I use VMware Fusion often—I have virtual machines that span Mac OS X 10.6 to macOS 10.12.4 beta. I use the more-recent of these for supporting our customers on older versions of the OS, and keep the really old versions just for nostalgia purposes. (I have a bunch of non-macOS virtual machines, too, but they’re not relevant to this tidbit.)
In all the time I’ve been using Fusion on my retina Macs, though, I’ve never enabled this setting…
…well, I enabled it once, but turned it off, because the end result was too small to see: In Retina mode, every pixel is an actual pixel, not a doubled pixel. On my 27″ iMac, that meant the macOS VM thought it was running at (for example) 2560×1600 instead of a retina resolution of 1280×800. VMware even warns you of this in their Knowledge Base:
Mac OS X running in a virtual machine is limited to an approximate resolution of 2560 x 1600, and treats the display as a standard DPI device. This makes the text and icons to appear small in the OS X interface.
However, today I stumbled across this solution from Patrick Bougie—and it’s brilliant in its simplicity. Patrick’s post has all the details; I’ll reproduce them here in abbreviated form, just in case his page ever vanishes.
Here’s what you need to do to use your VMware Fusion OS X/macOS virtual machines in retina mode:
- Enable full resolution mode, as shown in the image above.
- Open Terminal (in the macOS virtual machine), paste this command, then press Return:
sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.windowserver.plist DisplayResolutionEnabled -bool true
- Logout and login from the virtual machine.
- Resize the macOS virtual machine (by resizing the window) to your desired dimensions.
- Open System Preferences > Displays, click on Scaled, then click on the one shown HiDPI mode.
That’s it—you’re now looking at a full retina display in your macOS/OS X virtual machine. How well does it work? Well, the Displays screenshot above was captured in the virtual machine, and it’s clearly a retina image, so I’d say it works very well.
If you resize the window manually, you’ll lose this mode, but getting it back is as easy as reselecting it in the Displays System Preferences panel.