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Run The Classic Mac OS On Your PC

Updated on December 11, 2014

Boot Mac OS In Windows 7

Basilisk II booting Mac OS 7.5.5
Basilisk II booting Mac OS 7.5.5 | Source

Emulation Keeps Older Software Alive

The classic Mac OS, or to some users, the OS before OS X, has a very small market share today and very few people use it. When I say classic, I’m not referring to the feature in early versions of OS X that allowed users to install a version of OS 9 (the version of the Mac OS before OS X was released) in order to provide compatibility and an environment for older applications, however, I’m referring to the older versions of Mac OS, namely the various iterations of System 6 and System 7.

Why in the world am I even talking about such an old operating system? Simply, I have fond memories of using this Mac OS, before so much emphasis was placed on flashy appearance, apps and a vicious upgrade cycle. I enjoyed the elegance and simplicity of the older Mac OS. There were also many games and applications that I grew up with and have a strong feeling of nostalgia or longing for. One thing I missed most was playing the Oregon Trail, even if it was on a small 9” black and white screen. And I’m not alone.

Running Older Software In Basilisk II

ClarisWorks Word Processor running inside of Basilisk II
ClarisWorks Word Processor running inside of Basilisk II | Source
ClarisWorks Spreadsheet running inside of Basilisk II
ClarisWorks Spreadsheet running inside of Basilisk II | Source

Basilisk II Fulfills The Demand

While working Macintosh computers are rare and often outrageously expensive, even on eBay, many computer users who are seeking to scratch their nostalgic itch turn to emulators. There are several freeware emulators available online that allow one to emulate a Macintosh computer on a PC. The emulators themselves offer great features such as the ability to transfer files between the emulated Macintosh system and the host PC as well as the ability to connect the system to the host PCs connection to the internet.

Basilisk II is one of the more popular emulators for the classic Mac OS. It supports System 7.0 – 8.1. This supports a range of older applications and games. The best part about this is that it supports one of the few versions of the Mac OS that Apple has released for free (System 7.5.3), avoiding the need to purchase a copy of the Mac OS from eBay or obtaining it illegally from the web. It does require a Macintosh ROM image to function. There are instructions online for how to obtain them from an older Mac, yet the ROMs themselves can be found online. It is illegal to have these ROMs unless you own a Mac that uses the same ROM.

With that, I must state that I am not encouraging software piracy and what you do is your own business and I’m not responsible.

Installing Basilisk II

Emaculation has done a great job of putting together a walkthrough and a list of everything you need for setting up Basilisk II as well as providing links to download System 7 boot floppy images. These are necessary to boot the emulator and install System 7.5.3 on a blank virtual disk. Follow the instructions from Emaculation and very soon you’ll have a working Macintosh emulator running System 7.5.3 (or 7.5.5 if you downloaded and ran the updater).

Using Basilisk II In Windows

The 'About This Macintosh' window displaying the amount of "installed" RAM and running applications (the Finder in this case) as well as how much RAM they consume.
The 'About This Macintosh' window displaying the amount of "installed" RAM and running applications (the Finder in this case) as well as how much RAM they consume. | Source
The Oregon Trail running in Basilisk II!
The Oregon Trail running in Basilisk II! | Source

What Can I Use Basilisk II For?

Well, you can use Basilisk II for anything really! You can use it to run legacy applications that won’t run in OS X anymore due to the fact that Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was the last version of OS X to support Classic mode. It can also be used to play older games written for the Mac OS. For example, I loved playing the Oregon Trail on Macs when I was a kid. Now, I can boot up Basilisk II on my netbook and play Oregon Trail whenever I want. If anything, it makes for a great conversation starter in computer science related classes!

Mini vMac On Android

Barebones installation of System 6.0.8 running on KitKat.
Barebones installation of System 6.0.8 running on KitKat. | Source

Emulate A Mac On Your Android Device Too!

Ok, so this one might not be quite as useful, but you can also emulate a Mac, specifically a Mac Plus on most any Android powered device with Mini vMac. It's a free download that runs on Android 1.6 and higher. Some sites around the web have already packaged a system disk image available freely for download. With almost no work to do, you can easily get a barebones copy of System 6.0.8 running on your tablet or smartphone. With a little more work and perhaps some disk image utilities, you can find older freeware or shareware software that you can put into a larger disk image to run on Mini vMac.

Is it practical? Hmm...not really, but it is fun to say that you can play Oregon Trail in black and white on your tablet or have a copy of ClarisWorks running on there just for looks.

Emulators Aren't Just Good For Showing Off

Emulators can be a labor of love, just like any hobby. Its fun to carry over favorite games from old hardware consoles or to be able to use applications that you've grown fond of and just can't let go, or sometimes its downright nifty if it helps to eliminate carrying a device when you can have a virtual copy on your tablet or laptop. For more general information about emulators, read my hub about them here.

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