How to run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard under Mac OS X 10.7 Lion using Parallels

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Lion (10.7)' started by twinker, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. twinker, Jul 27, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2011

    twinker macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2011
    As Lion has dropped Rosetta support, I was looking for a way to still run my old programs after updating to lion without having to reboot my computer using a Snow Leopard partition. Parallels can run another version of Mac OS X, however due to licensing issues, it will only allow you to run Snow Leopard Server. So you have to trick Parallels into thinking that you are installing a Server Version. To do so, you need a file called ServerVersion.plist in /System/Library/CoreServices/ of your Snow Leopard Install DVD and later on in your virtual HD. Here is how I did it. The process requires some time and you should be at least a bit familiar with your Mac, so be warned!

    1. Take your snow Leopard Install DVD and create an image file from it (make sure you can write to the file) on your Hard Drive using DiscUtility (this will take some time).

    2. Use TextWrangler and open the file SystemVersion.plist in the folder /System/Library/CoreServices/ on the image you just created (this folder is hidden, so you have to tell TextWrangler to show hidden files). Change the ProductName string to Mac OS X Server. Save it under the name ServerVersion.plist to the image file in the folder /System/Library/CoreServices/ .

    3. Open Parallels and create a new virtual machine as SnowLeopard Server using the image file you have just modified. When the install is complete, the virtual machine will restart and then Parallels will notice again that this is not the server version and prevent you from running it. So you have to insert the ServerVersion.plist file again. Problem is, that Parallels will not let you access the .hdd file of your virtual machine. So this is where it gets complicated:

    4. You have to make another virtual machine, this time with Mac OS X Lion (which is allowed by Apple). After you make this machine, add the Snow Leopard .hdd file as a second hard drive to this virtual machine. Now you have access to the hard drive of your snow leopard virtual machine and can add the ServerVersion.plist file to /System/Library/CoreServices/ as described above.

    5. Start up the Snow Leopard virtual machine in Parallels and viola!

    6. With software updates it gets a bit tricky again. Because of the ServerVersion.plist file your system thinks it is a Mac Server and will try to load server updates. You may choose to just ignore the updates. Or you remove the ServerVersion.plist file and perform the software update. After the install your virtual machine will not start again because of the missing file. So you will have to use your Lion virtual machine again to add the file. But once your system is updated you should be fine.
  2. jmmo20 macrumors 65816

    Jun 15, 2006
    Maybe Apple could change the Snow Leopard conditions to allow the non-server version to be virtualised. The currently suggest to install SL in a separate partition.. using Fusion would be so much easier and would cost Apple nothing.
  3. technopimp macrumors 6502a

    Aug 12, 2009
    There's an issue I see with this method: You say you have to create a second VM with Lion in it. Problem is, Parallels will not let you install Lion either (same "this is not a server version" message). I've already tried and it's a no-go. So,how did you create a Lion VM that was able to boot in Parallels? If you had to do the same trickery, that seems like an endless loop since you'd then need another VM to trick the Lion install, etc.

    Please excuse me if I'm being obtuse as I really would like this to work (although I'm interested in a Lion VM, not SL). I hope Parallels provides an update soon.
  4. twinker thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2011
    I actually had the server version of SL. But due to different reasons wanted to have a virtual machine with the non server version of SL. An update of Parallels should address the problem with creating a virtual machine with Lion as Apple is now allowing Leopard to be used as a virtual machine.
    My SL virtual machine is now up and running. I updated it to the latest OS X version and can now run all the rosetta programs I want without having to reboot my Mac. And the beauty of it is I can just move the virtual machine file to another machine without having to go through all the trouble of creating it in the first place.
  5. technopimp macrumors 6502a

    Aug 12, 2009
    I guess what I still don't understand is how you created the Lion VM. You said

    That's what I'm struggling with-how you got the "helper" Lion VM to work since Parallels won't allow that to install either.
  6. twinker thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2011
    I didn't create a Lion virtual machine, but a SL Server instead. I assumed that as Apple allows it, Parallels would let you create a Lion virtual machine. And as it is easier to get your hands on lion than it is to get the server version of SL, I suggested to use the Lion virtual machine. But I guess I assumed too much. So until Parallels issues an update which allows you to create a Lion virtual machine, you have to have the server version in order to do this trick.
  7. technopimp macrumors 6502a

    Aug 12, 2009
    No worries, thanks for the clarification.
  8. twinker thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2011
    If you do have access to a server version of either leopard or snow leopard, you could of course use the same procedure to produce a lion virtual machine if this is what you are looking for...
  9. darrens macrumors member

    Jan 11, 2006
    Perth, Western Australia, Australia
    Use an external HD?

    It would seem simpler to just install SL on an external drive, make the changes then get the VM environment (Parallels/VMWare) to create an image from the external disk.

    I know VMWare can create an image from a partition, but I don't have Parallels so I haven't tried it. I've also not tried SL Server with VMWare.
  10. jctucker macrumors newbie

    Aug 11, 2011
    Burbank, CA
    Use Parallels Mounter

    Thanks for these steps, twinker! I did find an alternative option to needing an additional Lion/SL Server image. You can use Parallels Mounter to mount the 10.6 hard disk image, insert the ServerVersion.plist file, and be able to boot.

    To mount the image, right-click the .pvm file (default is ~/Documents/Parallels/<imagename>.pvm and select "Open With -> Parallels Mounter".

    After that, I used the instructions from to create a launchdaemon that will delete the ServerVersion.plist on login and re-create it on shutdown, allowing for software updates and such, but not preventing boot.
  11. davetroup, Aug 14, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2011

    davetroup macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2008
    First of all, THANKS -- this is exactly what I need to do. Unfortunately, it won't work for me. When I try to open the newly-created .pvm file using Parallels Mounter, I get the message:

    Parallels Mounter is unable to open the virtual hard disk.

    Either the hard disk has no volumes or its file system is not supported or contains errors. Start your virtual machine and check the disk for file system errors.

    And when I try to boot Parallels using the virtual machine I created, it just tells me that there is no operating system. So I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I created the disk image of the Snow Leopard installation DVD and modified the ServerVersion.plist file as directed.

    Edit: I got it to work; couldn't boot from the disk image for some reason, but I burned the disk image to a DVD-DL and was able to boot the virtual machine from that DVD. Snow Leopard is installing now. This is a big win for me, now I can upgrade to Lion and continue to use Quicken 2007, for which there's no viable alternative for me.
  12. davetroup macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2008
    Can't mount

    Well, I can get Snow Leopard installed under a virtual machine, but I can't boot it due to the "it's not OS X Server" licensing issue. And I am unable to use Parallels Mounter to mount the virtual drive and modify the OS to make it look like OS X Server. Comes up with an error every time. So I'm stuck.

    Anyway who can offer any hints, I'd appreciate it.
  13. jctucker macrumors newbie

    Aug 11, 2011
    Burbank, CA
    What's the error you get when you try to mount the image?
  14. davetroup macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2008
    "Parallels Mounter is unable to open the virtual hard disk.

    Either the hard disk has no volumes or its file system is not supported or contains errors. Start your virtual machine and check the disk for file system errors."

    However I did manage to get Snow Leopard up and working. For anyone else having this problem, here's the key: After you install Snow Leopard on the virtual machine, do NOT click OK when you get the dialog box saying that the installation is complete. (If you click OK, you will have to do the whole installation all over again.) Instead, go up to the menu (I think it's TOOLS menu) and launch Terminal. From there you can create the necessary ServerVersion.plist file which fools Parallels into thinking you're running OS X Server. After doing that, you can then complete the installation, reboot the virtual machine, and continue following the directions to set things up so that the ServerVersion.plist gets recreated each time you reboot.

    I've updated the system version, etc. and it reboots in the virtual machine every time, so I think I'm in good shape.

    I still can't mount the Parallels drive outside of the virtual machine though. I don't know why it won't work. Also, although I have installed Parallels Tools, i can't drag files into or out of the virtual machine so it's a little cumbersome to move files back and forth.
  15. AisEv macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2010
    I managed to install Leopard Parallels VM in Lion and have it running almost as normal except for one thing - no network! Without a network, I basically can't update or do anything useful within the 10.5 VM.

    Basically when I go into Network Utility, there's no network interface. Or in System Preferences > Network, nothing there.

    Any solution to this? Ran Parallels Tools installer over and over and over again. Still nothing. How to install a network interface in Leopard VM?
  16. englishman macrumors 6502a


    Nov 6, 2006
  17. mrmister macrumors regular

    Dec 19, 2008
    Sad we have to use virtualization to make Lion as useful as Snow Leopard. Sad, sad, sad.
  18. AisEv macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2010
    I have the same no network issue with VirtualBox. Only VMware Fusion works perfectly. Almost actually. Have to install some audio interface for sound.
  19. Mr. Retrofire macrumors 603

    Mr. Retrofire

    Mar 2, 2010
    You do not need a second VM. In Virtual Box and VMware, you just press the F8 key at startup, and it will display a boot menu (works probably in the same way in Parallels). The "Boot Manager" and the "Boot From File" options are what you need. Sometimes, depending on the version of Mac OS X, the "Boot Manager" selection of the startup device (HDD or CD-ROM) is sufficient. If that does not work force a restart of the VM, press again F8 and use the "Boot From File" option and select
    on the Installation CD-ROM as the boot file. That is the most reliable method.

    You should be able to boot the VM again from the Installation CD-ROM. Open the Terminal application from the Utilities menu and type:
    touch /Volumes/YourSLDiskName/System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist
    (no sudo necessary)
    then restart your VM. You should now be able to use the installed SL version without problems.

    For software updates i type:
    sudo mv /Volumes/YourSLDiskName/System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist /ServerVersion.plist
    (this requires sudo, because we are now not a root user)
    This moves the ServerVersion.plist to the root directory of your startup disk. It is wise to keep a terminal window open during software updates, so you can type:
    sudo touch /Volumes/YourSLDiskName/System/Library/CoreServices/ServerVersion.plist
    after all software updates are complete.
  20. Mr. Retrofire macrumors 603

    Mr. Retrofire

    Mar 2, 2010
  21. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    I certainly wish they would do that! I am holding off upgrading since I still have a couple programs that run PPC only. I'd bet that if you upgraded from SL to Lion you'd still have the license for SL, so virtualizing it under Lion would not be a big deal and would save a LOT of complaints here on the forums.
  22. AisEv macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2010
    Anyone issue Leopard or SL client version in Parallels and have network running fine? Id so, how do you do it?
  23. davetroup macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2008
    I'm running Snow Leopard under Parallels and network stuff seems to work fine. I did have some issues with Safari, running in the virtual machine, hanging sometimes, but I don't have any reason to think that had anything to do with network connectivity (it was accessing the web without a problem right up to the point the application froze.)

    I didn't do anything special with regard to networking when I set it up, everything is set to defaults. My Mac (the real one) is running Lion.

    So this probably isn't much help - but it DOES work for me, and it should work for you. Hope you figure out why it doesn't.
  24. nzreg macrumors member

    Nov 14, 2009
    Which Mac do you have? and did Lion come with the machine?
  25. AisEv macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2010
    Hmmm... I may try to install a SL VM later. Maybe just can't do with Leopard 10.5 Right now, using VMware Fusion instead which works great.

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