I spent an afternoon this week reading a book about Steve Jobs’ time building and running NeXT, and became curious about the OS (NeXTSTEP) that would prompt his return to Apple, and decided to try to install it on a virtual machine and see what comes of it. An emulator for NeXT/Openstep exists, but a full installation, honestly, seemed like more fun.
There are many guides to installing the OS in a virtual machine, but some are outdated (config options that no longer apply to later versions of VMWare), missing or broken resources, etc. so I am writing this updated guide, very similar to guides specific to older versions of VMWare documenting what I did to get a working installation.
You will need the following before we begin:
- Floppy images for the hardware drivers for NeXTSTEP 3.3, or the 4.2 Boot Floppy, Custom Drivers Floppy, though this guide will only cover 3.3 specifically, the same steps should apply for 4.2.
i. The Boot, Core Drivers, and Beta Drivers images will be used in this tutorial, the other can be used as well, but won’t be covered.
2. A NeXTSTEP 3.3 Installation ISO (Use the 4.2 ISO if you downloaded the 4.2 floppies); this can be found various places around the Internet.
Note for 4.2 Users
There will only be 2 4.2 floppies, which will stand-in for the 2 3.3 floppies used in this guide.
To create a suitable VM and installation environment:
- Rename the floppy images to use the .img extension.
- Select your NeXTSTEP ISO as the OS Installation media:
3. Click “Continue” to proceed to the OS identification. The OS will not be listed, select FreeBSD (32-bit):
4. After completing the VM creation, go to the configuration for the VM, and modify the disk size to be less than 2 GB:
5. Ensure that, both, the Hard Disk and CD/DVD are set to IDE:
6. Click “Add Device” and select “Floppy Drive”:
7. Select the 3.3_Boot_Disk.img file:
8. The last step before booting up from the Boot Disk, change the Startup Disk to Floppy:
Then start the VM and you should see it boot to the NeXTSTEP boot loader:
Beginning the Installation
On the following screen, you will be prompted to select your language; for English, enter “1”.
The next screen will ask you to Type 1 to begin the installation:
Next, when prompted, load the 3.3_Driver_Disk floppy:
and then press Return.
You should then see a list of options to set the SCSI driver for the CD-ROM, select number 4 (Adapted 2940 PC SCSI Adapter):
to set the SCSI driver for the hard disk, load the 3.3_Beta_Drivers floppy:
then type “8” to load the drivers on that disk. You should see a new list of drivers, enter “7” to move to the next page, where you will select option 2, “Primary/Secondary (Dual) EIDE and ATAP Device Controllers”:
You can, on the next page, skip installing further drivers by entering “1”:
then watch as you are brought to a prompt to begin the OS installation, at this prompt, also enter 1:
then enter 1 again on the following 2 screens to perform a full disk installation, and begin the process.
Allow a few minutes (~10) for this process to complete.
Once complete, remove the floppy and hit return to reboot the VM:
The VM will boot once more, and you will be prompted to load each of the two floppies (Core Drivers, Beta Drivers) once more each, and then follow the prompt to decline to load further drivers.
If you skipped something, you’ll receive a system panic error:
to fix this, click ‘r’ and then re-attempt this process.
If you did this correctly, you’ll be prompted once more in the GUI for each of the floppies after seeing NeXTSTEP start up:
You’ll then be prompted to select the requisite display and audio drivers: You can, for the purposes of this tutorial, select the Default VGA driver in the Display tab, and the SoundBlaster 16 driver in the audio tab. You do not need to change the set SCSI and Network settings (though you can if you have a more advanced use case than my own).
Remove any mounted floppies, and reboot. Once booted back up, you should be logged in and good to go!
Additional Reading, Sources, and Contextual Content
NeXTSTEP 3.3 on VMWare 6 (The obvious inspiration for this guide)