Many people commonly use tools like Parallels or VMware to set up a virtual machine (VM) on their Macs. VirtualBox is a great, free alternative to do this. Plus, you can install and set it up in just a few minutes.

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VMs can run any operating system (OS) in your current one. Whether it’s for disaster recovery, code testing, or just some fun experimentation, you can use VirtualBox for free to simulate any Windows OS, including 98, 95, or even 3.1.

Installing VirtualBox on macOS

  • First, download the latest version of VirtualBox for macOS. Click “OS X Hosts” and the download will begin automatically.
    Open the new DMG file, and then double-click “VirtualBox.pkg” to open the installer. You’ll also find the User Manual here, as well as the Uninstall tool.
    Click “Continue” to proceed through the installer.
  • If you want to change where and how the VirtualBox application installs, click “Change Install Location.”
  • When everything is the way you want it, click “Install.” If asked, type the password for your Mac.
  • If you haven’t given your Mac permission to install programs from Oracle previously, it’s highly likely the installation will fail at this stage.
  • To grant permission, click the magnifying glass at the top right, type “Security,” and then press Enter. Alternatively, you can click Applications > System Preferences > Security and Privacy. Near the bottom of the General tab, you should see some text that says software from Oracle America, Inc. was blocked. Click “Allow,” and then reinstall.
  • Note that this option is only available for 30 minutes after a fresh install of VirtualBox. If you don’t see this text, open the “Applications” folder and drag the VirtualBox icon to the Trash to uninstall it.
  • Remove any leftover files, reinstall a fresh copy of VirtualBox, and then immediately reopen the “Security and Privacy” menu to see this option.
  • Installation is now complete. Click “Close” and “Move to Trash” since you no longer need the installation file.

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Installing Windows 10 on VirtualBox

  • Now that you’ve installed VirtualBox on your Mac, it’s time to load up your Windows 10 virtual machine. Open Virtual Box (via the “Applications” folder or via a Spotlight Search).
    In VirtualBox, click “New.”
  • You can name your new operating system whatever you want. If you type the name of any available OS (like “Windows 10”), the “Version” field automatically switches to that OS. You can choose a different “Machine Folder” to store the VMs.
  • When you’re ready, click “Continue.”
  • On the following screen, choose how much RAM (the amount of memory) you want to allocate to your VM, and then click “Continue.” Keep in mind if you set this too high, your Mac won’t have enough memory to run.
  • The default recommendation is 2,048 MB, which is enough to run most installers. Heavier code or applications might require at least 2 GB, though. You can always change this later in “Settings.”Now, you have to decide the size of the hard disk for your VM, or if you want one at all. Since this is likely the first VM you’re setting up on this machine, click the radio button next to “Create a Virtual Hard Disk Now,” and then click “Create.”
  • Next, you have to decide which type of hard disk to create. The default is “VDI VirtualBox Disk Image,” which is Oracle’s proprietary container format.
  • However, you’re installing a Microsoft product, so you need to choose the format it uses, which is “VHD (Virtual Hard Disk).” Click the radio button next to that option, and then click “Continue.”
  • On the next screen, if you want a faster setup, select “Dynamically Allocated.” If you want faster performance (which we recommend), select “Fixed Size,” and then click “Continue.”
    Lastly, you have to decide where to store your VM, and how much storage it needs. If you chose “Fixed Size” in the previous screen, click “Create.” VirtualBox will begin allotting that space.

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