Running other operating systems 🔥

I suppose power user would include power use of Mac hardware to run other operating systems.

I got tired of fighting macOS about PyQt4 for some neuroimaging software I was trying to run, and decided to set up Fedora in a VMWare virtual machine. I must say, I’m impressed. The operating system is much more polished and refined than the last time I used it a few years ago. It’s also fast, despite the fact that it is running from an external SSD. It has a nice suite of free applications available, including Libre Office, GNU Emacs, the document processor LyX, photo and video apps, etc.

So I decided to check in on Ubuntu (again, after a few years), and it too is much improved. Essentially the same applications are available as for Fedora, just a somewhat different ecosystem.

VirtualBox is free and allows you to run virtual machines on macOS.
OSBoxes is a good source of drive images to make setup a bit easier.

Is anyone else exploring other operating systems, or dabbling with virtual machines?


I have a Windows 10 VM I use for the few apps I still use that don’t run elsewhere. I also use an Ubuntu VM wherever I need to connect to my work VPN since we don’t support split tunnels So two “machines” is the best alternative. I also have a few other Unix VMs for certain work situations which don’t work on Linux.

My preferred work VM software is VirtualBox (approved by our Corporate IT folks) while my preferred software for personal use is VMWare Fusion; the latter mainly because I’ve been getting upgrade pricing vs. Parallels.


I dabble a bit, mostly just to keep semi-familiar with other OSes. I got tired of Parallels pretty much forcing an upgrade every so often (they’re not always quick to support the latest Ubuntu release without charging for it), so I use VirtualBox.

I’m running Windows 10 and, for Linux, I’m currently playing around with ElementaryOS just for something different (Ubuntu’s my usual Linux choice). Both run from an external SSD.

1 Like

I gave elementary a try (donated $10), and was impressed that they vet software through their app market place. But I was more impressed that they didn’t have things like Libre Office, so I deleted the VM.

1 Like

Yes, it’s a bit odd that it’s not built in. It’s not hard to install, but it’s another hoop to jump through, whereas other distros let you get right to work.

1 Like

Parallels made it possible for me to switch to a Mac in 2006, running Windows 2000 and XP virtual machines for software not available on the Mac that I needed to run. That was like “version 1” of Parallels. I still have Parallels running Windows (2000, 7, and 10) for support purposes. I also needed the Windows VM for software I needed to run for classes I taught. This let me use my personal MacBookPro rather than the school’s classroom computer.

I’ve got an Ubuntu VM that I run under VirtualBox, but these days it’s only for playing around. I was doing Linux software development at my final job before retiring 4 years ago. They originally gave me a Linux box to use for development (I had both Windows and Linux computers on my desk) but I found that cumbersome and ditched the Linux box for a Linux VM under VirtualBox running on the Windows machine. Sometime later I brought in a Mac mini to work and moved the VM to that. For evaluation purposes I ran several Linux distros at work. VMs made it very convenient. On the manufacturing floor they used Linux boxes to control manufacturing test and calibration systems. I wanted them to switch to running a Linux VM on the Linux boxes to make it easy to move things around (hardware could be quickly replaced with just a copy of the VM file) but they never adopted that.

I guess the most interesting thing I did was conference room demonstrations of networking using my MacBookPro running a Windows VM under Parallels and a Linux VM under Virtual Box simultaneously and then communicating among the “machines” projecting all the OSes on a screen.

1 Like

I run Linux and Windows VMs all the time in Fusion. In my opinion, virtualized is the best way to run Linux, especially on notebook computers.

1 Like

I have used parallels for years but i too grew tired of their fairly meaningless upgrade cycle and am therefor switching to virtual box. I run Ubuntu for special embedded firmware debug tools (JTAG if that means anything to you) and it has been fast and rock solid.

I still have a win7 and win10 instance lingering about for some occasional windows stuff i need. But i can mostly avoid running windows these days.

1 Like

Once again, this is where Apple’s ecosystem and pull makes it impossible for me to switch to another OS. I enjoy using linux but can’t see my giving up iMessage, Adobe, Things, Keyboard Maestro, etc. For a slightly faster boot up time and a simpler experience.

And that is the beauty of virtual machines. You can have your cake and eat it too. I can work along in Ubuntu analyzing data, reply to a text message, check email in MailMate, then I’m back to AFNI and my data. It’s seamless.


That’s a good point. I hadn’t considered that!

1 Like

I have:

  • a Windows VM, because I need Excel
  • a Linux (Debian) VM, becaus I like to toy with it
1 Like

I’ve got an WinXP VM to run MS Money, and a Win10 VM to run a few bits of niche software for running swimming competitions.

1 Like

On occasion, I’ll set something up on an AWS VM running Ubuntu. I’ve had better experiences with Debian-based distros compared to RedHat/Fedora/CentOS.

I’m currently using Parallels on the Mac with a Win10 VM. I like elementaryOS, but I’ll install Ubuntu Software Center so that I have access to that.

1 Like

Any reason for choosing Fedora over CentOS?

I believe fedora is a more batteries included version of centos.

It’s the other way around. CentOS is RedHat minus the support.

Fedora is sponsored by RedHat, not sure about CentOS.

I used Fedora because that’s what they use on the cluster at school.
I think I prefer Ubuntu though, probably because I preferred it in the past, and also it is supported by NeuroDebian, whereas Fedora is not.

1 Like

Glad this topic came around as I’ve considered running a VM for development work on macOS mainly because Catalina made a mess of things.

For those of you running off SSDs, are you taking that with and using the VM on a laptop as well?

1 Like

Yes, I am. I’m running on a SanDisk 1TB Extreme on my iMac Pro, and also on my 2015 MacBook Pro.

VMWare complains if I suspend a VM on my iMac Pro, then open on my laptop, as the iMac Pro has a Xeon processor, while the laptop does not. Apparently the instruction set is chosen when the VM is booted. The VM needs to be restarted. Other than that it works fine.

(Folder sharing seems to be problematic for some reason, but I can connect to macOS through SMB.)

1 Like