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starfiretbt's picture
Joined: 2014 Mar 15
Choosing the right Emulator

I am about to try using SheepShaver and from what I can read it looks like the program emulates multiple versions of macs from 7.5.3 to 8.5 to 9.0.4. I already use Basilisk and two versions of MiniVmac and now I'm wondering when I download a game what emulator should I use? Some games are said to be used by all three and I'm assuming the SheepShaver must be set up as am earlier mac version if the game also is run by MiniVmac but that's just an assumption. I know if it's in black and white a MiniVmac would probably be best unless it doesn't run then maybe Basilisk.

Is there a way to tell which emulator would work best, sort of a rule of thumb like the older or newer mac emulation recommended, or do I need to just try all and see for myself which one runs more smoothly? For example "SolarianII" supposedly works for Basilisk but I have never been able to get it to work and "Pax Imperia" causes Basilisk to freeze up, so I'm hoping for more success with SheepShaver.

Also with three different types of macs that SheepShaver emulates do I just make three different Boot disks or should I skip 7.5.3 and keep Basilisk for that?


MikeTomTom's picture
Joined: 2009 Dec 7

You may find some programs will be native to PPC Mac only, and require System 7.5.3 or newer. To run a PPC Mac OS earlier than Mac OS 8.5 on SheepShaver, you will need to use an Old World ROM

I find the Old World ROM the better compromise as you can run the full range of supported Mac OS's from 7.5.3 to 9.0.4 on SheepShaver with it.

I keep separate disk drives for the entire System Range and even some for beta versions that never went gold. Start with what you need to get going and over time it'll probably grow from there.

That said, my absolute main OS that I run on SheepShaver is Mac OS 7.6.1, followed by 8.1, then 9.0.4, and less time in others.

cbone's picture
Joined: 2011 Sep 17

I can also vouch for System 7.6.1, one of Apple's finest OSes right smack in the middle of the Classic OS period. Of course, it's good to consider that Mac OS 8.5 through 9.0.4 also run software exclusive to their OSes.

24bit's picture
Joined: 2010 Nov 19

Guessing from the year of release, it should be possible to choose the "best" emulator.
For Solarian II or Pax Imperia, MiniVMac II, the Mac II flavour of MiniVMac, may be the one.
Even better, MiniVMac has a speed setting included, very useful for old games running way too fast.

Which host OS are you using?
I think I have a few old MiniVMac II builds collected, which should be good enough for trying out.

Keep in mind QemuPPC too, as its under development and does run OS9 reliably.
Mouse emulation is hit and miss with games as far as I can tell from my few trials.

IIGS_User's picture
Joined: 2009 Apr 8


I know if it's in black and white a MiniVmac would probably be best unless it doesn't run then maybe Basilisk.

This is true.


As written above, SheepShaver emulates the PowerPC Macintosh models running classic Mac OS versions from 7.5.2 to 9.2.2.

The PowerPC Mac also runs 68k (Basilisk) software that supports 256 colours minimum.

If you're in luck, even the PowerPC runs software made for Mini vMac.
This is the reason why sometimes all three emulators are ticked in the compatibility field.

starfiretbt's picture
Joined: 2014 Mar 15

1. So if it's black and white then MiniVmac
2. If it's PPC then it's sheepshaver
3. If it's anything in between MiniVmac and Sheepshaver it's Basilisk?
4. And if Basilisk doesn't work because the game is too old but in color then MiniVmac emulating MacII?
5. It looks like PearPC is for PPC that is system 10 as oppose to sheepshaver which looks like 7-9.

The reason I ask is mac garden sometimes lists multiple emulators as choices and I was wondering if there were clues to look for to guess which one would be best to use instead of just trying two or three different emulators for every game that does that.
I understand this site is simply showing all the options that are available for emulation and it most likely is up to the individual person's personal preference as to which one to use and that worked for a while as I started out in Basilisk but now I'm starting to get to newer games and soon I will have the choice of either Basilisk or Sheepshaver and in the future it sounds like Pearpc. But I see some games say PPC compatability indicating preferably Sheepshaver and I'm sure when the games say system 10 that will mean PearPC instead. I hope this explains what I am trying to ask.

EDIT: Also with Sheepshaver how would I know when to use a mac 7,8,or 9 version? Will the program tell me?

24bit's picture
Joined: 2010 Nov 19

Trial and error is the answer to most of your thoughts, presumably. Wink

Some additional options to think about:
Its true that early monochrome games may work best with MiniVMac.
Such titles will work just the same with MiniVMac II, plus you have the option of running games in colour.
Forget PearPC. There is no sound output.
QemuPPC running Mac OS9 does have sound with screamer builds.
Sound output is missing in QemuPPC with OSX either.
For many OSX PPC titles, a virtual Intel machine running (Snow) Leopard is a solution.
Both VirtualBox and VMWare Fusion do run Snow Leopard Server fine.

Presuming your host OS is some Windows flavour, Oracle´s VirtualBox would be my choice.
At the beginning of the OSX installation, look for a button "Options" to check the installer for Rosetta as that is Apples OSX PPC compatibility engine on Intel cpus.
It is also possible to install the Rosetta package later, in case you forgot it.

Duality's picture
Joined: 2014 Mar 1

There is a way of getting audio to work on Mac OS X with qemu-ppc. Lyra64 wrote a how-to that's focused on Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard.

It involves taking the USB Audio kernel extension from an install of Mac OS X 10.4.3 (and only 10.4.3, as later versions of Tiger won't work) and replacing the one that came with later versions of Tiger or Leopard with it, as necessary.

Temporary Joe's picture
Joined: 2009 Nov 14

I always start with SheepShaver, which is good for nearly everything I use.
If it's black and white or uses System 6 (or earlier) then Mini vMac is the way to go.
If SheepShaver can't do it for some reason but it's color and 68k, then pick Basilisk (Eric's Ultimate Solitaire is one of these issues).
If it's color but has significant problems in Basilisk or SheepShaver, then a Mini vMac Mac II build may be a good bet. (Crystal Quest, 3 in Three, and a few others fall into this category).

starfiretbt's picture
Joined: 2014 Mar 15

Ok, I understand. Thank you guys. I will cross the system 10 bridge when I get to it but for now Mini vMac, Mini vMacII, Basilisk, and Sheepshaver is what I will be using so far.

adespoton's picture
Joined: 2015 Feb 15

Here's a decision tree for you:

My personal default choices:
Twiggy->6.0.8L, Mini vMac
7.0->7.5.1, BII
7.5.2-> 9.0.4, SheepShaver
9.1->10.5.8, QEMU-PPC
10.4.11->11.0.1, VirtualBox (yeah, I know, this isn't emulation, but soon it'll need to be)

Elyus's picture
Joined: 2009 Aug 9

This is a really great table, adespoton! Very clear and comprehensive.

I guess with VMWare Fusion and Parallels potentially pivoting to ARM-based virtualization, we'll have to hope some new options emerge for running Intel-era Mac OS X.

I wish Apple cared a bit more about backwards-compatibility. They weren't always quite so bad. It occurred to me that up through PPC 10.4, even 68k emulation was still supported on Macs via the Classic environment. But since they switched to Intel, backwards-compatibility and legacy technologies seem to be abandoned every couple of years Sad

cbone's picture
Joined: 2011 Sep 17

so virtualbox does OSX then!! love to see that how-to Smile

I still like Mac OS 7.6.1 on BII over the earlier varieties, lol

adespoton's picture
Joined: 2015 Feb 15

VirtualBox just presents a vanilla x86 or ia64 PC with BIOS or EFI and a simple graphics card/network adapter/USB bus.

So for OS X, you need to add a few variables to EFI to make it look like Apple EFI for pre-10.7, and you need to add the Apple hardware special identifier or use Apple hardware which will provide the string itself.