VirtualBox: How to create a macOS High Sierra VM to run on a Mac host system

So I have a MacBook Pro running macOS Sierra (10.12) and I wanted to run a virtual machine (VM) of macOS High Sierra to try out the new operating system. It's always a struggle to get macOS as a guest system running on macOS as the host system, but today was my lucky day and after several failures I managed to get it running! So here is how I did it...




My environment

macOS Sierra 10.12.6, VirtualBox 5.1.28 with installed VirtualBox Extension Pack
You will need at least 4096 MB RAM of host memory, more is better. You also need ~20 GB disk space for the virtual machine, as well as ~18 GB free space temporarily for the creation of the install media.


Create a macOS install ISO file for VirtualBox

  • Download macOS High Sierra from the Mac App Store
    • Hint: if you have downloaded macOS High Sierra before the 5th of October, delete it and redownload it. Apple made some changes to the previous released version, especially to the installer, which are important to get this VM running. The version of the "Install macOS High" has to be 13.0.66 or above.
  • Open a Terminal window, create a "virtual USB flash drive"/disk image:
  • Mount it:
  • Put the installer files into this new disk image:
  • Unmount the disk image, so that the resource is not busy for the next step:
  • Convert the disk image into an ISO file (VirtualBox is not capable of booting from a .dmg or .sparseimage file):
  • Move it to the desktop folder and rename the extension of the file to .iso:
  • Delete the sparseimage in the tmp folder:


Create the VM

  • Create a new machine
    • Name: macOS (or whatever you want to call it)
    • Type: Mac OS X
    • Version: Mac OS X (64-bit) or macOS 10.13 High Sierra (64-bit)
    • Memory size: 4096 MB
    • Virtual hard disk size: ~20 GB (an empty installation of macOS High Sierra takes about 11,4 GB)
  • Edit the new machine
    • System -> Motherboard -> Boot Order: deactivate Floppy

    • System -> Processor -> change CPU to two, optional: set execution cap to 80% (this value is up to you and your host system configuration)
    • Display -> Screen -> Video Memory: increase it to 128 MB

    • Storage -> virtual hard disk -> don't activate "Solid-state Drive" (this is pretty important, because the macOS installer converts your virtual partition to APFS if it detects it as a solid state drive, unfortunately VirtualBox doesn't support APFS at this moment, so the boot process will fail while installing High Sierra. For non solid state drives, the installer is not going to convert the virtual disk to APFS and leave it untouched as a HFS+ volume)
    • Storage -> Optical Drive ("Empty") -> choose the HighSierra.iso from your desktop folder (to choose it, click on the CD icon next to "SATA Port 1")
    • Audio -> deactivate Enable Audio

    • stick with the default values of all the other options and apply the settings with the "OK" button


Installation of macOS High Sierra Part 1

  • Start the VM
  • wait until the language chooser appears and choose your language (optional: change the keyboard layout to your country keyboard layout in the top right corner with a click on the US flag icon)
  • Open Disk Utility
  • Click on "View" in the top left corner of the Disk Utility window and choose "Show All Devices"
  • Highlight "VBOX HARDDISK Me...", then click "Erase", choose a name for the virtual hard disk and click the "Erase" button to partition and format the virtual hard disk
  • When the erase process is done, close Disk Utility
  • Next choose "Install macOS"
  • Click Continue
  • Agree to the terms of the license agreement
  • Choose your previously created virtual hard disk and finally start the installation with a click on "Install"
  • The installer installs some files and after a while the machine will reboot automatically


Installation of macOS High Sierra Part 2

  • After the reboot, the VM will display an error message: "Boot Failed. Mac OS X"
  • Because of this error, after 10 seconds, the machine will then do a "fallback boot" into the "Part 1" installation process. Why? VirtualBox doesn't recognize that there is a new disk, containing a second EFI, which we need to boot into. So we have to do this manually.
  • To do this, restart the machine (CMD+R will hard reset it, or, if the "Part 1"-Installer is already running, click on the Apple logo in the menu bar and choose "Restart").
  • Now you have to be very fast: while the VM restarts, press the fn+F12 keys a few times, so that it gets into the VirtualBox boot manager. You have to be very quick! If the machine is already displaying "Boot Failed. Mac OS X", hit CMD+R to reset it and try again.
  • If you were fast enough, choose "Boot Maintenance Manager" and hit the Enter key.
  • Go to "Boot from File" and hit Enter again.
  • Choose the entry with ...HD(2,GPT)...
  • Choose <macOS Install Data>

  • Choose <Locked Files>

  • Choose <Boot Files>

  • Choose boot.efi, this will boot the machine into the "Part 2" installation process of macOS
  • macOS High Sierra will then continue to install itself.
  • Click through the steps of the "first run wizard"
  • ...and you are done! 🙂
  • Finally shutdown the virtual machine, remove the ISO from the virtual optical disk and create a snapshot of the VM, just in case... it's always nice to have a backup 😉


Have fun with your newly created virtual machine running macOS High Sierra 10.13!

//Update (2018-02-10): A huge thanks to all of you, who appreciated this article and were thankful for it in the comments. I'm overwhelmed by all the feedback in the comments! Thank you.