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How to convert macOS Catalina ISO to macOS Catalina VMDK/VDI

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In this article, we will learn how to convert macOS Catalina ISO to macOS Catalina VMDK/VDI or you can alternatively say, how to create macOS Catalina VMDK/VDI from macOS Catalina ISO.

Switching between operating systems can be a little bit harder than just running an ISO, as it involves converting it to a virtual drive. It’s handy if you want to personalize your ISO file first. This tutorial will show you how to convert macOS Catalina ISO to macOS Catalina VMDK/VDI on your computer. Both Windows and Macs should be able to follow this guide.

What is the difference between ISO and VMDK file

Virtual Machine Disk (VMDK) is a file format used by VMware to make hard drives appear within the OS of the virtual machine. It’s essentially the contents of a hard drive stuffed into 1 single file.

The VMDK will be modified as the OS writes to the disk. It will contain all the files of a running OS, as well as temporary files and user-generated content.

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ISO stands for “ISO” – it’s the optical CD or DVD equivalent of an archive file. It’s not designed to be modified in the same way as a VMDK since CDs/DVDs are read-only however, you may be able to write new data on it with another recordable optical media.

VDMK’s are not an exact equivalent of an .ISO – they contain much more than just the operating system.

Virtual machine software will allow you to present CDs/DVDs for installation, instead of the traditional .ISO files.

Convert macOS Catalina ISO File to macOS Catalina VMDK/VDI on Windows

To be sure you have the latest VirtualBox software installed on your PC, you can download it for free from the internet due to its open-source nature. You can download it here.

DOWNLOAD REQUIRED FILES: Download macOS Catalina Image ISO

For creating these snapshots. I am using an example of macOS ElCapitan. So don’t get confused.

Step 1: Click Start -> search for CMD -> Right-click and select Run as Administrator.

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Step 2: Browse to the main Virtualbox directory. The default directory is C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox. You can check the directory location of your system first and then proceed with this step. Enter the following command:

cd C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox

Step 3: Use the following command to convert macOS Catalina ISO File to macOS Catalina VMDK

VBoxManage convertfromraw [file.iso] [file.VMDK]

Replace [file.iso] with the location of the macOS Catalina iso file.

Replace [file.vmdk] with the location where you want the converted macOS Catalina VMDK.

Here is an example:

The command I ran is: VBoxManage convertfromraw C:\users\Gupta\Desktop\ElCapitan.iso C:\Users\Gupta\Desktop\ElCapitan.vmdk

Step 4: After the process is complete, you can see the .VMDK file on your desktop.

Similarly. if you want the VDI file in place of VMDK file. Replace the .VMDK with .VDI

The only difference between part 1 and part 2 is the extension of the new file. You need to simply replace .vmdk with .vdi. The rest of the process remains the same.

Convert macOS Catalina ISO File to macOS Catalina VMDK/VDI on MAC

Converting a macOS Catalina ISO to a macOS Catalina VMDK/VDI on Mac is nearly the same as using Windows. All you will need is to start Terminal in your Mac and execute the same commands. However, as stated previously, you want to install the VirtualBox program first before setting up the virtual machine.

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File Required: Download VirtualBox for MAC

1: Open Terminal 

2: Type in the following order on your Mac and hit Enter:

VBoxManage convertfromraw [file.iso] [file.vhd]

For Example, If you would like to convert the file file.iso to file.vmdk or file.vhd, use the following commands:

VBoxManage convertfromraw ~desktop/catalina.iso ~desktop/catalina.vmdk

It is important to remember to follow the usage to leverage VBoxManage and capitalize all letters. This prevents the chance of a “not found” error.

Conclusion: How to Convert macOS Catalina ISO File to macOS Catalina VMDK/VDI

If you are using the latest version of Windows 11, this is the easiest way to turn macOS Catalina ISO file into macOS Catalina virtual disc. The process is really simple and only takes a few minutes. After that, I suggest that you restart your computer with the disc inserted in order to start installing it. If you face any issues, let us know in the comment section below.


Shubham is a prolific writer who has contributed many detailed tutorials for A tech enthusiast and avid Apple fan, Shubham has shared his knowledgeable work with other many popular tech sites like Business Magazine, Thrive Global etc.

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