Installing OS X 10.11 El Capitan inside Parallels Desktop

This is actually surprisingly straightforward, once you know the hoops to jump through.

Essentially there are 4 main things we need to do:

  1. Download El Capitan from the App Store
  2. Prepare an install image
  3. Create a virtual machine
  4. Install El Capitan

So let’s take a look at those, one by one…

Step 1: Download El Capitan from the App Store

Currently you need to be a registered developer. Provided you are, you can download the beta from Apple’s website (this redeems a coupon inside the App Store, so you need to be on a Mac to start the download).

Step 2: Prepare an install image

This section is all command-line stuff, so go fire up Terminal.app. (Warning: you’ll need at least 15GB of disk space free to deal with this next section safely… more if you don’t clean up the two temporary images we build along the way)

First up we want to install the iesd Rubygem which provides a nice way to deal with Apple’s InstallESD.dmg files:

sudo gem install iesd

Now we want to use that iesd tool to build a bootable image from the installer we downloaded from the App Store:

iesd -i /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ 10.11\ Developer\ Beta.app -o ElCapitan-base.dmg -t BaseSystem

Okay, so that’s built us a read-only (DMG format) bootable image for the installer. At the moment, though, that’s missing the copy of OS X that it actually needs to go and install into your VM. To fix that we need to get a read-write (sparse image format) copy of the image:

hdiutil convert ElCapitan-base.dmg -format UDSP -o ElCapitan.sparseimage

Let’s throw away the read-only version now:

rm ElCapitan-base.dmg

And now we want to mount the disk image so we can add some files into it:

hdiutil mount ElCapitan.sparseimage

We also want to mount the InstallESD.dmg file from inside the installer we downloaded from the App Store, as it has some files we’ll need to copy over:

hdiutil mount /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ 10.11\ Developer\ Beta.app/Contents/SharedSupport/InstallESD.dmg

Now we want to copy the files from the Install ESD into the writable image we made:

cp /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/BaseSystem.* /Volumes/OS\ X\ Base\ System/

Now we want to eject both of those:

hdiutil detach /Volumes/OS\ X\ Base\ System/
hdiutil detach /Volumes/OS\ X\ Install\ ESD/

And now we need to get it back into that read-only DMG format:

hdiutil convert ElCapitan.sparseimage -format UDZO -o ElCapitan.dmg

And let’s throw away the read-write version to free up disk space:

rm ElCapitan.sparseimage

Step 3: Create a virtual machine

  1. Open Parallels, and press the + button to create a new VM
  2. Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file
  3. Continue without a source
  4. When asked what type of OS you’re installing be sure to pick OS X
  5. Tick “Customise settings before installation” and click continue
  6. Go to the Hardware tab, then go to USB & Bluetooth, and turn off USB 3.0 support or the installer will kernel panic during boot
  7. Go to CD/DVD 1 and insert the ElCapitan.dmg file you created
  8. Go to CPU & Memory and make sure you have at least 2048MB of RAM
  9. Go to Video and ensure you have at least 128MB of video RAM

Step 4: Install El Capitan

Okay, now comes the moment of truth: boot the Virtual Machine and you should be presented with a white Apple logo on a black background for a few minutes, followed by the El Capitan installer.

Credit where credit’s due…

This post was originally inspred by this post by TheBressman on Reddit, however that was missing some steps, so I filled in the gaps with info from this blog post by Jacob Tomlinson. Thanks!

Windows 7 beta: first impressions

A while ago, I recieved an email from Microsoft inviting me to collect a copy of the Windows 7 beta, so fired up Safari on my MacBook Pro… to see the website get stuck. Not a good start!

Switching to Firefox soon solved things, and after I’d signed into Microsoft.com with my Windows Live ID, I was given a CD key (hint: keep pressing refresh on that page and you’ll get more…) and shortly afterwards I was presented with a Java applet download manager (though there was no readily available explanation as to why this was necessary).

After a pretty speedy transfer of the 2gb ISO image, I fired up VMware Fusion, created a Vista VM, and set the installer running. It was done in under 30 mins, a massive improvement over Vista’s tortuous install proceedure and even shaving time off XP’s install process. The boot process post-install, I might add, is also WAY faster than Vista, and about as fast as a clean XP install… though I’d imagine that’d slow down over time, as per most Windows installs.

Once the install was done I made a snapshot in VMware incase I broke things (which I indeed did).

Next up: VMware Tools. There aren’t any in VMware Fusion for Windows 7 yet, so I tried the Vista version, as I’d set the VM up as a Vista VM. Installing the tools was a relatively easy, but pointless move. Weird visual glitches on boot, and no real performance gain, so I reverted back to the snapshot.

My main interest with Windows 7 is by far Windows Media Center. It’s about all I really use Windows for at home, these days (except the odd Windows-only app, or the odd bit of Windows compatibility testing). So, I plugged in one of my USB DVB-T receivers (a Terratec Cinergy T2). It made the “new hardware” bleep-bloop noise… and then bluescreened. Damn. It automatically rebooted, and when it came back, things got a bit weird. When I tried to set up Windows Media Center, the “analyzing your TV device” stage took over an hour. I eventually gave up, and unplugged the USB cable, and it all snapped back into life. I tried repeating this a few times, but it seems that this device just doesn’t work with Windows 7 yet. It took months to get stable Vista drivers for it, so I’d imagine I’m in for a long wait for this to get stable, unless it’s due to VMware being thrown into the mix as well. I’ll try it on real hardware soon.

I tried my other DVB-T reciever, a Hauppauge WinTV HVR-900H. This didn’t bluescreen, though I did have to go and download the drivers from Hauppauge’s site myself. Once I’d gotten it installed it scanned for channels, found them (including the MHEG-only channels, looks like MHEG support from the OEM-only TV Pack update for Vista Media Center is included as standard), but when I went to watch, it refused to play video, complaining about missing files. I must add at this point that this probably isn’t a Windows Media Center issue, but more likely a VMware issue — Windows Media Center does throw the “your graphics card isn’t good enough” warning when you start it up, but I was ignoring this hoping it’d let me watch TV anyway. VMware’s Vista tools didn’t fix this either.

So, I guess the next real test as far as I’m concerned is to try this on some real hardware, rather than a VMware Fusion virtual machine. When I do, I’ll post about it here, of course.