The FreeBSD download page offers links to Virtual Machine Images, including one link for AMD64.

That AMD64 folder offers three files:

  • FreeBSD-10.1-RELEASE-amd64.raw.xz
  • FreeBSD-10.1-RELEASE-amd64.vhd.xz
  • FreeBSD-10.1-RELEASE-amd64.vmdk.xz

What are each of these for, what's the difference between them? I cannot find documentation.

In particular I'm wonder if any will work for use in Parallels 10.

  • I installed the freebsd amd64 images without any hitch at all under VirtualBox in El Capitan. Nov 15, 2015 at 14:54

2 Answers 2



The documentation has step by step instructions for running FreeBSD as a Guest on Parallels Desktop for macOS® 10.4.6 or higher.

The previous now-outmoded Answer remains below for history.


First, the last extension .xz is a lossless data compression program and file format which incorporates the LZMA/LZMA2 compression algorithms, say Wikipedia. Developed by The Tukaani Project.

For use on Mac OS X, Apple’s Archive Utility.app cannot handle this format (as of Yosemite). The XZ project page suggests using the XZ Utils library and command-line tool. You can obtain unarchiving apps on the Apple App Store. The Unarchiver app worked for me for the FreeBSD .xz installer files.

.raw, .vhd, .vmdk

Second to the last extension is one of three types of virtual hard drive file formats.

No Go on Parallels 10

While Parallels 10.2 on Mac OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 can open and convert both .vhd and .vmdk formats to its own format, when I tried each FreeBSD installer I got an error saying:

Failed to convert this virtual hard disk.

The guest OS installed on the disk cannot be identified. You can still convert this disk using the prl_convert utility with the --allow-no-os option."

  • 3
    I would mention Hyper-V for .vhd and VMware Workstation/ESXi as a tool compatible to .vmdk files. The .raw file is just (as the name implies) a block-wise representation of the underlying disk. May be used e.g. with qemu (KVM), Virtual Box, ... Apr 6, 2015 at 5:47
  • I can't tell if this is answering the question or is a comment that you can't get it to work. If the latter, I can report there are many FreeBSD users happily using it on Macs and OSX for years.
    – Rob
    Nov 15, 2015 at 14:09
  • @Basil Bourque I get the same error in Parallels 14 use prl_convert only get a hdd file. But I don't know how to use that. Do you solve it
    – wyx
    Jan 23, 2020 at 5:56

What are each of these for, what's the difference between them? I cannot find documentation.

While Basil Bourque's answer is quite informative and to the point. Below is the excerpt from their README file on FreeBSD download page. I hope it helps with raw format.

FreeBSD virtual machine disk images are available in various formats
for several hypervisors.

Disk image formats and the supported hypervisors are:

- vhd: VirtualPC, Hyper-V, Xen, VirtualBox
- vmdk: VMWare qcow2: Qemu, KVM
- raw: bhyve, other hypervisors that support unformatted raw disk image

Source: FreeBSD.org

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