»Parallels Builder (from an ISO)

Type: parallels-iso Artifact BuilderId: packer.parallels

The Parallels Packer builder is able to create Parallels Desktop for Mac virtual machines and export them in the PVM format, starting from an ISO image.

The builder builds a virtual machine by creating a new virtual machine from scratch, booting it, installing an OS, provisioning software within the OS, then shutting it down. The result of the Parallels builder is a directory containing all the files necessary to run the virtual machine portably.

»Basic Example

Here is a basic example. This example is not functional. It will start the OS installer but then fail because we don't provide the preseed file for Ubuntu to self-install. Still, the example serves to show the basic configuration:

  "type": "parallels-iso",
  "guest_os_type": "ubuntu",
  "iso_url": "http://releases.ubuntu.com/12.04/ubuntu-12.04.3-server-amd64.iso",
  "iso_checksum": "2cbe868812a871242cdcdd8f2fd6feb9",
  "parallels_tools_flavor": "lin",
  "ssh_username": "packer",
  "ssh_password": "packer",
  "ssh_timeout": "30s",
  "shutdown_command": "echo 'packer' | sudo -S shutdown -P now"

It is important to add a shutdown_command. By default Packer halts the virtual machine and the file system may not be sync'd. Thus, changes made in a provisioner might not be saved.

»Configuration Reference

There are many configuration options available for the Parallels builder. They are organized below into two categories: required and optional. Within each category, the available options are alphabetized and described.

In addition to the options listed here, a communicator can be configured for this builder. In addition to the options defined there, a private key file can also be supplied to override the typical auto-generated key:

  • ssh_private_key_file (string) - Path to a PEM encoded private key file to use to authenticate with SSH. The ~ can be used in path and will be expanded to the home directory of current user.

»ISO Configuration Reference

By default, Packer will symlink, download or copy image files to the Packer cache into a "hash($iso_url+$iso_checksum).$iso_target_extension" file. Packer uses hashicorp/go-getter in file mode in order to perform a download.

go-getter supports the following protocols:

  • Local files
  • Git
  • Mercurial
  • HTTP
  • Amazon S3

Examples: go-getter can guess the checksum type based on iso_checksum length, and it is also possible to specify the checksum type.


  "iso_checksum": "946a6077af6f5f95a51f82fdc44051c7aa19f9cfc5f737954845a6050543d7c2",
  "iso_url": "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
  "iso_checksum": "file:ubuntu.org/..../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso.sum",
  "iso_url": "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
  "iso_checksum": "file://./shasums.txt",
  "iso_url": "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
  "iso_checksum": "file:./shasums.txt",
  "iso_url": "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"

In HCL2:

  iso_checksum = "946a6077af6f5f95a51f82fdc44051c7aa19f9cfc5f737954845a6050543d7c2"
  iso_url = "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
  iso_checksum = "file:ubuntu.org/..../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso.sum"
  iso_url = "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
  iso_checksum = "file://./shasums.txt"
  iso_url = "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
  iso_checksum = "file:./shasums.txt",
  iso_url = "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"


  • iso_checksum (string) - The checksum for the ISO file or virtual hard drive file. The type of the checksum is specified within the checksum field as a prefix, ex: "md5:{$checksum}". The type of the checksum can also be omitted and Packer will try to infer it based on string length. Valid values are "none", "{$checksum}", "md5:{$checksum}", "sha1:{$checksum}", "sha256:{$checksum}", "sha512:{$checksum}" or "file:{$path}". Here is a list of valid checksum values:

    • md5:090992ba9fd140077b0661cb75f7ce13
    • 090992ba9fd140077b0661cb75f7ce13
    • sha1:ebfb681885ddf1234c18094a45bbeafd91467911
    • ebfb681885ddf1234c18094a45bbeafd91467911
    • sha256:ed363350696a726b7932db864dda019bd2017365c9e299627830f06954643f93
    • ed363350696a726b7932db864dda019bd2017365c9e299627830f06954643f93
    • file:http://releases.ubuntu.com/20.04/SHA256SUMS
    • file:file://./local/path/file.sum
    • file:./local/path/file.sum
    • none Although the checksum will not be verified when it is set to "none", this is not recommended since these files can be very large and corruption does happen from time to time.
  • iso_url (string) - A URL to the ISO containing the installation image or virtual hard drive (VHD or VHDX) file to clone.


  • iso_urls ([]string) - Multiple URLs for the ISO to download. Packer will try these in order. If anything goes wrong attempting to download or while downloading a single URL, it will move on to the next. All URLs must point to the same file (same checksum). By default this is empty and iso_url is used. Only one of iso_url or iso_urls can be specified.

  • iso_target_path (string) - The path where the iso should be saved after download. By default will go in the packer cache, with a hash of the original filename and checksum as its name.

  • iso_target_extension (string) - The extension of the iso file after download. This defaults to iso.


  • parallels_tools_flavor (string) - The flavor of the Parallels Tools ISO to install into the VM. Valid values are "win", "lin", "mac", "os2" and "other". This can be omitted only if parallels_tools_mode is "disable".


  • boot_command (array of strings) - This is an array of commands to type when the virtual machine is first booted. The goal of these commands should be to type just enough to initialize the operating system installer. Special keys can be typed as well, and are covered in the section below on the boot command. If this is not specified, it is assumed the installer will start itself.

  • boot_wait (string) - The time to wait after booting the initial virtual machine before typing the boot_command. The value of this should be a duration. Examples are "5s" and "1m30s" which will cause Packer to wait five seconds and one minute 30 seconds, respectively. If this isn't specified, the default is 10 seconds.

  • cpus (number) - The number of cpus to use for building the VM. Defaults to 1.

  • disk_size (number) - The size, in megabytes, of the hard disk to create for the VM. By default, this is 40000 (about 40 GB).

  • disk_type (string) - The type for image file based virtual disk drives, defaults to expand. Valid options are expand (expanding disk) that the image file is small initially and grows in size as you add data to it, and plain (plain disk) that the image file has a fixed size from the moment it is created (i.e the space is allocated for the full drive). Plain disks perform faster than expanding disks. skip_compaction will be set to true automatically for plain disks.

  • floppy_files (array of strings) - A list of files to place onto a floppy disk that is attached when the VM is booted. This is most useful for unattended Windows installs, which look for an Autounattend.xml file on removable media. By default, no floppy will be attached. All files listed in this setting get placed into the root directory of the floppy and the floppy is attached as the first floppy device. Currently, no support exists for creating sub-directories on the floppy. Wildcard characters (*, ?, and []) are allowed. Directory names are also allowed, which will add all the files found in the directory to the floppy.

  • floppy_dirs (array of strings) - A list of directories to place onto the floppy disk recursively. This is similar to the floppy_files option except that the directory structure is preserved. This is useful for when your floppy disk includes drivers or if you just want to organize it's contents as a hierarchy. Wildcard characters (*, ?, and []) are allowed.

  • floppy_label (string) - The label to use for the floppy disk that is attached when the VM is booted. This is most useful for cloud-init, Kickstart or other early initialization tools, which can benefit from labelled floppy disks. By default, the floppy label will be 'packer'.

  • guest_os_type (string) - The guest OS type being installed. By default this is "other", but you can get dramatic performance improvements by setting this to the proper value. To view all available values for this run prlctl create x --distribution list. Setting the correct value hints to Parallels Desktop how to optimize the virtual hardware to work best with that operating system.

  • hard_drive_interface (string) - The type of controller that the hard drives are attached to, defaults to "sata". Valid options are "sata", "ide", and "scsi".

  • host_interfaces (array of strings) - A list of which interfaces on the host should be searched for a IP address. The first IP address found on one of these will be used as {{ .HTTPIP }} in the boot_command. Defaults to ["en0", "en1", "en2", "en3", "en4", "en5", "en6", "en7", "en8", "en9", "ppp0", "ppp1", "ppp2"].

  • memory (number) - The amount of memory to use for building the VM in megabytes. Defaults to 512 megabytes.

  • output_directory (string) - This is the path to the directory where the resulting virtual machine will be created. This may be relative or absolute. If relative, the path is relative to the working directory when packer is executed. This directory must not exist or be empty prior to running the builder. By default this is "output-BUILDNAME" where "BUILDNAME" is the name of the build.

  • parallels_tools_guest_path (string) - The path in the virtual machine to upload Parallels Tools. This only takes effect if parallels_tools_mode is "upload". This is a configuration template that has a single valid variable: Flavor, which will be the value of parallels_tools_flavor. By default this is prl-tools-{{.Flavor}}.iso which should upload into the login directory of the user.

  • parallels_tools_mode (string) - The method by which Parallels Tools are made available to the guest for installation. Valid options are "upload", "attach", or "disable". If the mode is "attach" the Parallels Tools ISO will be attached as a CD device to the virtual machine. If the mode is "upload" the Parallels Tools ISO will be uploaded to the path specified by parallels_tools_guest_path. The default value is "upload".

  • prlctl (array of array of strings) - Custom prlctl commands to execute in order to further customize the virtual machine being created. The value of this is an array of commands to execute. The commands are executed in the order defined in the template. For each command, the command is defined itself as an array of strings, where each string represents a single argument on the command-line to prlctl (but excluding prlctl itself). Each arg is treated as a configuration template, where the Name variable is replaced with the VM name. More details on how to use prlctl are below.

  • prlctl_post (array of array of strings) - Identical to prlctl, except that it is run after the virtual machine is shutdown, and before the virtual machine is exported.

  • prlctl_version_file (string) - The path within the virtual machine to upload a file that contains the prlctl version that was used to create the machine. This information can be useful for provisioning. By default this is ".prlctl_version", which will generally upload it into the home directory.

  • shutdown_command (string) - The command to use to gracefully shut down the machine once all the provisioning is done. By default this is an empty string, which tells Packer to just forcefully shut down the machine.

  • sound (boolean) - Specifies whether to enable the sound device when building the VM. Defaults to false.

  • shutdown_timeout (string) - The amount of time to wait after executing the shutdown_command for the virtual machine to actually shut down. If it doesn't shut down in this time, it is an error. By default, the timeout is "5m", or five minutes.

  • skip_compaction (boolean) - Virtual disk image is compacted at the end of the build process using prl_disk_tool utility (except for the case that disk_type is set to plain). In certain rare cases, this might corrupt the resulting disk image. If you find this to be the case, you can disable compaction using this configuration value.

  • usb (boolean) - Specifies whether to enable the USB bus when building the VM. Defaults to false.

  • vm_name (string) - This is the name of the PVM directory for the new virtual machine, without the file extension. By default this is "packer-BUILDNAME", where "BUILDNAME" is the name of the build.

»Http directory configuration reference

Packer will create an http server serving http_directory when it is set, a random free port will be selected and the architecture of the directory referenced will be available in your builder.

Example usage from a builder:

wget http://{{ .HTTPIP }}:{{ .HTTPPort }}/foo/bar/preseed.cfg


  • http_directory (string) - Path to a directory to serve using an HTTP server. The files in this directory will be available over HTTP that will be requestable from the virtual machine. This is useful for hosting kickstart files and so on. By default this is an empty string, which means no HTTP server will be started. The address and port of the HTTP server will be available as variables in boot_command. This is covered in more detail below.

  • http_content (map[string]string) - Key/Values to serve using an HTTP server. http_content works like and conflicts with http_directory The keys represent the paths and the values contents. This is useful for hosting kickstart files and so on. By default this is empty, which means no HTTP server will be started. The address and port of the HTTP server will be available as variables in boot_command. This is covered in more detail below. Example: Setting "foo/bar"="baz", will allow you to http get on http://{http_ip}:{http_port}/foo/bar.

  • http_port_min (int) - These are the minimum and maximum port to use for the HTTP server started to serve the http_directory. Because Packer often runs in parallel, Packer will choose a randomly available port in this range to run the HTTP server. If you want to force the HTTP server to be on one port, make this minimum and maximum port the same. By default the values are 8000 and 9000, respectively.

  • http_port_max (int) - HTTP Port Max

  • http_bind_address (string) - This is the bind address for the HTTP server. Defaults to so that it will work with any network interface.

»Boot Command

The boot_command configuration is very important: it specifies the keys to type when the virtual machine is first booted in order to start the OS installer. This command is typed after boot_wait, which gives the virtual machine some time to actually load the ISO.

As documented above, the boot_command is an array of strings. The strings are all typed in sequence. It is an array only to improve readability within the template.

The boot command is "typed" character for character (using the Parallels Virtualization SDK, see Parallels Builder) simulating a human actually typing the keyboard.

There are a set of special keys available. If these are in your boot command, they will be replaced by the proper key:

  • <bs> - Backspace

  • <del> - Delete

  • <enter> <return> - Simulates an actual "enter" or "return" keypress.

  • <esc> - Simulates pressing the escape key.

  • <tab> - Simulates pressing the tab key.

  • <f1> - <f12> - Simulates pressing a function key.

  • <up> <down> <left> <right> - Simulates pressing an arrow key.

  • <spacebar> - Simulates pressing the spacebar.

  • <insert> - Simulates pressing the insert key.

  • <home> <end> - Simulates pressing the home and end keys.

  • <pageUp> <pageDown> - Simulates pressing the page up and page down keys.

  • <menu> - Simulates pressing the Menu key.

  • <leftAlt> <rightAlt> - Simulates pressing the alt key.

  • <leftCtrl> <rightCtrl> - Simulates pressing the ctrl key.

  • <leftShift> <rightShift> - Simulates pressing the shift key.

  • <leftSuper> <rightSuper> - Simulates pressing the ⌘ or Windows key.

  • <wait> <wait5> <wait10> - Adds a 1, 5 or 10 second pause before sending any additional keys. This is useful if you have to generally wait for the UI to update before typing more.

  • <waitXX> - Add an arbitrary pause before sending any additional keys. The format of XX is a sequence of positive decimal numbers, each with optional fraction and a unit suffix, such as 300ms, 1.5h or 2h45m. Valid time units are ns, us (or µs), ms, s, m, h. For example <wait10m> or <wait1m20s>

»On/Off variants

Any printable keyboard character, and of these "special" expressions, with the exception of the <wait> types, can also be toggled on or off. For example, to simulate ctrl+c, use <leftCtrlOn>c<leftCtrlOff>. Be sure to release them, otherwise they will be held down until the machine reboots.

To hold the c key down, you would use <cOn>. Likewise, <cOff> to release.

»Templates inside boot command

In addition to the special keys, each command to type is treated as a template engine. The available variables are:

  • HTTPIP and HTTPPort - The IP and port, respectively of an HTTP server that is started serving the directory specified by the http_directory configuration parameter or the content specified in the http_content map. If http_directory or http_content isn't specified, these will be blank!
  • Name - The name of the VM.

For more examples of various boot commands, see the sample projects from our community templates page.

Example boot command. This is actually a working boot command used to start an Ubuntu 12.04 installer:

  "/install/vmlinuz noapic ",
  "preseed/url=http://{{ .HTTPIP }}:{{ .HTTPPort }}/preseed.cfg ",
  "debian-installer=en_US auto locale=en_US kbd-chooser/method=us ",
  "hostname={{ .Name }} ",
  "fb=false debconf/frontend=noninteractive ",
  "keyboard-configuration/modelcode=SKIP keyboard-configuration/layout=USA ",
  "keyboard-configuration/variant=USA console-setup/ask_detect=false ",
  "initrd=/install/initrd.gz -- <enter>;"

For more examples of various boot commands, see the sample projects from our community templates page.

»prlctl Commands

In order to perform extra customization of the virtual machine, a template can define extra calls to prlctl to perform. prlctl is the command-line interface to Parallels Desktop. It can be used to configure the advanced virtual machine options.

Extra prlctl commands are defined in the template in the prlctl section. In the example below prlctl is used to explicitly enable the adaptive hypervisor, and disable 3d acceleration:

  "prlctl": [
    ["set", "{{.Name}}", "--3d-accelerate", "off"],
    ["set", "{{.Name}}", "--adaptive-hypervisor", "on"]

The value of prlctl is an array of commands to execute. These commands are executed in the order defined. So in the above example, 3d acceleration will be disabled first, followed by the command which enables the adaptive hypervisor.

Each command itself is an array of strings, where each string is an argument to prlctl. Each argument is treated as a template engine. The only available variable is Name which is replaced with the unique name of the VM, which is required for many prlctl calls.