the challenge more than anything, then deleted this VM shortly afterwards.
One thing I did notice while playing around with Mac, is how similar Ubuntu (Unity) is becoming to the Mac desktop. Everything was polished and nice to look at, but as a Debian (Openbox) user, i’m impressed by speed and reliability, not pretty wallpapers and icons.
What Hardware and Debian do you have?
I use Debian Squeeze with an AMD 64bit Quadcore CPU, Ati 1Gb GPU and 8Gb RAM. This is why I did this out of curiosity, as Apple Macs are Intel-centric.

Part 1 – Virtualbox & Ext4
One thing i noticed is that Virtualbox has an Ext4 bug which means that if you want to install Mac, your VirtualBox VMs directory needs to be on an NTFS partition. Luckily I have one of these, so I created the directory there, and pointed VirtualBox to use that one instead.

Part 2 – Which Mac iso?
I got one created by Hazard that is AMD 64bit compatible. Obviously, the legality of this image and running it virtually is in question, but as I said, both the iso and VM have been deleted now.

Part 3 – Create and Configure the Virtual Harddrive
Create a 30 Gb fixed Virtualbox drive for Mac. Once it is done, open Settings > System > Mother Board, and change:

  1. Remove the Floppy drive.
  2. Chipset selected to ‘ICH9’
  3. Enable IO APIC
  4. Disable EFI (This caused me a couple of failures) 
  5. Only provide up to 2048Mb of RAM, more fails for some reason.

Part 4 – Starting the installation
In the drive settings, choose Hazard’s Snow Leopard iso, attach it the tht virtual CD drive, and start the VM
1. As soon as it starts run, a message will appear for you to hit enter to boot from CD
2. Follow the screens step by step, most of it is common sense.
3. The VBox HD is blank. So you have to format it with ‘Disk Utility’. When you get to the first screen with a menu bar, choose Utilities-> Disk Utility.
4. You’ll see the Disk, but it can’t be used until it formatted.
Choose the Harddrive and click the ‘Erase’ tab. Under Erase, choose Mac OS X Extended (Journaled) and then name it ‘OSX’ and click ‘Erase’ again.
5. Now close the Disk Utility and continue with the installation.

Part 5 – Special Settings for AMD CPUs (Screenshot 1)
At the next screen you’ll see a “Customize” button at the bottom left. Click it, and check the same boxes I have in  the screenshot above, then continue the install. It took about 10 minutes on my machine.
**NOTE** See the Updates marked in RED – Do not install them, you’ll be left with an Unbootable Mac that hangs at the Apple Logo Splash Screen.

Part 6 – First Boot
1. Once the install is finished, remove the CD from the drive, by clicking the Virtualbox window menu Devices > CD/DVD Devices > Remove Disc from virtual drive.
2. Shutdown the VM, close VirtualBox, then reopen VirtualBox and start the VM. If all went well, you will now be greeted with the Mac preparation screen asking for your personal details to setup the desktop.

That’s it, basic install complete.

**NOTE** If you get a Kernel Panic with “vm_page_set_colors” Error
Paul Edwards commented that it can be solved by a simple boot option of “colors=32”.
Thanks for that Paul 🙂

Part 7 – Screen Resolution
I did two hacks to get my Screen Size – 1920×1080

From Linux:
1. Open your terminal, and as a user (not Root, nor Sudo) type this command with your screen resolution and the name of your VM:

VBoxManage setextradata “Snow Leopard” “CustomVideoMode1” “1920x1080x32”

2. Restart the Virtual Machine

From Mac VM:
1. Open the file browser, go to the root directory and open the “Extra” folder. You’ll see a file called “
2. Open it with the Text Editor, add the code below, then save it to your Desktop with exactly the same name and suffix (.plist).

Graphics Mode

3. Now drag it back to the “Extra” directory, and type in your password (admin permissions) and replace the old one.
4. Restart the Virtual Machine, and you should now have full screen available.

Here it is after the Screen Resolution Hack, which is perfect when you change it to Full Screen:

That’s about it. Have fun.

A heads up to these guys for their isos and guides:

Hazard Mac isos –
Vbox Mac Howto –
Vbox Mac Howto –
VM Guide –
VM Error Help –


16 thoughts on “Howto install Mac OSX Snow Leopard in Virtualbox on Linux

  1. Interesting observation about Unity and OS X. I've written about this in the past and produced screenshots to show the comparisons but at the moment I think they are heading in the other direction again or at least enough to give Unity its own identity.

    Ultimately Unity is about developing an OS for Canonical's corporate clients and similarities to the other big OS's are going to be inevitable to expand their client base. I've always thought the Ubuntu community is a bit duped in this regard. They are lead to believe that the distro is all about them when in reality it's not. If the community fell away in droves Ubuntu and Unity would plough on regardless.

  2. Ubuntu (Forums) has hit critical mass now, just like Facebook. For every 2 that leave, there are 3 new users. If they do what Google has done with Android, and push for more Linux mobile devices i'll be happy with that. Won't use Ubuntu personally, but I can see the appeal.

  3. Hi Wynter,
    Thanks for the comment.Sorry but I basically had to leave the install “as is” as there doesn't seem to be much forward or backwards compatibility with Mac without really screwing things up.
    I tried to make changes with updates and upgrades with 3 different virtual installs, and the updates messed them up.

  4. You can do this on Intel boxes with the retail version instead of being a nasty, low down, rotten, scum-bag, good for nothing pirate. You need to start with VirtualBox version 3.x, however, but migrate to the latest version post install.

  5. @outlawtorn
    This was done just to prove it could be. There is no way i'd ever have any apple products on any of my systems, even if they were free/pirated.
    Apple is aimed at brand-whores who “have” to buy a product for them to believe it is some kind of status symbol, therefore piracy would defeat the object 🙂

  6. @Rich,
    Thanks for putting this guide together. I followed your instructions exactly on Wheezy but I get the meditating Guru with a critical error when the machine tries to boot from the CD.

    I'm running 64-bit Wheezy. I also have a purchased Snow Leopard DVD but I can't seem to boot from that (it mounts it as the “Boot Camp” CD).

    Any suggestions?

  7. Hi Wesleykins,
    Sorry, but the only iso I found that would boot and install was the one mentioned above.
    I'm not sure if there are any major differences in Wheezy which would cause problems, as I run Squeeze. Maybe it could be that version of Virtualbox, or even an original Mac disc which doesn't like being installed virtually. I'm not sure.
    Did you make sure that your VM directory is on an Ntfs partition, and not Ext4?

  8. “your VirtualBox VMs directory needs to be on an NTFS partition”

    I don't understand how you have an ext4 issue with Virtualbox, I don't. And NTFS is Microsoft's file system for Windows, it has nothing to do with Linux native file systems.

    I've installed and tested OSX 10.6.2 and I have brtfs filesystem. By the way. On Intel ivy bridge CPU's OSX in virtualbox runs fast and great even sharing 8gb of ram for it.

  9. Cool, go ahead and try to install Mac in a virtual machine which is stored on an Ext4 partition.
    Then come back and share your findings, I would be interested to know how you did it.

    Basically nothing you have said relates to this post.
    It is about Testing Mac on an Ext4 filesystem with an AMD CPU. You have Btrfs and Intel.

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