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macOS Big Sur and VMware Fusion

It is easy to install macOS Big Sur as a virtual machine in VMware Fusion 12 on a Intel based Mac provided you create a bootable installer from which to install the Mac operating system. Using macOS Big Sur in a virtual machine in VMware Fusion is expressly permitted by the macOS licence agreement provided you are running on Apple hardware and you obtain macOS Big Sur legally from Apple.

It runs beautifully and is perfect for testing and development workloads.

macOS Big Sur 11.0.1 desktop

TL:DR — Get VMware Fusion, Install VMware Fusion, download macOS Big Sur from Apple, create a bootable USB of macOS Big Sur and it can be installed in VMware Fusion just perfectly.

Step by step instructions

  1. Download and install VMware Fusion 12
  2. Download macOS Big Sur from the App Store
  3. Extract media to a bootable USB stick or external drive
  4. Create the macOS Big Sur virtual machine
  5. Complete the macOS setup process
  6. VMware Tools
  7. Set the Display resolution
  8. macOS Big Sur at 1280 x 1024 ready to go

1. Download and install VMware Fusion 12

VMware Fusion is an unsung hero app for macOS, especially if you are in software dvelopment or testing. It is one of the most important development and testing tools for building apps to run on any platform. You can evaaluate VMware Fusion for 30 days before deciding if its right for you and buying a license and you can get a licence for non commercial or open source contribution for free.

MacOS Big Sur is supported as a host and as a guest by VMware Fusion 12. VMware Fusion 12.1.0 Release Notes.

VMware Fusion Disk Image
1. Download VMware Fusion from the VMware website

Double click the downloaded image

Direct Download link
macos Big Sur gatekeeper screenshot
2. Click 'Open'

macOS Big Sur gatekeeper will ask you to confirm the legitimacy of the download.

VMware Fusion EULA screenshot
3. Click 'Agree'

You have to accept the EULA

VMware Fusion Disk Image
4. Choose a license. Free for non commercial use!

You can add a key, request one or evaluate for 30 days.

macos Big Sur gatekeeper screenshot
5. Thats it!

VMware Fusion will open.

 

2. Download macOS Big Sur from the App Store

Apple provide instructions for upgrading to macOS Big Sur, which explain which mac models are compatible and warn you to backup. These instructions dont apply to a new installation of macOS Big Sur in a virtual machine in VMware Fusion. But they do have the App Store Link for macOS Big Sur. It is not all that easy to find because most people won't need it.

 

Follow the link, open in the App Store app and press the get button download macOS Big Sur from the App Store.

Apple App Store macoS Big Sur
1. Download macOS Big Sur from the App Store

Press the blue 'Get' button

Get macOS Big Sur (App Store Link) macos Big Sur software update
2. Click 'Download'

Software update will find it.

macos Big Sur software update

This is a large download so ensure you are connected to power, and have a good Internet connection.

macos Big Sur software setup
3. Quit (⌘ Q) the set up app
macos Big Sur software installer

You can find the installer in your Applications folder as an app named Install macOS Big Sur

 

3. Extract media to a bootable USB stick or external drive

Apples tech note How to create a bootable installer for macOS explains.

  1. Connect a USB drive (or use an external drive if you want). Best to use a new 16GB or greater drive. Make sure it is properly formatted as Mac OS Extended.
  2. Open a terminal and use the 'createinstallmedia' command shown but replacing 'USBBig Sur' with the name of your volume
    
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ Sur.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/USBBigSur
    
  3. Press Enter after typing the command, then type your administrator password and press Enter again.
  4. Type Y to confirm that you understand you will be erasing the volume, and double check you have the right volume, then press Enter. You will see the progress bar as the bootable installer is created. Once completed you can now quit Terminal.
  5. Like this
    
    $ sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Big\ Sur.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/USBBigSur
    Password:
    Ready to start.
    To continue we need to erase the volume at /Volumes/USBBig Sur.
    If you wish to continue type (Y) then press return: Y
    Erasing disk: 0%... 10%... 20%... 30%... 100%
    Copying to disk: 0%... 10%... 20%... 30%... 40%... 50%... 60%... 70%... 80%... 90%... 100%
    Making disk bootable...
    Copying boot files...
    Install media now available at "/Volumes/Install macOS Big Sur"
    

4. Create the macOS Big Sur virtual machine

  1. Load VMware Fusion and click the plus symbol on the toolbar and select the 'New…' menu
  2. Double click on the 'Install from disc or image' button on the 'Select the installation method' screen.VMware Fusion Select the installlation method screen
  3. On the resulting 'Create a new virtual machine' screen, click 'Use another disc or disc image and open the install media you created earlier to find the 'Install macOS Big Sur.app' item, then select it. VMware Fusion Create new virtual machine screen
  4. Press 'continue'.VMware Fusion Create new virtual machine screen
  5. On the 'Finish' screen you can leave the defaults or customise as you wish. VMware Fusion Create new virtual machine screen
  6. VMware Fusion will now create the installation media. VMware Fusion new virtual machine screen
  7. VMware Fusion boot macOS Big Sur once it completes setting up the virtual disk. It gives a warning about what VMware call 'Side channel mitigations' which refers to attacks at the hypervisor level such as Spectre and Meltdown. You can read the tech note Virtual Machines with side channel mitigations enabled may exhibit performance degradation and draw your own conclusions. VMware Fusion new virtual machine 'Side channel mitigations' warning
  8. Now you can install macOS Big Sur in the usual way. VMware macOS Big Sur first boot screen

5. Complete the macOS setup process

macOS Language screen
Language

Select the language and click →

macOS install screen
Install

Select 'Install macOS Big Sur' and click 'Continue'

macOS setup screen
To set up the installation of macOS Big Sur click 'Continue'

Click 'Continue'

macOS software licence agreement
Licence

Accept the software licence agreement

macOS disk selection screen
Disk

Choose 'Macintosh HD', your newly created virtual disk

macOS disk installation screen
Installation

Let macOS installation run

macOS disk installation screen
Select your country

Press 'Continue'

macOS disk installation screen
Written and spoken languages

Press 'Continue'

macOS disk installation screen
Accessibility

Press 'Continue'

macOS disk installation screen
Data & Privacy

Press 'Continue'

macOS disk installation screen
Data & Privacy

Press 'Not Now'

macOS disk installation screen
Sign In with Your Apple ID

Press 'Set Up Later'

macOS disk installation screen
Terms

Press 'Agree'

macOS disk installation screen
Terms

Press 'Agree' again

macOS disk installation screen
Create a Computer Account

Fill out and press 'Continue' again

macOS disk installation screen
Express Setup

Choose 'Customise'

macOS disk installation screen
Screen Time

Choose 'Customise'

macOS disk installation screen
Siri

Press 'Continue'

macOS disk installation screen
Choose Your Look

Press 'Continue'

macOS disk installation screen
Choose Your Look

Press 'Continue'


macOS Big Sur

 

6. VMware Tools

Install VMware Tools
Install VMware tools

Click 'Install'

VMware Tools Installer package
Install VMware tools

Double Click 'Install VMware Tools package'

VMware Tools Installer
Install VMware tools

Click 'Continue'

macOS Language screen
Install VMware tools

Wait

macOS Language screen
Install VMware tools

Unlock the padlock with your username and password

macOS Security and Privacy screen
Install VMware tools

Click 'Allow'

Install VMware Tools
Install VMware tools

Click 'Not Now'

Install VMware Tools successful
Install VMware tools

Click 'Restart'

 

7. Set the Display resolution

 

View --> Resize Virtual Machine Menu screenshot
Use the Resize Virtual Machine menu

Choose 'View --> Resize Virtual Machine --> 1280 x 1024' (or whatever resolution you like).

 

8. macOS Big Sur at 1280 x 1024 ready to go


macOS Big Sur