PearPC:Mac OS X

Addendum: Since I wrote this, I have been informed that there is indeed another PowerPC emulator out there called SheepShaver, and although it does not run Mac OS X, it does run Mac OS 8.6-9. Check it out here!

It has literally taken years. Years of broken promises from commercial vendors claiming to have been on the verge of releasing what has proven to be the impossible task of emulating, through software, the PowerPC architecture (Two big offenders are Microcode Solutions’ Fusion PowerPC and’s SoftMac Professional). So what happens when commercial vendors fail? Leave it to the resourceful folks at SourceForge to come up with an open source (and free) PowerPC emulator for both Linux and Windows. What does PearPC do? Here’s some highlights:

  • PowerPC G3 processor emulation
  • Ethernet networking
  • The ability to run multiple PowerPC-based operating systems

However, there are some limitations to what PearPC can do:

  • The PowerPC emulation does not support the vector processing technology of AltiVec (a.k.a., Apple’s “Velocity Engine”). AltiVec is roughly akin to Intel’s MMX technology (Note: there are experimental builds of PearPC that do dabble into AltiVec; check this link for more information).
  • PearPC has no sound support
  • PearPC does not support USB, although it “fakes” USB well enough to fool the operating system running within it
  • The emulation is, well, slow

I know that this last point is a real killer, but it’s a fact. The truth of the matter is that it is much more difficult for a CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) chip such as a Pentium IV to emulate a RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) chip, such as the PowerPC, than for a RISC chip to emulate CISC.

So how slow is it? That depends on the version of PearPC that you run. There are currently two flavors: a generic and a JIT (Just In Time) version. The generic version is the slowest, running about 400 times slower than the computer on which PearPC runs (Yes…you read that correctly). So, if you have a 400Mhz Pentium, the generic PearPC version should top out at a screaming 1Mhz on your system. Fortunately, there is hope. The JIT version of PearPC is a bit more efficient, running at a much faster pace of 40 times slower than the host hardware. This means that our 400Mhz Pentium would drive PearPC at about 10Mhz. In a real world scenario, this would put PearPC at about 77Mhz on a 3GHz Pentium. And although this may be a bit depressing, the fact that we actually have a PowerPC emulation environment running in a completely alien computing architecture is well, quite cool.

I am writing several tutorials on PearPC, dealing mainly with the Windows platform emulating Mac OS X systems. At this time, the tutorials encompass the following:

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the PearPC experience!

Questions? Feel free to contact me at

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