My Turn

Everything Old Is New Again

Using vMac to Run System 6 and 7 Inside OS 9 and X

Patrick McCloskey - 2002.09.13

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

If you've got old Mac games or programs that won't run with the latest Mac OS versions, or if you're new to Macs and would like to experience the original Mac OS's, vMac is the program for you.

vMac lets you create a virtual Mac running System 6 or System 7 inside your new Mac. It lets you runs games and programs written for these older operating systems about as quickly as on a 68030 Mac, it includes sound output, it can multitask, it can run in a window or full screen, it can run up to System 7.5.5, it runs in OS X or OS 9, and it's small and free!

To setup vMac, download the vMac program (only 1160 KB) and vMacBoot disk image (a virtual hard disk or floppy) file from,, or The only other file you need is a Mac Plus Image ROM (read-only memory) file. has a program called CopyROM you can use to you copy the ROM from your Mac Plus.

If you don't own a Mac Plus, eBay and other sources can help you purchase one cheap. It doesn't even have to have a hard drive. Copy the CopyROM program onto a system boot disk, copy your ROM, and then put the resulting file together with the vMac program and vMacBoot file in a folder on your current Mac. That's all it takes to be up and running with a virtual old Mac inside your new Mac.

Now you can search the Web for disk image files of old games and programs to run in it. vMac opens you up to a whole new world of old world Mac mania within the stability and convenience of OS X or OS 9.

To get your own old programs running in vMac, just follow these simple (hopefully) steps: Copy your old Mac games, files, and applications into a folder on your Mac. One method is to use a LocalTalk to Ethernet bridge, e.g. the EtherMac iPrint adapter offered by Farallon for around $90 or cheaper on eBay. Other possibilities are by using a USB to SCSI adapter costing around $50, or a FireWire to SCSI adapter for about $100. explains how to connect a Mac Plus to the iMac's Ethernet port via SCSI.

Once you've got your programs copied over into one folder, convert the folder into a disk image file. To do this, download a 30-day evaluation copy of Aladdin's ShrinkWrap (then pay for it if you like it). Boot to OS 9, install ShrinkWrap, launch it, select Image, New Image from Folder..., choose the folder containing your old program(s), type the a name you want the disk image file to have (different from the folder name), select Size: Custom, add 100k just to give the image some breathing room, choose Mac OS Standard, Create, File format: DiskDup+, uncheck copy used blocks only.

That's it. You get a disk image mountable in vMac. Restart back into OS X (or stay in OS 9 if you prefer, because vMac can run in both), and run vMac. When you get the flashing question mark, select Hardware, insert Disk #1, choose the vMacBoot.dsk. You are now in a classic Mac running Mac OS 7.1. Once that loads, select Hardware, insert Disk #2, select the disk image you created. You will see a new floppy disk appear on the vMac desktop. Double click it to open it and run your programs.

ShrinkWrap deserves special mention here, too. It is an incredibly useful utility you can use to create blank disk image files of any size that you can use in vMac to copy programs to. I used it to create a 20 MB disk image that contains all the files from my Mac Plus and SE/30 running System 6.0.8. I use it as Disk #1 to boot vMac. It's like I have my old Mac back again, but with a new life running inside my new iMac. I run Sound Master (anybody out there remember that?) and other old favorite control panels, and I can play StuntCopter, ShufflePuck Cafe, and many other good ol' games and applications, all on my OS X Mac.

The guys who developed vMac deserve a lot of credit. They develop it in their spare time and offer it for free. Visit their site(s), try vMac, then send them a vPat-on-the-back for their fine work that lets us revisit how the Mac used to be.

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