In about two months, macOS Monterey comes out of beta testing and into the hands of Mac users. For those who can’t wait to give Monterey a try but don’t want to risk running a beta operating system on their primary Mac, it can be installed in a virtual machine under Parallels 16.5. Here’s how to do that!
The Big Caveat…
If you have an M1 Mac, you won’t be able to install macOS Monterey in a Parallels Virtual Machine. At the present time, the virtual machine process only works with Intel-based Macs.
Parallels Desktop 16.5
You’ll need to have the latest (16.5 or later) version of Parallels Desktop installed on your Mac. If you don’t currently own this software, the link in the opening paragraph of this article takes you to a purchase page on the OWC website.
Create a New Parallels VM
- In Parallels Desktop, select “File > New.” This opens the Installation Assistant.
- Click Continue.
- On the Create New screen, scroll to “Free Systems” at the bottom of the screen and select Install macOS 11.4 Using the Recovery Partition. This is the fastest way to create a new Big Sur virtual machine, as it doesn’t require a download.
At one point you’ll see that the virtual machine window has entered Recovery Mode (screenshot below). Select Reinstall macOS Big Sur, click Continue, then click Continue on the Install macOS Big Sur screen that follows.
Take a Break
This is perhaps the slowest part of the process up to this point. Take the time to go out for a walk or bike ride, binge-watch your favorite streaming series, or play with pets or kids!
When you have Big Sur running as the “guest operating system” in Parallels, you’re ready to upgrade that virtual machine to Monterey.
Download the macOS Monterey Beta Installer
If you’re a member of the Apple Developer program, simply log into developer.apple.com with your credentials (on the virtual machine, of course), then select Downloads from the sidebar. Under macOS Monterey beta, click the Install Profile button.
This downloads a disk image file named
macOSDeveloperBetaAccessUtility.dmg. Double-click that file and follow the instructions, which then opens System Preferences > Software Update and asks if you wish to download the current macOS Monterey beta installer.
Not a Developer?
For those who aren’t in Apple’s Developer Program, there’s a public beta available, point your favorite browser to https://beta.apple.com. Sign up, if you’re not already a member of the Public Beta Program, or log in if you are.
Navigate to the macOS Monterey page and enroll your Mac in the public beta. This allows you to download the
macOSPublicBetaAccessUtility.dmg file. Once downloaded, double-click the file and follow the instructions. You’re asked if you want to Upgrade to macOS Monterey in System Preferences > Software Update (screenshot below).
Install macOS Monterey Beta
The installer runs automatically after the beta is downloaded to your virtual Mac. Agree to the terms and conditions, click Continue a few times, and the macOS Monterey installation begins.
The macOS installation process should be familiar to anyone who has done an OS upgrade before, so I won’t repeat the steps here. Just know that the installation is a bit slower in the virtual machine than it would be on a “real” Mac.
There were numerous reboots during the upgrade of Big Sur to Monterey, so be sure to keep an eye on your virtual machine during the latter parts of the installation so you can enter (and re-enter) your administrative password.
What Can You Do With macOS Monterey Beta?
Now that you have a working beta of macOS 12 Monterey, what can you do with it? I always find it useful to check the compatibility of as many critical apps as I can so there are no surprises when the golden master of a new OS appears. It’s also nice to familiarize yourself with the new or changed features of the new OS.
In my post-WWDC21 Deep Dive, I described some of those features. So far I’ve been trying out the privacy features of iCloud+ (including Hide My Email and Private Relay), enjoying Quick Notes, playing with Tab Groups in Safari, and seeing how Shortcuts works on the Mac.
When it becomes possible to run Monterey in a Parallels virtual machine on an M1 Mac, I’ll update this post so that Rocket Yard readers can enjoy a much faster Monterey experience.
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