Installing El Capitan in Parallels Desktop 11

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Update September 15, 2015: This blog post correctly documents the install of the El Capitan beta into a Parallels Desktop 11 VM. However, as can always happen, changes in the El Capitan GM Seed interfere with this installation. The Engineering team is aware of the issue and is working on a solution. Stay tuned for updates.

Update October 29, 2015: The steps outlined in this blog post now work for the El Capitan GM as long as you’re using the latest update to Parallels Desktop 11—thanks to the work of the Parallels Desktop Engineering team!

A virtual machine (VM) is the ideal way to check out an OS that has been released as a beta, like Mac OS X 10.11, also known as El Capitan. A VM is a sandboxed environment, so any issues seen in the beta OS won’t affect any of your files on the Mac, destabilize your host OS, or even require that you back up your Mac before installing the beta.

Some Parallels Desktop users have asked me how to do this installation in Parallels Desktop 11, and I’m happy to tell you in this blog post.

At a high level, here are the steps, which I will explain in detail and with lots of screenshots in the rest of the post:

1. Download the El Capitan installer app. (About 6 GB)
2. Create a new, empty VM, and install the El Capitan beta in this VM.
3. Download and install all the El Capitan updates in this VM. (About another 6 GB)
4. Install Parallels Tools in this VM.

All in all, this took me about three hours, but most of that time was downloading. (I really have to get better Internet access at home.)

Now for the details:

1. Download the El Capitan installer app. (About 6 GB)

To get the El Capitan installer, you have to either join the free Apple Beta Software Program or be a registered Apple Developer. Once you’re a member of one of these programs, you can download the El Capitan installer app for free. It takes a little while to download 6 GB, but once done, you will have one of these in your Applications folder.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The app will launch once it finishes downloading. (See Figure 2.)  You should just quit the app, since you will be installing in a VM in Parallels Desktop.

Figure 2

Figure 2

2. Create a new, empty VM, and install the El Capitan beta in this VM.

To create a new VM, either click on the “+” in the Parallels Desktop Control Center (Figure 3), or choose the “New…” menu item in the File menu of Parallels Desktop.

Figure 3

Figure 3

In the New Virtual Machine Wizard window that opens (Figure 4), the installation option “Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file” will already be chosen, so just click the Continue button.

Figure 4

Figure 4

The Wizard will then find the El Capitan installer app, so click on it to select it, and then hit Continue. (Figure 5)

Figure 5

Figure 5

The Wizard will then create a temporary installer disk image file. (Figure 6) This file will be over 8 GB in size but can be deleted after the El Capitan VM is fully installed.

Figure 6

Figure 6

The Wizard will then display a dialog enabling you to name the new VM and decide where to store it on your Mac. (Figure 7)

Figure 7

Figure 7

After that you will see the standard Mac OS X installation screens and dialogs. The only one you might have a doubt about is where to install (Figure 8). Choose the Macintosh HD. Soon, you will have El Capitan running in a VM.

Figure 8

Figure 8

3. Download and install all the El Capitan updates in this VM. (About another 6 GB)

Normally, I would install Parallels Tools at this point. However, this won’t work for El Capitan. First, you have to install all the updates to El Capitan. Launch the App Store app inside El Capitan, not the App Store app on your host.

Get all the updates to El Capitan—there will be several, each of which must be installed in sequence. Just keep installing updates, rebooting El Capitan, and then checking for more updates. Do this until the App Store app says that there are no more updates. This will take a while, since several updates are more than 2 GB in size.

4. Install Parallels Tools in this VM.

Now install Parallels Tools by choosing the “Install Parallels Tools” menu item in the Actions menu of Parallels Desktop. You will need to open the CD icon that appears on the El Capitan desktop and manually launch the Install Parallels Tools app.

That’s it! You can now use the El Capitan VM and see for yourself what’s coming later this year for the Mac. (Figures 9 and 10)

Figure 9

Figure 9

Figure 10

Figure 10

Enjoy!

Will you be trying out El Capitan in a Parallels Desktop 11 VM? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below, or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac

Kurt has been a Mac developer since before the Mac came out. Today he is the Senior Product Manager at Parallels where he works on both Parallels Desktop for Mac and Parallels Access. Prior to Parallels, he was the Senior Mac Evangelist in the Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) at Microsoft Corp. Kurt is the author of three books and has lectured internationally on object-oriented programming, UI design, and virtualization. Kurt is also a Microsoft Office for Mac and iOS Accredited Support Professional for 2014 and 2015. Outside of work, Kurt has been a fencer for many years, has four times been a member of the US team at the world championships, and has also been the coach of the US team.

  • Rhodri Thomas

    Thanks for the article, however on following the instructions for the Golden Master (developer or public beta version) now available, I only get as far as trying to install the VM. This fails with the EFI errors I’ve seen on the forums by other folks trying on earlier versions. I am using Parallels 11 Standard, so do I really have to follow workarounds suggested through upgrading from a Yosemite VM – or is there some other reason for failure?

    • lscarpello

      Hi Rhodri – this is a known issue with the El Capitan Golden Master Seed. The Parallels Desktop engineering team is currently working on a solution; please stay tuned! You can subscribe for updates on this issue here: http://kb.parallels.com/123410

      Once the article is changed, you’ll will receive a notification. Hope this helps!

      • juergen_klaassen

        Hi

        … and your support team is not aware of this issue with the GM seed.
        Opened a ticket for exactly this problem and they referred to this blog-article-only.

        • lscarpello

          Hi Juergen,

          Thanks for letting us know. We’ve followed up with our Support team to ensure that they’re up-to-date on all developments. Again, thanks for you feedback, and for updates, please feel free to subscribe to the link above.

        • Hi Juergen,

          We’ve got an update! The steps outlined above now work for the El Capitan GM as long as you’re using the latest update to Parallels Desktop 11. Thanks for your patience.

      • Rhodri Thomas

        Hi again, we’ve now passed the point where the GM was useful and now have the full release of El Capitan in the wild.

        We NEED to be able to verify user issues and third-party software configurations, and not able as yet to upgrade hardware internally in our organisation. Parallels is the only solution available at present, so when are you going to make an El Capitan VM build possible please?

        • Hi Rhodri,

          Thanks for following up. The engineering team is currently working on this and other El Capitan GM issues. Expect an announcement early next week.

          In the meantime, here are two potential work-arounds:

          – Copy a Yosemite VM, and run the El Capitan GM installer app there.

          – Use the latest version of DiskMaker X to create a bootable El Capitan installer USB thumb drive. Use this thumb drive to create an El Capitan VM.

          Hope this helps somewhat. Thanks for your patience.

        • Hi Rhodri,

          As mentioned a few times in earlier comments, we’ve finally got an update on this! The steps outlined above now work for the El Capitan GM as long as you’re using the latest update to Parallels Desktop 11. Thanks again for your patience.

  • Kieran Lowe

    You say that in Figure 6 the temporary disk image file can be deleted after completion. Where abouts is this file located?

    • lscarpello

      Hi Kieran,

      The location of the temporary disk image file is specified by the user, so it might be hard to find if you’re not sure where you put it. We recommend always putting it on the Desktop so you can find it easily/don’t forget to delete it, but that’s up to you.

      We can tell you that the default location for the disk image file is “alongside” the “Install OS X El Capitan.app”, which is usually in the Applications folder. The name of the file is “OS X image file”, so you can probably do a search for it to find it.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for reaching out.

  • Pinal Bhatt

    Tried above steps but instead of Figure-8 I am getting EFI Shell. How to proceed from there? Firstly i get “Boot Failed. EFI Hard Drive …… ” and then EFI Shell.

    • lscarpello

      Hi Pinal – as I spoke of in the comments, this is a known issue with the El Capitan Golden Master Seed. The Parallels Desktop engineering team is currently working on a solution; please stay tuned! You can subscribe for updates on this issue here: http://kb.parallels.com/123410

      Thanks for your patience.

      • Pinal Bhatt

        @Lindsay – is this issue resolved?

        • Hi Pinal,

          Unfortunately no resolution yet. I’ve reached out to our engineering team for an update and am waiting to hear back. Thanks for your patience.

          • Pinal Bhatt

            Thanks @Lindsay for quick response, but tomorrow Apple is releasing El Capitan and wanted to try this on VM before actually doing in on my actual mac.

          • Hi Pinal,

            Thanks for your patience – as I mentioned to Rhodri below, the engineering team is currently working on this and other El Capitan GM issues. Expect an announcement early next week.

            In the meantime, here are two potential work-arounds:

            – Copy a Yosemite VM, and run the El Capitan GM installer app there.

            – Use the latest version of DiskMaker X to create a bootable El Capitan installer USB thumb drive. Use this thumb drive to create an El Capitan VM.

            Hope this helps and again, thanks for your continued patience and cooperation.

          • Also, forgot to add – here’s the link to DiskMaker X: http://diskmakerx.com/diskmaker-x-5-x-est-enfin-disponible/

          • Daniel Margheriti

            Hello,
            Are there any updates to this issue? I have the latest version of Parallels 10.3.0 but have no luck when I select ‘Find automatically’, it just keeps searching with no results.

            I have tried the Image File, and selected the installer dmg. This option gives me the Boot failure issues. Even if I’ve deselected USB 3 support.

            I have also tried your option with diskmakerx. I downloaded the latest version and am using the final release of OSX El Capitan. When I try select ‘USB Drive’ it tells me to connect a bootable USB drive, thus, it cannot see my drive.

            Looking forward to your reply.
            Thanks

          • Hi Daniel,

            Unfortunately, still no fix. Our engineers are working diligently on this issue, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can contact Support, who may be able to help with the DIskmaker option. The best way to contact them is on our Facebook via private message: https://www.facebook.com/ParallelsInc

            Or, you can reach out to them on Twitter at the handle @ParallelsCares: https://twitter.com/ParallelsCares

          • Hi Daniel,

            As mentioned above, we’ve finally got an update on this! The steps outlined above now work for the El Capitan GM as long as you’re using the latest update to Parallels Desktop 11. Thanks again for your patience.

          • Hi Pinal – we’ve finally got an update from Engineering! another The steps outlined above now work for the El Capitan GM as long as you’re using the latest update to Parallels Desktop 11. Thanks for your patience!

    • Vladimir

      I just started trial period and have the same issue…well I have 13 days to wait.

  • Gabriela

    Hi there…

    First I want to apologise because I’m not familiar with IT terminology and my IT knowledge is basic-intermediate.

    I wanted to ask a simple question: On my Mac should I upgrade the OS (El Capitan) first and then upgrade from Parallels 9 to 11, or should I do it the other way around (upgrade first to Parallells 11 and then upgrade the OS)?

    I mostly use Mac, and only have Parallels to use a program I need for work.

    Thank you very much

    Gabby

    • Hi Gabby,

      Good question! And don’t apologize; we’re here to help. 🙂 To answer your question, you should first upgrade to Parallels Desktop 11 and any other apps that you depend on that have been updated for El Capitan. Only after that should you upgrade to EC. Hope that helps! Let us know how it goes.

  • Komrad

    Now that EL Capitan final version has been released, are there updated instructions on how to create a parallels VM that run it? I’m running OS X on my mac mini, but I want a VM to use for IT training classes that require you install a variety of apps and servers as part of the class. I would rather not clutter up my physical system with all of these random apps.

    • Hi Komrad,

      Kurt’s currently working on a follow-up post – stay tuned. Thanks!

    • Hi Komrad – another update: the steps outlined above now work for the El Capitan GM as long as you’re using the latest update to Parallels Desktop 11. Thanks for your patience!

      • Komrad

        Thank you. I was on my work (Windows) computer when I posted so I could not try it. I tried it yesterday on my Mac, and saw the each method of setting up a Mac VM using the recovery partition for the OS installation. The parallels VM booted from my recovery partition and from there it was just like setting up a new Mac out of the box.

        I would like to note that it also gives the option to use a time machine backup install the OS. It’s a really great VM app.

        • That’s awesome, Komrad! So pleased you’ve got it to work. And thanks so much!

  • Ken Turnbull

    I have a slightly different problem in that I have weaned myself from windows programs completely after many years as a developer. My problem is that El Capitan seems to work better for most of the programs that I use but a couple and one particularly do not play well with El Capitan. The one that is most important to me is scheduled to be updated in the first quarter of 2016…possibly as early as December, 2015. As this article indicates that the beta versions of El Capitan work in the VM, I would like to do the reverse…load El Capitan as the main OS and install Yosemite in the VM as a temporary measure
    Will this work?
    Are there any particular steps that I need to follow other than what is laid out in this article?

    • Hi Ken,

      I spoke to Kurt, and he let me know that yes, this will work just fine: El Capitan as the host OS and Yosemite as a guest OS, and is a good solution to the issue you describe.

      He also wanted me to give you the following tip: installing Yosemite in a VM is most easily done using the Install OS X Yosemite.app, which is downloadable from the Mac App Store.

      Here’s what he said he’d do in this situation:

      1. Get and install the latest build of Parallels Desktop.
      2. Install Yosemite in a VM
      3. Test the apps that don’t work well in El Capitan in the Yosemite VM. Most apps work well, but some have problems with use of advanced Mac graphics.
      4. If the apps work well, upgrade the host to El Capitan.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for reaching out.

      • Ken Turnbull

        Hi Lindsay,
        Thank you for the reply.
        The app that I want to use in the Yosemite VM is one( Sketchup Pro) that I have been using for years so I know it works well with Yosemite. I used El Capitan for a short period (Saturday & Sunday) enough to know that all the other apps that I use work well with it. El Capitan also produced a surprising increase in speed and memory management and the apps showed no problems with the advanced graphics. I downgraded yesterday to keep working with Sketchup as I have critical work to finish. I presently have an old installation of parallels for Window support that is no longer necessary.

        I am not quite sure of the sequence though as I am running Yosemite on the computer right now and, in the following order, intend to …
        ***download and install the latest version of Parallels on it; ***
        then upgrade the computer to Capitan;
        install Yosemite in the VM.

        If this is the wrong order please advise. Maybe I should upgrade the OS first and then install parallels.
        BTW, I spoke to Apple Support and their “SENIOR ADVISOR” tells me that Parallels is only for running WIndoze and not Yosemite. My response was for them to follow my lead and downgrade their senior advisor just as I downgraded Capitan to Yosemite.

        • Hi Ken,

          Just to be safe, you should upgrade the host to El Capitan only AFTER making sure your apps work in a Yosemite VM.

          Some Mac apps don’t work at all in a VM, because they use advanced graphics that aren’t available in a VM. So you will want to upgrade Parallels Desktop first and then the host OS.