Install macOS Big Sur Beta in a virtual machine with Parallels Desktop 16

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This article will help you to install macOS Big Sur beta with Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac.

Note: As of today, macOS Big Sur is available as a beta version of the new macOS. To learn about known issues with Parallels Desktop and macOS Big Sur, please visit KB 125039.

Step 1. Register in Apple Beta Software Program 

1. Visit the Apple Beta Software Program page and sign in with your Apple ID.

Note: If you are new to the Apple Beta Software Program, you would need to accept the Agreement to proceed. Scroll the page to the bottom and click "Accept" if you agree.

2. Use instructions from this page to enroll your Mac and download the macOS Big Sur Beta installation app.

3. Once the macOS Big Sur Beta installation app downloaded, do NOT click "Upgrade" in the Software Update window, simply close it:

4. Quit "Install macOS Big Sur Beta":

The 'Install macOS Big Sur' file is saved in /Applications/ folder and ready to be used by Parallels Desktop 16.


Step 2. Install macOS Big Sur Beta virtual machine

1. When Parallels Desktop is active, click the "File" menu on the Mac menu bar > select "New..."

2. Select "Install Windows or another OS" option and click "Continue."

3. Select "Install macOS Big Sur" and click "Continue":

4. Click "Continue" to accept creating a new file on Mac disk > click "Save":

5. Wait a few minutes while Parallels Desktop will create a disk image file:

6. Specify the desired name and location and click "Create." Parallels Desktop 16 will create a virtual machine and boot to the macOS Big Sur Beta beta installer.

7. Follow the macOS Big Sur Beta installation and setup procedure.


Step 3. Install Parallels Tools

To get the best experience with macOS Big Sur Beta virtual machine, including Retina resolution, new Metal graphics*, and Parallels integration features, you need to install Parallels Tools to the virtual machine.

* - requires macOS Big Sur Beta and later as a primary (host) macOS and Parallels Desktop 16 and later.

1. Click Actions > select "Install Parallels Tools...". The Parallels Tools ISO image will connect to the virtual machine. 

2. Open the Parallels Tools volume from the Desktop:

3. Double-click "Install" > enter the administrator password when prompted to begin the installation:

4. When the installation completes, restart your virtual machine.

Step 4. Try the new Metal 3D acceleration

If you are already running the macOS Big Sur beta on your Mac (as a host OS), you can try the world's first Metal 3D acceleration support in macOS Big Sur virtual machine. Run apps like Maps, Pages, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, and many more in your macOS Big Sur VM.

Depending on your hardware, you may use more graphics resources for the macOS Big Sur VM. To do that

  1. Shutdown the macOS Big Sur virtual machine.
  2. Open the VM configuration > Hardware > “CPU & Memory” settings.
  3. On the Memory slider, assign up to half of the available Mac memory for the virtual machine.
  4. Close the configuration window and start the virtual machine.

Note: macOS virtual machine uses system memory (RAM) for graphics.


Step 5. Restore default settings on Mac

If you don't plan to install the macOS Big Sur Beta OS as a primary (host) OS, restore default macOS update settings.

1. Open the macOS System Preferences > select "Software Update."

2. Click on the "Details..." hyperlink > click "Restore Defaults":

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