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The Beginner's Guide
to installing and running Mac OS 8 on Windows
Updated August 14, 2007


Welcome to the Beginner's Guide for installing and running Mac OS 8 on Microsoft Windows. This page is a step-by-step tutorial that shows you in detail how to install and configure any recent version of the SoftMac Apple Macintosh emulator for Windows. SoftMac is the easiest and fastest way to run Mac OS on your Intel based Windows computer.

Due to the large number of screen shots on this page, please several minutes for this page to fully load if you are using a slow modem. To conserve screen space and minimize load time of this page, all screen shots are taken at low resolution and presented as thumbnails. Click on a thumbnail image to view it at full size. You will most likely run SoftMac at much higher screen resolutions since SoftMac does support color screen resolutions right up to the 1920x1080 HDTV resolution supported by many of today's video cards and monitors.

This tutorial specifically demonstrates the installation of Mac OS 8.1 from CD-ROM, the same Mac OS 8.1 CD-ROM which we bundle with the SoftMac product and which can be purchased from any Apple computer dealer. A very similar installation procedure can also be used when installing other CD-ROM based versions of Mac OS such as 7.6 or 8.0. It then demonstrates how to install a sample Macintosh application, in this case, the ClarisWorks 4.0 which is also available bundled with SoftMac. You should install some version of SoftMac so that you may follow along with this tutorial.

If you do not own a CD-ROM release of SoftMac, you may download a free release of SoftMac. And don't forget to get your free Mac OS 8.1 CD-ROM from us.


In order to run Mac OS 8 and Macintosh applications on your Windows computer, you need four things:

First, you need to have a version of SoftMac on your PC. Download a free release of SoftMac.

If you have a SoftMac CD-ROM, simply run the installer on the CD-ROM. If you download SoftMac, you may run the online installed, or manually download the SOFTMAC.ZIP file and use PKUNZIP or WinZIP to uncompress it. For the purposes of this tutorial, we are installing all of the SoftMac files, disk images, and ROM image files to a SOFTMAC folder on the PC's C: drive. You may install your files in any directory on the C: drive, D: drive, or any other hard disk drive letter on your PC.

Next, you need to install a ROM card into your PC (with valid Macintosh ROMs plugged in) or install a Macintosh ROM BIOS image file which you have created from your own Macintosh computer.

Finally, take your Disk Tools Macintosh System boot floppy and place it in your PC's 3.5" floppy disk drive, or take your Mac OS CD-ROM and place it in your PC's CD, CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD drive. That's right, even though Windows itself does not understand Macintosh formatted disks, your PC's floppy disk and CD-ROM drives are already capable of reading them!

If you do not have a bootable Mac OS CD-ROM, you can use a Mac OS boot floppy disk. All versions of Mac OS up to an including Mac OS 8.0 include a boot floppy disk usually labeled "Disk Tools". You can also download free Mac OS boot floppy disk images directly from Apple's web site, and then use our Gemulator Explorer utility to copy the disk image to a real floppy disk to then use as a boot disk.

Assuming you've used our example and placed all the files in a C:\SOFTMAC directory, your directory window will look something like this...

SOFTMAC directory after decompression of demo files

The actual file names and sizes will vary depending on the exact release of SoftMac installed and the ROM images which you supply. For demo purposes we are using an old demo release of SoftMac and 4 ROM Macintosh ROM images files which we created from 4 different Macintosh computers - - VMAC.ROM is a 128K ROM image file from a Macintosh Plus which can also be used with the vMac emulator, a 256K Macintosh IIcx ROM image file MACIICX.ROM, a 512K ROM image MACLC.ROM from a Macintosh LC, and a 1M ROM image QUADRA.ROM from a Quadra. Any 68000 through 68040 compatible Macintosh ROM image file can be used, provided that they have a .ROM extension. All Macintosh ROMs support System 7.0 and System 7.5, but you will require 512K or larger ROMs to run Mac OS 8.

The fourth and final requirement is to create a Macintosh disk volume. This is done using the MAKEDSK utility provided with SoftMac, or by simply using SoftMac itself. To create a Macintosh disk volume, simply run MAKEDSK, specify a size of the volume to create (in kilobytes), and the name of the volume to create. To do this, click on the Windows Start button, click on Run... and type in the following:

Running MAKEDSK

This now creates a 200 megabyte Macintosh disk partition right in your SOFTMAC directory. No reformatting of your PC's hard disk is required, as the Macintosh disk volume is stores as what is referred to as a disk container or disk image.

The alternative way to create a disk image is to use the Create Unformatted SCSI Disk Image command in SoftMac itself to create a disk image in one of the standard disk sizes.

Whichever of the two methods you use to create a disk image, your disk directory will now look like this:

SOFTMAC directory after creation of disk image


Now it is time to run the emulator. Double click the SoftMac icon, either the shortcut on your desktop or the original icon in the SOFTMAC directory. The first time you run SoftMac it needs to find the various Macintosh ROMs. You will either automatically be presented with a First Time Setup dialog box, or you can click on the First Time Setup menu item in Gemulator. In newer releases of SoftMac, this setup screen will be called ROM BIOS Setup. You will see a dialog box that looks like this...

First Time Setup dialog box

If you are using real ROMs, select the Search ROM Card(s) option. If you are using ROM image files, select the Search Hard Disk option. For this demo, we are using both, so we have selected both options.

ROM users - to check that your Gemulator ROM card is being "seen", click on the Setting button. You will get a ROM Card Settings dialog box as shown below which you can use to check that each ROM chip is installed correctly...

ROM Card Settings dialog box

When you've verified that your ROM card is seeing each ROM chip, click Close to go back to the main First Time Setup dialog.

Now click on the Search button. It will scan your ROM card and/or scan your hard disk for ROM BIOS images and present a list of valid ROMs and ROM images that have been detected...

First Time Setup after the ROM scan

At this point you can close the First Time Setup dialog box and you will be at the main SoftMac dialog where you can select which model of Macintosh computer you wish to emulate, in this case the 68040 based Macintosh Quadra so that we can run Mac OS 8...

SoftMac 2000 main menu

Before we can run yet, we have to click on the Properties menu item to bring up the Properties dialog box. This allows us to configure such things as the emulated screen size, the amount of RAM to emulate, and which ROM or ROM image to use to boot from. You can rename the name of the emulation mode from the default name such as "Macintosh Quadra" to something more meaningful such as "Macintosh running Mac OS 8" as shown...

Properties dialog box

We recommend setting the screen resolution to at least 640x480 and the memory size to at least 14 megabytes in order to be able to run Mac OS 8. Earlier versions of Mac OS will typically not require quite as much memory.

Once memory and screen size are selected, click the Disk Properties button to bring up the disk configuration dialog box. This is where you set the mapping of each of the 9 Macintosh disk drives emulated by SoftMac. The floppy disk will by default be mapped to your PC's floppy A: drive.

To map a hard disk volume or CD-ROM drive, click on a drive, such as the Mac SCSI device 0 as shown below, and select what that drive maps to your PC - a real floppy disk drive, a disk image file, or a real SCSI device such as a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive drive. SCSI device 0 should always be mapped to a boot disk image while CD-ROM devices should be mapped to SCSI device 1 or higher. This is a bug in the Mac OS with not handling CD-ROM drives as SCSI 0. For our example, we will map the newly created MACHD.DSK disk image file to SCSI device 0, and map our PC's built in DVD-ROM drive to SCSI device 1 as shown...

Configuring the disk drives

Click the "2..." button to cycle through all of the available SCSI devices and CD-ROM drives in your PC. Click the "3..." button to bring up a file selector to map a disk image. When selecting disk images or devices which are CD-ROMs, make sure that the "disk is a CD-ROM" option is selected. This will make sure that SoftMac emulates that disk as a CD-ROM, not as a hard disk. In this way, it is possible to even mount CD-ROM disk image files and have them behave as real CD-ROM devices!

Once you have configured your drives, click Close and return to the First Time Setup dialog. Click on Save to save your settings. You can also save your settings away from the main SoftMac dialog box by clicking on the Save Default Configuration menu item.

Saving the default settings

You are now ready to boot the Mac OS! Click on the Continue button and presto, SoftMac is booting up as a Macintosh...

Welcome to Macintosh

Whether you have inserted a boot floppy disk or a boot CD-ROM, your screen will look similar to the one above. A few more seconds into the boot, the Mac OS will being loading extensions and control panels and present a progress bar like this one...

Mac OS booting

On most versions of Mac OS the boot will continue until the Macintosh desktop is displayed. With Mac OS 8.1, the boot may stop at the point shown. This is due to Mac OS 8.1 loading some network drivers which SoftMac does not currently support. To bypass this, simply press down the Shift key on your keyboard as soon as you start the boot. You will see an "Extensions Disabled" message. If you do not see this, reboot the Mac again by clicking on the Restart Emulator menu option.

In case you have not familiarized yourself with the keyboard, the menu key on the right side of your keyboard brings up the SoftMac main dialog box. If you are using an older keyboard which lacks Windows keys, you can also simply right click on the mouse.

The other handy keyboard shortcut is to know that your PC's Alt key is actually treated as the Macintosh "open apple" key, also known as the Command key. Use this key for menu shortcuts, such as pressing Alt+W to close a window, or Alt+Q to exit an application.

Once you have booted up the Mac OS, your screen will look something like the one below.

Mac OS 8.1 booted from CD-ROM

Congratulations! You have just booted up the Mac OS Apple Macintosh operating system on your Windows computer!


Now we will proceed to install the Mac OS to your PC's hard disk and to customize some things such as screen color. Do not worry that the screen boots up black and white, that is the default when booting a Macintosh for the first time.

Also do not worry that the hard disk icon has not appeared. Because our disk image is blank right now, unformatted, the Mac OS will not display it. Unlike Windows, the Macintosh desktop only displays icons for formatted disk volumes, not icons for the disk drives themselves. This is an important difference between Windows and the Macintosh!

To make that icon appear, we need to initialize our 200 megabyte disk volume in Macintosh format. To do so, open the Utilities folder and run the Drive Setup utility. In earlier versions of Mac OS, this utility is sometimes called Apple HD Setup. The utility will display the two emulated Macintosh SCSI devices - the hard disk image at SCSI device 0, and the CD-ROM at device 1. The hard disk is shown as "not initialized". Select this device, then click the Initialize button. If prompted again, click Initialize again.

Formatting a Macintosh volume

After a few seconds, the initialization will be completed and the disk image is now shown on the desktop! Press Alt+Q to exit the Drive Setup utility. You should rename the volume to some descriptive name such as "My SoftMac Volume" as shown below...

Renaming the hard disk volume

Now it is time to install the Mac OS onto the newly formatted volume. Close the Utilities window and click on the Install Mac OS icon. Other versions of Mac OS will have a similarly named icon. You will be presented with a screen similar to this one...

The Mac OS 8.1 Installer

Keep clicking through the various dialog boxes until you reach this one...

Running the Mac OS 8.1 installer

Verify that the disk image you have created is large enough to hold the Mac OS. A typical installation of Mac OS 8.1 will require about 120 megabytes of disk space. Earlier versions or custom installations will require slightly less. This is why we created a 200 megabyte disk image file, to guarantee that we will have enough space to install the Mac OS and several Macintosh applications.

Keep going through the installation process until Mac OS is installed. This will take between 5 and 20 minutes depending on the speed of your PC and your CD-ROM drive. The installation will proceed exactly as on a real Macintosh computer.

If you are installing from a boot floppy disk, you will occasionally be prompted to insert the next floppy disk. Do so, and press the F11 key to indicate to the Mac OS that a new floppy disk has been inserted. This is necessary because unlike a Macintosh, your PC cannot detect when a floppy disk has been ejected or inserted. This is a bug in Windows (we checked with Microsoft) who in turn blame this on floppy disk manufacturers for not properly implementing disk media change detection. In any case, any time you insert a new disk into your PC, press F11 to let SoftMac and the Mac OS know that you have done so..

Once completed, quit the Mac OS setup utility and return to the Macintosh desktop. If you are prompted to reboot, do so, restarting the Mac OS again as before, holding down the Shift key as necessary to get it to boot up.

Now shut down the Mac OS. Do so by selecting the Shutdown menu item on the Special menu.

The Mac OS is shut down

Before rebooting, we need to change the boot disk. The Mac OS has previously booted from the CD-ROM (SCSI device 1). We need to set that to device 0 now so that we boot from our hard disk image. Bring up the Properties dialog from before. (If you don't remember, right click the mouse to bring up SoftMac's main menu, then select the Properties menu item on the Option menu. Set the Boot Disk setting to SCSI 0 then click Save.

Setting the boot disk to SCSI 0

Click Continue and the Mac OS will reboot. Hold Shift as before if necessary. The boot disk icon shown in the right hand corner of the screen will be a hard disk icon now, not the CD-ROM icon, indicating that we have booted from hard disk.

Now open the Apple Extras folder and then open the Monitors Extras folder. Run the Monitors control panel and select 256 color mode as shown.

Monitors control panel

Optionally drag the Monitors control panel icon in the System Folder. On versions of Mac OS prior to 8 the Monitors control panel will already be in the Control Panels folder. Now open up the System Folder on the hard disk image and open up the Control Panels folder. You will see a number of control panels listed, as shown...

Control Panels folder

Double click on the Memory control panel. Verify that Virtual Memory is set to off. By default, the Mac OS's disk cache is set to a small value, such as 32K or 96K. Increase this value to at least 512K, as shown, as this will make Mac OS disk operations much faster.

Running the Memory control panel

Now close the Memory control panel and open the Extensions Manager control panel. We use this control panel to disable all unnecessary extensions and control panels. This reduces the memory consumption of Mac OS and makes it boot faster. By default, the Mac OS installer has installed all the control panels and extensions, but on any given Macintosh computer (or emulated Macintosh computer) only a subset of those are actually needed. For example, the Cache Switch control panel is unnecessary since that only applies to real Motorola processors, not to emulator. Disable it as shown...

Running the Extensions Manager control panel

Similarly scroll through the window and disable anything else not required. For example, if you do not require desktop pictures to be shown on the Macintosh desktop, disable the Desktop Pictures control panel. Since SoftMac does not at this time support TCP/IP or Appletalk networking, disable any networking related control panels and extensions, including any Open Transport extensions. This is important in order for Mac OS to boot properly on SoftMac!

Once you have disabled unnecessary startup items, click on the Restart button. This will now reboot Mac OS and if you followed the steps above, you will not need to hold down the Shift Key. Mac OS will boot by itself, loading all the remaining control panels and extensions.

Mac OS booting with extensions

Congratulations, you have just booted Mac OS 8 from your PC's hard disk!


Next we will install a Macintosh application from CD-ROM. For demonstration purposes, we will install the ClarisWorks 4.0 CD-ROM which is available for purchase with SoftMac.

Remove the Mac OS 8.1 CD-ROM that is in your PC's CD-ROM drive and replace it with the ClarisWorks 4.0 CD-ROM which you received with your SoftMac 2000 package. If you do not have ClarisWorks 4.0, use any other Macintosh application CD-ROM which you may own.

Tell the Mac OS that you are ejecting the CD-ROM drive by dragging the Mac OS 8.1 CD-ROM icon to the Trash as shown...

Fresh boot of Mac OS 8.1 from hard disk

The Mac OS will unmount the Mac OS 8.1 CD-ROM and mount the new CD-ROM that it finds. For ClarisWorks 4.0, open the ClarisWorks folder and run Install Clarisworks.

ClarisWorks install CD-ROM

As with installing Mac OS, the install procedure is fairly straightforward. Verify that you have enough disk space, then click the Install button.

Clarisworks installer

The install will proceed in a manner similar to what you have seen before.

Installing Clarisworks

A few seconds later ClarisWorks will be installed. You can now proceed to run it.

Booting Clarisworks 4.0

For some finishing touches, bring up the Desktop Pictures control panel and customize your Mac OS desktop background.

Desktop Pictures control panel

When finished running the Mac OS and Macintosh applications, don't forget to do a proper Shut Down (just like on a real Macintosh) to avoid corrupting your Mac hard disk.

Shudown menu

To avoid the hassle of shutting down and rebooting the Mac OS each time you run SoftMac, use the very handy Hibernate command in SoftMac. This command quickly saves the entire state of the emulated Macintosh computer to disk (the CPU registers, the main RAM, video RAM, the hardware state, etc) so that the next time SoftMac is launched, you are right back where you left off!


That's all folks! If you have followed this tutorial you have now successfully installed the Mac OS on your PC's hard disk and booted and run the Mac OS on Windows.

With SoftMac, you have the best of both worlds - Macintosh and Windows - on one desktop on one computer. With the new SoftMac Xpress release, you enjoy even faster Macintosh emulation (up to 30% faster than in SoftMac 2000 and which in many cases will rival the speed of your own Macintosh computer), support for up to 256 megabytes of Macintosh RAM, easy drag-and-drop file copying between Mac and Windows disk volumes, and more!

We'd like to hear your comments about this tutorial. Let us know if your found it helpful and what other information you would like for us to put into this tutorial.

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