tinyapps.org / docs / Installing Snow Leopard into VMWare Fusion 8 on El Capitan

See below for a discussion of OS X 10.6's EULA.


  1. Insert Snow Leopard retail DVD (OS X 10.6.3) > Disk Utility > highlight the DVD drive (not the "Mac OS X Install DVD" volume) > File > New Image > Image from "Untitled" > select read/write format (though, according to VMWare, any format should work) > assign desired filename (e.g., SL.dmg) and location (e.g., Desktop) > Save

  2. Create a shadow file: hdiutil attach ~/Desktop/SL.dmg -shadow

  3. Copy SystemVersion.plist to ServerVersion.plist: cp /Volumes/Mac\ OS\ X\ Install\ DVD/System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist /Volumes/Mac\ OS\ X\ Install\ DVD/System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist

  4. Eject the volume: hdiutil eject /Volumes/Mac\ OS\ X\ Install\ DVD/

  5. Write the changes to a new image (e.g., SLserver.dmg): hdiutil convert -format UDRO -o ~/Desktop/SLserver.dmg ~/Desktop/SL.dmg -shadow

  6. VMWare Fusion 8 > File > New…​ > "Create a custom virtual machine" (dragging in the DMG misidentifies it as OS X 10.5) > Continue > Apple OS X > Mac OS X Server 10.6 > Continue > Create a new virtual disk > Continue > Customize Settings > assign filename (e.g., SnowLeopard) > Save > CD/DVD (SATA) > Choose a disc or disc image…​ > select SLserver.dmg > adjust CPU, RAM, hard disk size as desired while you’re in settings > close 10.6 window

  7. Right click SnowLeopard in list of virtual machines > Show in Finder > right click SnowLeopard.vmwarevm > Show Package Contents > add the following line to SnowLeopard.vmx (to mask the CPU since new CPUs are not supported by versions prior to 10.6.7): cpuid.1.eax = "0000:0000:0000:0001:0000:0110:1010:0101"

  8. Start SnowLeopard virtual machine > click desired language and press Return > Utilities > Terminal

  9. Make necessary directories and file: mkdir -p /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/System/Library/CoreServices/ && touch /Volumes/Macintosh\ HD/System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist

  10. Quit Terminal, install Snow Leopard, and boot to Desktop

  11. Before installing VMWare Tools, move ServerVersion.plist somewhere (e.g., Desktop): sudo mv /System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist ~/Desktop/ServerVersion.plist (Otherwise you will receive a "VMWare Tools can’t be installed on this disk. VMWare Tools requires Mac OS X version 10.5 or higher." error. Also, if your VMWare Tools installer certificate has expired, set the system date prior to October 10, 2018 (thanks to Jesse for the update).)

  12. Click Virtual Machine > Install VMWare Tools > Install > double click Install VMWare Tools > Continue > Continue > Install > enter password > OK > Continue Installation > before clicking Restart, restore ServerVersion.plist: sudo mv ~/Desktop/ServerVersion.plist /System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist

  13. Click Apple menu > Software Update…​ > install the single update that appears (iLife Support 9.0.4)

  14. Checking for updates again returns: "Your software is up to date. Software Update doesn’t have any new software for your computer at this time." Move ServerVersion.plist again to resolve: sudo mv /System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist ~/Desktop/ServerVersion.plist

  15. Checking for updates again now returns:

    1. Remote Desktop Client Update 3.5.4

    2. iTunes 10.6.3 (skip it - we’ll install 11.4 after the OS X 10.6.8 combo update)

    3. Mac OS X Update Combined 10.6.8 version 1.1

    4. Airport Utility 5.6.1

  16. After installing the updates, but just before rebooting, restore ServerVersion.plist: sudo mv ~/Desktop/ServerVersion.plist /System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist

  17. After rebooting, update ServerVersion.plist: sudo cp /System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist /System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist

  18. Check for and install final updates:

    1. Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 17

    2. Apple Software Installer Update 1.0

    3. Safari 5.1.10 for Snow Leopard

    4. Migration Assistant Update for Mac OS X Snow Leopard v1.1

    5. iTunes 11.4 for OS X 10.6

    6. Security Update 2013-004 (Snow Leopard)

    7. Mac App Store Update for OS X Snow Leopard

  19. Shut down the virtual machine.

  20. Remove cpuid.1.eax = "0000:0000:0000:0001:0000:0110:1010:0101" from the vmx file.

  21. For sound:
    1. Download and install EnsoniqAudioPCI_v1.0.3_Common_Installer.pkg inside the Snow Leopard guest
    2. Shut down the VM
    3. Virtual Machines > Settings... > Add Device... > Sound Card > Add...
    4. Remove this line from SnowLeopard.vmx: sound.virtualDev = "hdaudio"


EULA discussion

Despite vendor interpretations to the contrary, I have read the Snow Leopard EULA, and like these commenters, can find nothing that expressly forbids running it in a virtual machine on a Mac which is running another version of OS X (happily, I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, etc, etc):

NMATT on October 7, 2011:

I see nothing in the Lion EULA that prohibits running SL client in a virtual machine hosted on Lion. (This is akin to running Windows or another OS that are not mentioned in the EULA)

I see nothing in the SL EULA that prohibits it being installed/run on a host machine running Lion. (Only one copy of SL would be installed/used per computer.)

greg409 on July 16, 2011:

I'm no lawyer but I don't see anything in the Apple's SLA that prohibits running Snow Leopard client as a Fusion VM running under Lion.

"A. Single Use License. Subject to the terms and conditions of this License, unless you have purchased a Family Pack or Upgrade license for the Apple Software, you are granted a limited non-exclusive license to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-branded computer at a time."

The term "Apple Software" refers to Snow Leopard, not Lion. Therefore, if you install Snow Leopard as a VM (running under Lion) you are only running one copy of Snow Leopard on a single Apple-branded computer at a time, as per the license.

The term Apple Software can not collectively refer to both Snow Leopard and Lion because Lion has an entirely different SLA. And of course you need a different license to run Lion. i.e. you can't claim the license for Snow Leopard applies to Lion, or vice versa. You can't obtain the Lion installer without paying for it and run it by claiming you have already have a license for "Apple Software".

While the SLA clearly prohibits running Snow Leopard as a Fusion VM running under Snow Leopard (i.e. 2 copies of Snow Leopard on the same machine), I don't understand how there is a prohibition for running Snow Leopard (as a VM) and Lion at the same time.

If I'm wrong would someone please explain why?

created: 2016.09.11, updated: 2022.10.24