Escaping the Apple ecosystem: part 3

In part 2, I was able to create and use a Windows 7 VM with the Radeon R9 270x in passthrough. It works really great. But OSX and Linux where more difficult to play with.

List of virtual machines

List of virtual machines


Since then, I've made tremendous progress: I've managed to run an OSX 10.11.6 VM properly, but more importantly, I've managed to run my native Mac OS X 10.6.8 system as a VM, with the Mac's Radeon in passthrough.
I've removed my Mac OS X SSD and the Mac's graphics card from the Mac Pro tower, and installed them into the PC tower. Then I've created the VM for the 10.6.8 system, configured ESXi to use Mac's Radeon with VT-d, etc.
The only real problem here is that adding a PCI card into the PC tower makes PCI device numbers change: it breaks almost every passthrough already configured. I had to remake VT-d config for the Windows VM. Apart from that, it went smoothly.
Currently, I'm working on my native 10.6.8 system, that runs as a VM, and the Windows VM is playing my music (because the Realtek HD audio controller is dedicated to the Windows VM).
Moving from a Mac Pro with 4-core 2.8 GHz Xeon to a 6-core 3.5 GHz Core i7 really gives a boost to my old 10.6.8 system.

Running both OSes, the box is almost as silent as the Mac Pro while packing almost twice as more raw CPU power and 2.7x more GPU power.

The Mac Pro is now empty: no disks, no graphics card, and will probably go on sale soon.

to-do list:

  • secure the whole infrastructure ;
  • install 2nd-hand MSI R9 270x when it's delivered ;
  • properly setup Linux to use AMD graphics card.

I might also add few SSDs and a DVD burner before year's end.

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5 comments

  1. Thanks for a great write up on this topic. I've managed to use it to build a similar system with a Sapphire Radeon 5770 for El Capitan. However, with MacOS Sierra, I can't get the Radeon 5770 to be recognised. Same with a Radeon RX460 that I originally hoped to use and supposedly works on Hackintosh.

    I tried the latest version of Clover but that just kills the VM somehow so it shuts off before booting. Old versions of Clover don't kill the VM and make no difference, but aren't meant for Sierra.

    Have you tried Sierra yet?

  2. Hi, thanks for your comment.
    I've not tried Sierra successfully yet. I've upgraded a 10.11 VM to Sierra, but it won't boot. I'm running ESXi 5.5 and I'm waiting to migrate to 6.x (not 6.5 though) hopping that it could resolve the problem. My 6.x ESXi install is ready, but I lack the time to shutdown everything and migrate to it.

    My main problem is with linux: since they abandoned the proprietary driver support, GPU passthrough no longer works.
    I wish I could go for Xen, but OSX is not supported, and I need it, at least for now (full CS5 suite).

  3. I'm actually running ESX6 and don't have any problems booting Sierra, other than when I use the latest Clover (and the graphics cards aren't recognised). I also found in general that adding the HDMI audio "PCI device" part of the card to the VM caused boot problems because of the pciHole stuff. I don't add the audio device now.

    I did try Ubuntu previously as I wanted it for Steam gaming. I got the RX460 working with my monitor, but then ran in to X display manager problems and went back to focussing on MacOS.

    Have you tried Clover? Maybe you could get Clover working on a Xen setup. I don't really know much about Xen though to be honest.

  4. What Ubuntu release did you try? Latest release and LTS ones use new opensource radeon drivers. Those are not capable of using a GPU in passthrough (https://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2344008).

    I've found some howto's about OSX on KVM, but nothing on Xen (this one for example: https://github.com/kholia/OSX-KVM). It's a possibility but will require a lot of work without any guaranty. VMware is working straight forward, except on the linux side. I want to drift away from OSX to Linux (or FreeBSD), but I need OSX for few more years.
    Xen would allow for Nvidia passthrough, with is very appealing… Damn.

  5. Ah, I see what you mean. Proprietary support for the 5770 and R9 270x stop after Ubuntu 15.04.
    I had the RX460 running on Ubuntu 16.04 with the proprietary drivers from the AMD website. I deleted the VM a while back so tried it again this evening but no go. It boots with no GFX and some "trace" messages in dmesg output. Then it seems to lock up the card needing a full reboot of the ESX host!
    Strange as I did have graphics output working with a mouse cursor... just no windows or GUI.

    OS X in KVM sounds like hard work... and then with the potential for future headaches. At least with VMware, there is some half support available like with VMware tools etc.

    And I thought the issue with Nvidia is that the cards themselves don't support passthrough except the really high end ones.

    Anyway, all so close... but still so far :-(

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