Notes on installing OS X Yosemite within VirtualBox

Not having a handy spare Mac on which to install the Yosemite Developer Beta, I decided it was time to try my first OS X Virtual Machine.

From what I can tell, most Mac SysAdmins use VMWare Fusion for their VMs. This is probably a good idea. I will say now, that the performance of OS X Yosemite in VirtualBox is poor.  Additionally, VirtualBox’s Guest Additions, which provide some integration between the VM and its host, are not available for OS X, so features such as resizing the resolution of the VM are not available.

However, I did get it to work, at least. For the record, this was done on my Late 2013 i5 11″ MacBook Air with 8GB RAM.  I found most of the instructions from  and but had to adapt them to make them work on my Mac.

  • Download Yosemite from the Apple Mac Developer Member Centre. Or get the free public beta – I didn’t try it this way as I have a Developer account.
  • Close the installer – you’re not trying to install it over your host OS!
  • Open Terminal, and run the following commands:
$ gem install iesd
$ iesd -i /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ 10.10\ Developer\ -o yosemite.dmg -t BaseSystem"
  • If you have the Public Beta, the installer app is named differently. Adapt your path accordingly.
  • Continue with the following commands:
$ hdiutil convert yosemite.dmg -format UDSP -o yosemite.sparseimage
$ hdiutil mount /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ 10.10\ Developer\
$ hdiutil mount yosemite.sparseimage
$ cp /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/BaseSystem.* /Volumes/OS\ X\ Base\ System/
$ hdiutil unmount /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/
$ hdiutil detach /Volumes/OS\ X\ Base\ System/
$ hdiutil convert yosemite.sparseimage -format UDZO -o yosemite-fixed.dmg
  • Open VirtualBox and click “New”.
  • Give your new VM a name.
  • Select “Mac OS X” as the type.
  • Select “Mac OS X (64 bit)” for the version.
  • I recommend assigning a single processor core. Since my MacBook Air only has 2 total, I don’t want to assign both to the VM (although I did at first, and there was no notable difference in performance either way).
  • Allocate at least 2GB of RAM (I gave mine 4GB, since my MacBook Air has 8GB).
  • Select at least 20GB when creating the virtual disk. I plumped for 25GB.
  • Go into Settings, and change the chipset of your virtual machine to “PIIX3”.
  • Go into Storage, click on the “Add Disk” icon, and select CD/DVD drive.
  • Select the empty disk image.
  • Click the disk icon in the Attributes section.
  • Select “Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file…” and browse to the location of “yosemite-fixed.dmg”.
  • Run the following command in terminal:
$ VBoxManage modifyvm /path/to/your/virtualmachine.vbox --cpuidset 00000001 000306a9 00020800 80000201 178bfbff
  • Start your VM, which will ask you to choose a language
  • Open Disk Utility within the installer and create a new HFS+ partition on the virtual disk.
  • Install to the newly created partition.

You will see lots of text output upon booting – this is normal. It can be removed using a VBoxManage command if desired.

The result should be a very laggy installation of Yosemite:


The only available screen resolution is 1024×768. I have tried various methods of altering this without success. I’ll post back if I succeed.


2 thoughts on “Notes on installing OS X Yosemite within VirtualBox

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