Blog Post

Classic on Intel Macs, courtesy of SheepShaver.

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

I’ve gotten Mac OS 9.0.4 up and working on an Intel Mac, running off of SheepShaver. I can get out to the internet via ethernet or my workplace’s wireless network, so it looks like TCP is working fine. I can’t see the AppleTalk zones of my workplace though, though, so all printing looks like it’ll need to be set up via LPR. In terms of speed and screen redraw, it’s not that swift but it should be fine for a person who just needs to run one or two Mac OS applications.

Installing SheepShaver was fairly easy. I needed a Mac OS 9 CD (9.0, not 9.1 or 9.2.x.), a copy of a compatible Mac OS ROM (I used MacOS ROM 1.6 from MacOS ROM Update 1.0; use TomeViewer on a PPC Mac to extract the ROM from the installer,) sufficient space on my hard drive and a copy of SheepShaver (available from

I started off by launching the SheepShaverGUI program, which is a graphical program used to configure SheepShaver’s settings as well as make the disk images that SheepShaver uses to boot off of. I built a one gig-sized disk image, set that as my boot volume, set my ROM’s location, then had SheepShaver boot off of my OS 9 CD by selecting “Boot From CD-ROM” on the Volumes tab in SheepShaverGUI and hitting the Start button.

From that point, it was like a normal installation of Mac OS 9. Within SheepShaver’s window, the disk image showed up mounted like a normal hard drive. I selected that and installed OS 9 onto it. After that, I applied the Mac OS 9.0.4 update normally. That’s as far as SheepShaver supported, so I shutdown OS 9 and started customizing the settings. Here’s the settings I’m using with SheepShaver:

For Ethernet, using slirp will let you share OS X’s network connection.


1. This isn’t like Classic, where OS 9 and OS X applications co-existed on the screen. OS 9’s running in its own X11 window.

2. The OS X hard drive shows up on the Mac OS 9 desktop as a drive called “Unix”. You can copy things from the Unix drive into the Mac OS 9 environment and vice-versa.

3. There’s some weirdness with the Unix drive, where it won’t show some folders. Specifically, it doesn’t show the Mac OS 9 “Applications (Mac OS 9)” or the “System Folder” folders, which is quite bizarre. Nothing I’ve done up to this point makes either folder (even renamed!) visible on the Unix drive.

4. If you have an OS 9 Desktop Folder on your Intel Mac’s drive, SheepShaver will pick up on it while mounting the Unix drive and show whatever is in there on your Mac OS 9 desktop as generic icons. This puzzled me for a bit, before I remembered that on Mac OS, every mounted drive had its own Desktop Folder and everything in those folders from all mounted drives showed up on the desktop.

5. Looks pretty stable, though as noted before, it’s not the swiftest. When I took a peek at Apple System Profiler, the hardware it reported itself running on was a Power Mac 9500 series, with a G4 processor, running at 100MHz.

117 Responses to “Classic on Intel Macs, courtesy of SheepShaver.”

  1. Christopher Moss

    If you look above you will see I had this problem. I found rebuilding the desktop would help in some cases (you can’t do it by starting up holding opt-cmd in Sheepshaver, you have to delete the invisible desktop database files, and someone rightly suggested TechTool Lite for this), but the best way was to create a disk image in OSX and specify it as a volume in the SheepShaver GUI volumes pane. Then copy your files to that disk image, then from there into the Sheepshaver disk. Oddly this works for a while and then the problem recurs. Creating another .dmg and mounting it in Sheepshaver will make it work again – don’t ask me why.
    Just for fun I have the Windows version of Sheepshaver working both in Parallels Desktop, and in WinXP via Boot Camp. Looks like the one legacy application I need will be available for a long time!


  2. Say, I manage to install and run OS9 but only the system apps SimpleText, . When I drag OS9 applications to the applications folder,they look like blank noname icons. When clicking they don’t start the applications. Even the OS 9.04 system update shows up the same – as a blank file Mac_OS_9.0.4_Update.smi

    What went wrong ?

  3. Thnx Jaap, it was a simple case of RTFM disease, easily cured. Done that and everything works now – albeit a bit slow…
    I may not be using the optimal ROM – I use a OS 9.0 ROM on my 2.1 GHz macBook Pro – I wonder if things could go faster somehow ???
    cheers, –alex

  4. I’ve tried to install OS 9.0 in SheepShaver from the original disk on an MacBook Pro. The OS9 boots OK, but the installer doesn’t see any disks available to install the system. The OS9 system, booted form the CD sees my Mac disk as Unix and that’s all…
    What is missing ? Should I create a partition to install OS 9 on ? What kind ?

  5. I got OS 9.0.4 to boot in sheepshaver but it starts up either from the install disk (even from Norton Utilities) but if I choose “any” (in startup) it can’t find the system (MacOS ROM from 8.6) I took the 9.0.4 enabler out of the system folder (as suggested on one of the german sites) but then it crashes. Any ideas?

  6. Jaap van der Veen


    What I can do is give you access to a disk image of a MacOS 8.6 Updater CD (they used to be distributed at the time by Apple BeNeLux).

    Just contact me at


  7. Suzanne Austin

    I’m having the same problem that Duncan Koss had, but I don’t have access to any computers that run Classic. The MacOs ROM from the MacOs 9 install CD doesn’t work with SheepShaver, and when I use the ROM from the SheepShaver website it states that it needs a different ROM in order to run the program. Any suggestions?

  8. Duncan Koss

    I ended up copying an OS 9 system folder off of a computer at work, then using it on an old PowerBook at home to get the ROM. I’m finding that generally, OS 9 is running quite well under SheepShaver on my MacBook Pro. Installations are about 5x as fast as the same installations run on my old PowerBook, just as an example.

  9. Jaap van der Veen

    Regarding extracting the MacOS ROM file (posting by Duncan Koss):

    You can find a MacOS ROM file on your MacOS 9 install CD. It’s in the System Folder and it’s called: MacOS ROM! That’s the one you need . . .

    Be careful though, it may not work with this version of the file. After some trial and error I ended up using a MacOS 8.6 ROM file (dated April 4, 1999) to get SheepShaver running.

  10. Duncan Koss

    This would work wonderfully if I had any way of easily getting the ROM file. As it is, none of my PPC computers have OS 9 installed, but I cannot boot off of my OS 9 install discs, which I need to do in order to install OS 9. Without OS 9, I can’t extract the ROM, and without the ROM, I can’t run OS 9…

  11. Christopher Moss

    Next thing: the generic icons can be corrected by rebuilding the desktop, which used to be done by holding down Opt-Command at startup, but doesn’t work for SheepShaver on an Intel Mac. I have always liked the utility FileBuddy, and version 7 can be downloaded from (time limited trial unless you have an old serial number from way back when, as I do!). Use this to find invisible files on your startup disk and trash both Desktop DB and Desktop DF. Restart and the desktop database will rebuild before the volumes mount on the dektop. Icons will be fixed and will now behave as they should.


  12. Christopher Moss

    Figured out the printing, using the Desktop Printer Utility it was easy to pick the right PPD file for my printer, and enter its IP address. Works fine. The hard part was copying the PPD file to the VM and not getting the generic icon problem.
    Also before bed last night I got it to share the airport connection of the MBP to the internet (and the printer), and just for fun proved to myself I could run Forge and Marathon 1. Sound is choppy though. Will try M2 next!


  13. Christopher Moss

    I’ve also found if you make a disk image in OSX and use SheepShaver GUI to mount the .dmg in the volumes pane, files can be transferred back and forth without problems. (Classic apps being copied to the VM’s disk were not showing up on the other side as apps before; this way they do.)
    Let me know if you figure out how to get printing working.


  14. Christopher Moss

    I’m afraid I couldn’t get a copy of Stuffit in the SheepShaver VM to expand an archive (sit or zip) made in OSX. So I made a CD of the folder and copied it from that to the VM and it works! Now I just have to get the extension working that is part of Omnis and I’ll be set.


  15. Chris,

    I’d noticed similar behavior when trying to copy from my OS X Macintosh HD to my SheepShaver Macintosh HD. The only workaround I found that really worked was to make a Stuffit archive in OS X of the files, copy the Stuffit file onto my SheepShaver Macintosh HD (not to the desktop, but actually inside the Macintosh HD drive) and then unstuffing them.

  16. Christopher Moss

    Well done! I have been trying to get this working and the addition of the GUI app was just what I needed. I am trying to get SheepShaver to run an old Omnis 3 database that is used by a few holdout Mac medical offices in Nova Scotia to bill the government. To rewrite it is going to cost too much, we are told. Everything is fine except for the fact that when I copy the folder with the application and its associated files to the MacOS drive (I’m using 8.6 on it) the database itself and the database document don’t show up in the Finder. They don’t have strange names, and show fine in Classic or in a Mac started in OS8/9. They are called Claims Data and ClaimsPlus v4.5 I tried taking the gaps out of the names and so on. Any thoughts anyone?


  17. NeuroPulse


    I hoped and counted on someone finding a way to run OS 9 programs on Intel Macs. I have hundreds of OS 9 games! Especially Marathon and Total Annihilation. This is the first solution I came across.


  18. Why? because he can! heeh heh :)

    this is some wild stuff i’ve gotta say. Now … i wonder if you could try running a Classic version of Softwindows, with an old version of like win95/win98 inside it :)

  19. The only thing I can think of booting OS 9 for are some arcane type utilities, and the old Fontographer.

    I was a Marathon freak back in the day. I can’t imagine playing it after playing Unreal, SOF and Doom 4. But that’s just me.