- This page is about software that emulates macOS on other non-native hardware.
|Developer||Apple Computer, Inc.|
This page covers Apples current line of computers, from October 27, 2000 (Mac OS X Server 1.0) to the present day (macOS 14 Sonoma)
|PC / x86|
|Classic Environment||(PPC)||Mac OS X v10.4 "Tiger"||✗||✗||✓|
|Rosetta||Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" (Intel)||✗||✗||✓|
- An open-source "run-time environment" that includes a PowerPC emulator for non-PowerPC host systems. Originally commercial software named ShapeShifter, it is the companion app of the 68k Mac emulator Basilisk II. It boots System 7.5.2 through (due to a lack of MMU emulation) OS 9.0.4, runs most Mac applications at full speed on any modern PC, and can interface with and copy files to and from host hardware. It hasn't seen significant development in a while, not to mention that it is riddled with hacks and workarounds, which accounts for why some applications such as the default bundled Internet Explorer flat-out crash. Like Basilisk and vMac, it needs a firmware image from a working Mac.
- This emulator had been developed since 2004, and is capable of booting OS X 10.1-10.4, but not prior Mac OSs, nor OS X's Classic environment. It once had lots of developer momentum, but activity and interest declined significantly following Apple's 2005 transition to Intel processors. It was the subject of controversy when a closed-source emulator, CherryOS, was revealed to have used code stolen from PearPC. PearPC lacks a GUI (even the "Change CD" button is removed in the most recent builds), so using a frontend may be necessary. Sound is not emulated unless you use a buggy and now outdated fork.
- Best known for its use as an x86 hypervisor, QEMU also emulates a wide range of CPU architectures. In 2015, a Google Summer of Code event brought PowerPC Macintosh support from a curiosity to a possibility and it now supports a specific range of versions as of 2017. Like PearPC, QEMU is run from a shell.
- Apple's official PowerPC emulator for x86-based Macs included in Tiger (10.4.4). Though it wasn't included in by defualt on Snow Leopard users can optionally reinstall it from the Snow Leopard DVD or chose to install it with the OS when preforming a fresh install. It was removed entirely in OS X Lion. Rosetta uses QuickTransit technology licensed from Transitive Corporation, and works transparently from the end-user, leading Apple to market it as "the most amazing software you'll never see." as it, unlike most emulators, does not have a user interface. Rosetta works best on software that isn't system-intensive, such as office applications; games and other software applications which rely on kexts, libraries or certain instructions may not work properly if at all. A compatibility list is available here.
- Experimental emulator early in development.
- Virtualizer made exclusively for PowerPC Linux, allows to natively install several MacOS versions.
- Note: installing macOS on non-Apple x86 hardware, the practice known as Hackintosh, is a more common and feasible way of running macOS programs on a regular PC rather than trying to emulate or virtualize actual Mac hardware.
|PC / x86|
|Rosetta 2||macOS 13.3.1 "Ventura" (Apple Silicon)||✗||✓||✓|
- Requires Mac with Apple Silicon (ARM) processor and macOS Monterey or higher.
Currently, no 3rd-party Macintosh emulators support hardware graphics acceleration, due to certain CPU instructions left unimplemented in their upstream PPC softcores. This means no GLIDE, RAVE, or OpenGL. Fortunately, though as was generally the case in every platform of the period significant visual and feature differences exist between the two, the majority of Mac-exclusive software using these APIs also included software fallback renderers. It is however possible to pass through a real GPU to a PowerPC Mac being emulated by QEMU provided you have one that's compatible with OpenFirmware
Despite an x86-based Mac is very similar to a general non-Apple PC in hardware architecture (which makes Boot Camp and Hackintosh possible), it still contains Apple proprietary hardware such as closed-source EFI BootROM, System Management Controller (SMC) and later T1/T2 security chip that either requires bypassing or emulation in order to run macOS. macOS also contains countermeasures that prevent it from being run on a non-Apple PC such as the infamous Don't Steal Mac OS X.kext.
Another big hurdle is that macOS only contains drivers for hardware components used in actual Mac computers, which means a large portion of PC users who use different hardware combinations than actual Mac computers need to bypass, patch, or port drivers for their hardware in order to boot macOS and promote it to a usable state, and might still with crippled functionalities due to no or imperfect solutions to drive some of the hardware.
Hurdles in emulating ARM-based Mac are basically the same as emulating iOS devices: Apple's proprietary M1/M2 SoC which has little to no documentation, and hardened security measures inherited from iOS devices. However if Apple discontinues support for x86 in XCode, there will be no way to code modern iOS apps on other platforms or use macOS apps in general. If an ARM macOS emulator is sucessful, modern iOS emulation will be "cracked" too (apart from Corellium though).