How to Increase Mac OS X Snow Leopard Virtual Machine Screen Resolution on VirtualBox and VMware

Are you running Snow Leopard on Intel or AMD Computers by any of the desktop virtualization software VMware or VirtualBox? Then this post will be helpful to increase screen resolution size of Snow Leopard Virtual Machine to get full screen. Adjusting screen size including wide screen on VMware is easy since VMware tools ( Not official, with VGA driver) available, but setting up screen resolution in VirtualBox is slightly different for each installation methods.

Updated on 21 Aug 2010

This post is updated with most of the working methods on VirtualBox to adjust screen size with user comments and my experience.

VMware users

If you are running latest Snow leopard on VMware by any of the following methods,

Install Mac Snow Leopard 10.6.4 in VMware Player with Pre Installed Mac VMware Image

Fresh Snow Leopard 10.6.4 installation on VMware with Original retail DVD

Then visit

Increase Screen Resolution with Wide Screen support for Mac OS  X on VMware

VirtualBox Users

If you are running latest snow leopard on VirtualBox with following any of the methods,

How Install Mac Snow Leopard on VirtualBox 3.2 in Non Apple, Intel PC

Mac OS X Guest Snow Leopard 10.6.4 on PC with VirtualBox 3.2.6

Then follow the steps,

Method -1

If you installed Mac OS X by any of the hacked (hackintosh) ISO files, then do this first. ( This works for original retail DVD installations also)

You could see file in /Extra folder. Before continue the next steps, first edit this file under /Extra with mentioned strings in step 3.

This may give the required resolution without editing the file under /Library/Preferences.

If this doesn’t work then modify under /Library/Preferences as shown below

Increase Mac OS X Snow Leopard Virtual Machine Screen Resolution in VirtualBox

1)      Start the Virtual Machine.

2)      Open /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/ in Text editor.

Increase Mac OS X Snow Leopard Virtual Machine Screen Resolution

3)      Type

<key>Graphics Mode</key>


1280x1024x32 – is your option. Type the correct screen resolution which matches your monitor.

Here is the screenshot of my file.

Increase Mac OS X Snow Leopard Virtual Machine Screen Resolution

4)      Select Save As in Text editor file menu and save it on desktop or somewhere else.

Make sure to save with same .plist file. ( Remove the tick as mention below)

Increase Mac OS X Snow Leopard Virtual Machine Screen Resolution

5)      Now, copy or drag file from desktop to /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/ or /Extra location where ever it needs to be replaced.

Enter Mac root (admin) password to authenticate replacing file.

6)      That’s it. Restart the Mac Virtual machine. By default Mac OS X will go to the screen resolution you set up  Check it by going to ‘Display’ under ‘System preferences’.

Increase Mac OS X Snow Leopard Virtual Machine Screen Resolution

I didn’t invent this; I just illustrated which mentioned here.

Method -2

Try this method if method 1 fails.

This method to modify VirtualBox settings for specific virtual machine.

Close VirtualBox completely and run following command,

VBoxManage setextradata “VM name” “CustomVideoMode1″ “1280×800×32”

“VM name” – Excact virtual machine name of Mac OS X,  execute this command with Quotes.

Make sure VBoxManage command added to Windows path or you are running it from VB working folder.

The above command will modify XML file of Virtual machine. Just boot and see whether its working.

If not, while booting at the EFI boot loader screen, type;

“Graphics Mode”=”1280x800x32” and press Enter.

Always better to give the same screen resolution size mentioned in file.

Method -3

This is similar to method 2, but slighlty different.

Execute this command in VirtualBox folder:

VBoxManage setextradata “VM name” VBoxInternal2/EfiGopMode 3

“VM name” – Excact virtual machine name of Mac OS X,  execute this command with Quotes.

No 3 – this is the number of video modes. Only 5 resolutions are supported:

0 – 640×480
1 – 800×600
2 – 1024×768
3 – 1280×1024
4 – 1440×900

Or you can add a string on Virtual machine’s XML file to execute this command every time while machine is coming up.

<ExtraDataItem name=”VBoxInternal2/EfiGopMode” value=”3″>

Warning – If you are copying any of the commands from this post, make sure opening and closing quotes are correct!!

I’m sure one of this  will work with VirtualBox to increase Snow Leopard screen resolution. Special thanks to Sysprobs readers who left valuable comments.

Share your success and failure stories on this method.We will fix it together.

Have fun

Dinesh is the founder of Sysprobs and written more than 400 articles. Enthusiast in Microsoft and cloud technologies with more than 15 years of IT experience.

258 thoughts on “How to Increase Mac OS X Snow Leopard Virtual Machine Screen Resolution on VirtualBox and VMware”

  1. hai again Dinesh
    thx for posting this tutorial
    got prob after i use your method
    my mac stuck at apple logo
    i use oracle VM virtualbox 3.2
    and tried to use sun VM virtualbox 3.1.6
    same result

  2. hmm
    if use use fullscreen resolution like 1280×1024,resolution will change
    but if i use widescreen resolution like 1280×720,resolution will automatic become 800×600
    and after i change the resolution to 1280×1024, the color from millions before now become thousands only,i can see many noise on my mac

  3. i didn’t get the resolution to work.i edited the file to 1280×1024, but it remains on 1024X768 after reboot.

  4. hi there,

    I have the same issue: i am stuck with the 1024*768 screen size !
    i tried the 1680*1050 and 1280*1024
    Running updated 10.6.3 on VB 3.2.0 r61806

    Other issue: Quartz Extreme not working, preventing me to launch iMovie

  5. If anybody is using Mac OS X as guest in VMware workstation or VMplayer then try this method
    This Mac VGA driver for VMware works well and gives wide screen resolution support also.

    For VirtualBox,
    Add following string in XML file

    ExtraDataItem name=”CustomVideoMode1″ value=”1600×1200×32″/

    I will find out other solutions and update here. But the method mentioned here worked for me.

  6. Update: after reboot of the PC and VB, the resolution is good !

    All in all, great tutos…
    Thank you very much, just need to fix the Quartz Extreme issue and then Snow Powaaaaa !

  7. Thanks for all the tutorials. I got 10.6.3 working on VB 3.2.2 under Win7 64-bit, but none of the above change my resolution, which stays fixed at 1024×768.

    My monitor’s resolution is 1920×1080.

  8. For those who want a custom resolution size:
    First off the res problem is because of VB not OS X. To fix open up your OS’s terminal (or cmd in WIndows). Next navigate to the VB Folder (Windows) Drive:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox. Once there type in the commands;

    VBoxManage setextradata global GUI/MaxGuestResolution any
    (this removes any restrictions in place for the res)

    VBoxManage setextradata “VM name” “CustomVideoMode1” “Widthxheigthxdepth”

    (VM Name = your VM Name, Widthxheightxdepth would like 1600x900x32 as example aslso that command is all one line not two)

    Too check to see if it works open up you virtual machine and press F8, next type in ?video.

    Your new res should show up. If it doesn’t try again

    Anyways now you can correctly set your res in OS X by editing the as described earlier

    I have tried this fix on 12800x800x32, 1600x900x32, and 1154x862x32

    Anyways best of luck

  9. Fixed!

    @Tom S.:
    I followed your advice but it still didn’t work.

    My problem was that I was still booting off the Empire EFI iso. So I installed the “myHack Installer” (from the Empire EFI iso) and booted off the HD, and now I can change the resolution.

    Seems like the 1024×768 resolution is fixed when you boot with the with Empire EFI CD.

    Thanks Dinesh & Tom for your help

  10. That’s cool. My res would not change even after the efi install. I was looking for a res that is not allowed by VBox. So I guess if you type in ?video at the boot loader and your res is not there then you will probably have to do what I said. If your res is listed there than you are all set.

    That right res makes all the difference in the world, Other than not having complete video support (which I am sure someone will figure out soon) my Snow Leo is great and on my pc (i7 920 16Gb DDR3) it runs faster than a Mac pro and for ummmm a quarter the money… though it would be nice to use my SLI

  11. 7 ultimate 64 ASUS MOBO. MOBO has cool i7/Windows XMP support. Its like RAM on steroids. MOBO also has really cool Hyper-V settings as well which is awesome for making VM that I can run anywhere in on my network.

    10.5.8 is also installed on external firewire drive but the VM way to do this is way better. Although I will give Snow Leopard a try to see how the install goes with no VM. But Virtualbox boots faster then my Macbook.
    This is generally true for VBox VMs. I like their kernel, it is fast.

    I also run Ubuntu studio 9.10 64, Solaris 10(just added) as well. I have 4x 1tb drives set at Raid 10 and 2 1.5 tb mirrored for games.

    I created this system for a little over 2 grand not including monitors. The build process took about two hours. Pretty much all plugin play (i7’s are ridiculously easy to install) The age of the IT repair person is limited. The real money will be doing what people in this blog are doing……software support/integration 😉 Sorry for the length of my posts…long time listener first time caller

  12. Thanks for the howto and the posts – I’ve got SL up and running now, although I’m still struggling with sound and screen resolution.

    I have got as far as setting the global and local extradata values in VB, and have checked the video modes available at boot and 1280x800x24 is the last option in the list, titled “Mode 160”, however when I modify the to 1280x800x24 and restart, I’m stuck with the default resolution.

    If i try 1280×1024 then that works but my laptop is widescreen so I have to scroll down the page to get around.

    Any ideas?

  13. My default res is set to 1600x900x32 by default in Windows, so this is what I set SL screen res for. If at boot you typed in ?video and at the very end then new res showed up…good that means VB will forward that res to it VM. Just as a question did you remove all the restriction placed on your VM’s? The command is:
    VBoxManage setextradata global GUI/MaxGuestResolution any

    Even if set the res right, if the restrictions are still in place then no luck. Also use 1280x800x32 not x24. I tried 24 but no luck. But I can set any res now. 1280×800 works great too. So try running that command one more time, then Run the:
    VBoxManage setextradata “VM name” “CustomVideoMode1″ “1280x800x32”

    Now try setting the res. Another try too (I was trying all sorts of thing before I figured it out, I did also do this) find a copy of OSx86 tools. Most of this will not work on SL but the enable Quartz/Open Gl button from inside OSx86Tools.

    But removing the restrictions, then re-running your second command with 32 bit not 24 and finally editing the file.

    I will periodically checking back here to help out people. I am pretty good with Mac’s I have been an Mac admin for 5 years, that is why I am pretty darn sure that this problem is the VB not SL.

    Hope this helps


  14. Yay, finally got it to work! Decided to do a fresh install and start over completely.

    I did a few things differently – updated SL to the latest version right after installing, then installed just those two kexts and got it booting using VB EFI (as opposed to using EmpireEFI). Then modified the VM XML and added 1280x800x32. I also changed the, adding the same resolution spec for good measure and finally installed chameleon bootloader via myHack installer, and voila when I rebooted it worked!

    I pretty much did those things before but in a different order, so i’d say if anyone’s still stuck just have patience and keep fiddling!

    Thanks for all the tips and comments on here though, would be totally clueless otherwise! Just got to get sound working now – I’ve installed the AC97 driver via that handy kext installer package, and it is being recognised as a lineout in the sound dialog, but still not a peep!

  15. OK, so VB is definitely reporting my custom res to the VM, is set correctly, and I enabled Quartz with OSx86 Tools. But the screen resolution is still stuck at 1024×768. Any more suggestions?

  16. So when you type in ?video you have your res listed? OK
    Now at EFI bootloader(Efi should be installed on OS X Drive not run of cd) try typing in “Graphics Mode”=”Your Res” This should work, if not well…. try editing your VM’s XML file.

  17. Yeah, thanks, that worked! But I’d rather not have to type that every time I start the VM. Is there any way to make it permanent? (Editing the Boot.plist didn’t do it for me.)

  18. Typing in that command just tests to see if that res will work….. To guess(not to say you are wrong) but you boot plist file is not right. A cool thing about OS X is that is always creates a ~.file. Essentially a back up file. So if a new plist or whatever is wrong it will use that last known good config of that file.. So that is why I would think that your boot file is messed up. Could be permissions as well. Go to the terminal and enter in this command:

    sudo /Applications/ /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/

    Edit it again from here. VB sends the display size to VM cause it works when you type in the command at the bootloader. So it has to be you plist..

    Give that a try

  19. I added the following to my plist file in the section:

    Graphics Mode

    That is all I changed.

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