The VirtualBox logo.

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.

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.

The VirtualBox Installer menu.

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.

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).

VirtualBox in Applications.

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.

You’ve now successfully installed VirtualBox and a Windows 10 VM. However, just like on any physical machine, you have to set up the Windows 10 OS.

You can download the free Windows 10 disc image directly from Microsoft. Save the ISO file to your computer, go back to VirtualBox, and then click “Start.”

If the Windows 10 ISO is already on your computer, VirtualBox might try to identify and select it automatically.

Otherwise, a new window opens so you can do this manually. Click the folder with the green up arrow.

In this window, click “Add.” Select the ISO file, click “Open,” and then click “Start.”

Your Windows 10 VM is now ready to go on your Mac! If you ever want to change any of the settings, just right-click the VM, and then click “Settings.”

Now that you’re up and running, be sure to check out some of our other guides on VirtualBox and VMs. You can also refer to Oracle’s User Manual for VirtualBox if you have any questions.

Profile Photo for Joel Cornell Joel Cornell
Joel Cornell has spent twelve years writing professionally, working on everything from technical documentation at PBS to video game content for GameSkinny. Joel covers a bit of everything technology-related, including gaming and esports. He's honed his skills by writing for other industries, including in architecture, green energy, and education.
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