create a macOS Catalina VM with VMware Fusion

Update: This is no longer an issue with Fusion 11.5

Here’s a quick note on how-to setup a macOS catalina VM on VMware Fusion 11. Credit for figuring out how-to do this goes to vmtn users Bogdam and intel008 as they are the ones who posted the resolution in the following thread at VMTN: macOS Catalina VMs do not run in VMware Fusion 11.1.0

This thread describes the problems you bump into if you try to upgrade a macOS Mojave VM to the new beta macOS Catalina. Basically if you run the upgrade then your VM will hang on reboot. If you then try to reboot it in verbose mode, so that you can see what happens, you’ll get the following screen.

macOS Catalina boot error

Yikes, that’s no good!

Then user bogdam reported he could get passed this by changing the virtual machine hardware to Windows 10. I tried that, but my VM no longer booted. As it turns out, the main trick is to start from a new VM, not upgrade an existing one. But as it involves a few more steps, not all of them obvious, I figured to write it out for you.

So first things first. If you want to get that 6.4GB “Install macOS 10.15” installer out of the VM then you cannot use the VMware Fusion shared folders feature. You can however drag & drop the installer bundle from your VM to your host OS, or copy it out using a network share via AFP (not samba).

Then the steps to install your new macOS Catalina VM are as follows.

First select File New from within VMware Fusion:

Install a new VM dialog

Now go back to Finder and drag your installer on top of the above dialog and drop it there.

You’ll get this screen:

New VM dialog with macOS Catalina installer dropped on it

Click Continue

Select the default macOS guest OS for it, for now

Select macOS 10.14 and continue

Basic install done, now customize and the detour begins

Do not click Finish here, instead click “Customize Settings”

This will then give you a save as dialog where you can change the name.

Save as dialog

Click save and now Fusion is going to create “installation media” for you on the disk. When it is done you will be presented with the VM in shut down state and the settings dialog.

Change settings on your new VM before initial boot

Click general and change the guest OS to Windows 10 x64 like so:

Set the guest OS to Windows 10 x64 (yes really, this helps)

Click “Change” to confirm, then show all and boot the VM.

The normal boot screen should appear (if it does not, then choose the macOS recovery image from the boot menu in the UEFI after it times out)

Once you are booting, you should get the familiar language selection:

language selection boot dialog

and you’ll be booted into the recovery menu:

macOS recovery menu, select Install

Click “Install macOS” and continue.

macOS 10.15 install can continue

You are now starting with the normal setup and the VM is getting installed.

On reboot however you’ll be getting this:

macOS Catalina – first reboot, now what’s that?

which is followed up by this:

macOS reboot on install – boot manager


Select “Boot normally” and press Enter.

This should then give you the normal boot progress screen:

macOS Catalina, the real install in progress

which takes a while to complete.

Go pet the cat, feed the fish or grab a coffee. You’ve got about 10 minutes, maybe more if your hardware is a bit older.

When the install is done, you’ll get this again:

macOS Catalina, another boot problem

Which eventually drops you back in the boot manager menu.

macOS Catalina Boot Manager – shut ‘r down

This time select “Shut down the system”

Now when you are ready to boot into your new VM, you first should change back the guest OS type to macOS. Go to Fusion menu “Virtual Machine” -> Settings -> General and make the change:

macOS guest OS – change it back to macOS

That’s it.

Now you can boot into your new macOS Catalina VM!

macOS Catalina – Welcome screen

Author: Wil van Antwerpen

Wil van Antwerpen is a software developer who loves to work on Open Source and dabble a bit with VMware products. He likes to help people out as that is a good way to learn more. He is the author of Vimalin Backup ( which is virtual machine backup software for VMware Fusion and VMware Workstation Pro.

33 thoughts on “create a macOS Catalina VM with VMware Fusion”

  1. I was also ultimately able to make this work, but it took several different attempts to get the initial boot working. Not sure why the last of about 5 tries worked and the others didn’t. But once I was able to get the initial install process working, everything worked fine after that point.

  2. Hello Wil, is another error as the one reported on stackoverflow:

    I am running into the stackoverflow version of the crash. The difference might be that my VM is running in VMware player, not in VMware Fusion. But I had to use the same Windows 10 x64 trick to get it installed.

    I sure hope the VMware devs find a fix or Apple fixes it in one of the coming beta’s. I’d like to play around before the release of macOS 10.15.

  3. Hi,

    First let me thank you for this excellent guide. Unfortunately, for me, it’s failing 🙁

    I followed the instructions, and when powering up the vm I see a progression bar (the usual when installing macOS) but at about 2/3 I get the “Forbidden Sign”, and that’s it.

    Have tried it several times, with the same result. Any hints?

    Appreciate any reply


    1. Could it be that you are using InstallESD instead of the .app? I had issues first with the ESD.dmg but after I switched to the app and Windows 10 x64 profile everything was smooth sailing. After the installation the software will work with any later macOS profile.

  4. Hi Charles, Thanks.

    There’s two things that come to my mind that might possibly cause this.
    1. A corrupted download of the installer. The solution would be to try and download again.
    2. If your installer is still mounted in Finder then you cannot run the installer. If you see the installer image connected in Finder then disconnect it before trying to run the installer again.


    1. Hi Wil,

      Thanks for your suggestion. Not sure why it was “corrupted”, I redownloaded Catalina, and I was able to proceed.
      I did experience some weird issues, but at the end i managed to get a working installation.
      I need to do some more testing, when I finish I will share my experience and acquire knowledge about Catalina B1 here.


  5. So, for the step to create the installer, it needs to be in macOS 10.14 mode,

    For all of the steps running the INSTALLER VMDK (initial boot and config, second boot “About x minutes remaining), the mode needs to be in Windows 10 x64.

    For the boot of the completely installed system, it should be switched back to macOS 10.14.

    Seems like a correctly set up macOS 10.5 profile, when created, might fix this.

  6. Updating to Catalina beta 2 and beta 3 without a complete new install is as challenging as well. After the first reboot it crashed once again. I changed the OS into ‘other x64’ rebooted and waited for the bootmanager.

    There I chose for EFI Internal Shell. It gave me 5 seconds to press ESC before executing startup.nsh. At the prompt I entered

    load VboxApfs.efi
    map -r

    After this it had mounted all the needed volumes and went on installing the update after an ‘exit’ to leave the (unsupported) shell. After the next reboot I waited again for the bootmanager and shut down the system. Changing the OS back to macOS 10.14 completed the update.

    BTW In the teminal of Catalina, it is best to enter this to see what is going on during the boot process:
    sudo nvram boot-args=”-v”
    -v = verbose.

    1. The same upgrade procedure from beta 3 ot beta 4 fails. The problem is that install.nsh expects the installation files on fs1: which are in reality (after the ‘map -r’) on fs3:. This effectively blocks a normal upgrade through the appstore.

      I have not found a workaround yet. Anyone else successful?

  7. I did successfully follow these instructions for beta 1, but a failed upgrade to beta 2 destroyed that VM.
    So now I tried againb with beta 4 and am stuck in a boot loop after the last changing back to “macos 10.14” in the Fusion settings.
    It then boots up to about ¾ of the indicator beneath the apple and then restarts 🙁
    Any pointers?

  8. Thank you! Success (on the third try) with Fusion 11.1.1 on a Mac OS X Pro 5,1, with 10.15 Beta (19A526h)

  9. No success
    beta4, fusion 11.1.1, MacPro6.1
    It stops after the change back to 10.14 setting showing the apple on a black screen, but the progress bar is not avail. Just like you try to upgrade an existing 10.14 or 10.15beta
    Any idea is welcome

      1. Hi Wil,
        thanks for the reply and the hint. I tried it but had it was not successful.
        It’s a beta5 btw. and it seems that the issue has nothing to do with 11.1.1 upgrade, because I was able to create successfully a beta3 vm.

  10. Does this work for beta 6? I’ve got it working on beta 1-5 but was unable to do the same on beta 6

  11. Looks like the trick isn’t working anymore on 10.15 Beta 6 (19A536g). On the final step, it now gets stuck on the Apple logo.

    Anyone figure it out?

  12. The same issue here…. with Beta 6 it hangs at apple boot logo… Does someone has an idea? Even using the option “Other, 64-Bit”, which was stated in several other blogs, doesn’t work for me….

    1. Same. And if you pressed Command+V on booting, you can see same error message as 1st figure in this blog.

  13. I have VMWare Fusion 11.1.1, the installer is beta 8, in the customize settings step, after clicked save, it will say “Unable to create the installation medium”, then I clicked OK, the temp VM will be deleted automatically and leave blank in the VM list

  14. I got stuck after all the processed before last two steps, selected BIOS from shutdown, change the OS back to 10.14, reboot the VM, stuck in the white apple logo without any further

  15. Epilogue: VMWare Fusion 11.5 fully supports Catalina guests, and even allowed by dead, unbootable VMs to run and finish their Beta Catalina installs.

    So, go get the latest VMWare Fusion to run Catalina guests.

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