»Parallels Builder (from a PVM)

Type: parallels-pvm Artifact BuilderId: packer.parallels

This Parallels builder is able to create Parallels Desktop for Mac virtual machines and export them in the PVM format, starting from an existing PVM (exported virtual machine image).

The builder builds a virtual machine by importing an existing PVM file. It then boots this image, runs provisioners on this new VM, and exports that VM to create the image. The imported machine is deleted prior to finishing the build.

»Basic Example

Here is a basic example. This example is functional if you have an PVM matching the settings here.

  "type": "parallels-pvm",
  "parallels_tools_flavor": "lin",
  "source_path": "source.pvm",
  "ssh_username": "packer",
  "ssh_password": "packer",
  "ssh_timeout": "30s",
  "shutdown_command": "echo 'packer' | sudo -S shutdown -P now"
{  "type": "parallels-pvm",  "parallels_tools_flavor": "lin",  "source_path": "source.pvm",  "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.


  • 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".

  • source_path (string) - The path to a PVM directory that acts as the source of this build.


  • 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.

  • 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'.

  • 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 VM 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.

  • reassign_mac (boolean) - If this is "false" the MAC address of the first NIC will reused when imported else a new MAC address will be generated by Parallels. Defaults to "false".

  • 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.

  • 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. 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.

  • vm_name (string) - This is the name of the virtual machine when it is imported as well as the name of the PVM directory when the virtual machine is exported. By default this is "packer-BUILDNAME", where "BUILDNAME" is the name of the build.

»Parallels Tools

After the virtual machine is up and the operating system is installed, Packer uploads the Parallels Tools into the virtual machine. The path where they are uploaded is controllable by parallels_tools_path, and defaults to "prl-tools.iso". Without an absolute path, it is uploaded to the home directory of the SSH user. Parallels Tools ISO's can be found in: "/Applications/Parallels"

»Boot Command

The boot_command specifies the keys to type when the virtual machine is first booted. This command is typed after boot_wait.

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.

»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 virtual machine, such as set RAM, CPUs, etc.

Extra prlctl commands are defined in the template in the prlctl section. An example is shown below that sets the memory and number of CPUs within the virtual machine:

  "prlctl": [
    ["set", "{{.Name}}", "--memsize", "1024"],
    ["set", "{{.Name}}", "--cpus", "2"]
{  "prlctl": [    ["set", "{{.Name}}", "--memsize", "1024"],    ["set", "{{.Name}}", "--cpus", "2"]  ]}

The value of prlctl is an array of commands to execute. These commands are executed in the order defined. So in the above example, the memory will be set followed by the CPUs.

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