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Parallels Desktop o...
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Parallels Desktop on Apple Silicon - Create Virtual Machine from IPSW file quick and easy

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Famed Member Admin
Joined: 11 years ago
Posts: 2641
Topic starter  

It seems that starting with Parallels Desktop 19 (!), you can install a macOS VM just by double-clicking the downloaded .ipsw file:

1. Download the .ipsw file of the desired macOS version.
2. Double-click the downloaded .ipsw file and create a name of the virtual machine, and click Create.

IPSW files work for Apple Silicon Macs only - it does not work for Intel!
(I think because IPSW files were originally only used for restoring iOS and AppleTV devices, but now for macOS as well)

How to get the proper IPSW files:

Option 1) All released versions from: (excellent overview and rest assured, it grabs the original files from the Apple CDN)
Option 2) Beta versions from Apple developers downloads page but this only lists the latest beta. 

According to the Parallels documentation, right clicking the file and selecting "Open Width" -> "Parallels Desktop" should do the trick. On my setup that did not work at all. But after a little searching I found a method that does work, and it's really fast in creating an VM.

In Terminal:

/Applications/Parallels\ <path_to_ipsw> <path_to_macVM>

In my case for macOS 12, on a Macbook Pro M1 (done in a matter in minutes!!):

/Applications/Parallels\ /Users/hans/Downloads/AppleSilicon\ ISPW/UniversalMac_12.6_21G115_Restore.ipsw /Users/hans/Parallels/macOS\ 12.macvm


After it completes, open the VM with Parallels (right click, "open width" -> "Parallels Desktop"), go through the initial macOS setup steps, and do not forget to install the Parallels tools (menu: <VM name> -> "Install Parallels Tools").

After that you'll have a macOS VM running very well on the Apple Silicon Mac … (amazing how well it runs compared to VM's on Intel hardware).

Again: IPSW are ARM files, so they will not work for Intel hardware (unfortunately since it’s super fast).

Famed Member Admin
Joined: 11 years ago
Posts: 2641
Topic starter  

p.s. for those who prefer to use the FREE (!!) virtual machine hypervisor UTM (recommended): You can use IPSW files as well on Apple Silicon Mac's (documentation link). Performance is on par with Parallels Desktop (both seem to use the native Apple Hypervisor) and its FREE.

Get UTM here.


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