Apple allows Linux VMs to run Intel apps with Rosetta in macOS Ventura

Apple allows Linux VMs to run Intel apps with Rosetta in macOS Ventura


One of the few things Intel Macs can do that Apple Silicon Macs can not runs on operating systems written for Intel processors in virtual machines. In particular, this means that there is currently no legal way to run Windows on an Apple Silicon Mac.

However, Apple Silicon Macs can run operating systems written for Arm processors in virtual machines, including other versions of macOS and Arm-compatible versions of Linux. And those Linux VMs get a new feature in macOS Ventura: the ability to run apps written for x86 processors with Rosetta, the same binary translation technology that allows Apple Silicon Macs to run apps written for Intel Macs.

Apple’s documentation walks you through the requirements for using Rosetta within a Linux guest operating system – it requires creating a shared folder that both macOS and Linux can access and running some terminal commands in Linux to set it up. But once you’ve done those steps, you’ll be able to enjoy the wider app compatibility that comes with being able to run both x86 code and Arm code.

Some developers including: Hector Martin from the Asahi Linux project and Twitter user @never_released, have already found that these steps can also enable Rosetta on non-Apple ARM CPUs, as long as they are modern enough to support at least version 8.2 of the ARM instruction set. As Martin points out, this isn’t strictly legal due to macOS’ licensing restrictions, and it takes relatively minor Apple-specific hardware features to unlock Rosetta’s full capabilities.

Ventura still doesn’t allow installation of x86 operating systems on Apple Silicon Macs – only x86 apps run on Arm operating systems. Nor does it change the state of Windows on Apple Silicon Macs, which is caught between Apple’s restrictions on x86 guest operating systems and Microsoft’s refusal (or alleged inability) to license the Arm versions of Windows. If the Arm versions of Windows can ever run on a Mac, they may not need Rosetta, as Microsoft has its own x86-to-Arm translation software and is in some ways more flexible than Rosetta.

Extending Rosetta’s functionality in this way and offering it to guest operating systems will hopefully mean it will last longer than the original Rosetta. When Apple moved from PowerPC to Intel CPUs, Rosetta was eventually discontinued because consumers didn’t really need much PowerPC code in addition to their Mac apps. In contrast, apps written for Intel processors will continue to exist for the foreseeable future.

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