The most fun way to run MacPaint today is by using a computer it was actually designed for, an old Mac that you can find on eBay or at a thrift store.

It will run perfectly on any classic Mac OS (system 1-9). If you are trying to run it under OS 8 or 9, you will probably need to switch your color depth to Black and White. Running on a 68k Mac (pre-PowerPC) with system 6 or 7 will give you reasonable usability and plenty of authenticity, but it will definitely run on any OS through 9.

A more practical way is to run a 68k or PowerPC emulator on a modern Mac/Windows/Linux PC. Basilisk II and Sheepshaver work well enough that they are worth trying if you want a full-featured emulator to run systems up through 9.0.4. Note that PowerPC ROMs are trickier to come by, as are OS 8 and 9, so you may want to try Mini vMac, a great Mac Plus emulator that is easy to set up and will be fine for MacPaint.


If even Mini vMac is too much for you, there are couple web-based options that get you most of the way there. PCE.js is a browser-based Mac Plus emulator that allows you to play with several old Mac applications, including MacPaint 2.0. This version is somewhat different than the 1.x versions, and you can't save your files, but this is a very cool option if your computer/browser can handle it. Another option is Cloudpaint, which is a re-implementation of MacPaint in JavaScript. It's not totally true to the original and has some quirks, but it should be a little more lightweight than running an entire emulator in the browser.

Those with no experience with pre-OS X Macs will want to start with the online options or with Mini vMac. Using at least System 7.1 with Basilisk II or Sheepshaver makes sense, and for all intents and purposes this requires a new large HFS-formatted (not HFS+) disk image, which is non-trivial to create these days (see FuseHFS below). Freely available floppy images are more than sufficient for Mini vMac.

If any terms here are unfamiliar to you, start with Mini vMac or PCE.js. They're very easy to use and work well.

  • Emaculation is a site that may be very helpful to you
  • Many useful disk images, including MacPaint 1.5
  • Download System 6.0.x, 7.0.1 or 7.5.3 from Apple legally
  • Users of OS X 10.6 or higher will need FuseHFS to write to HFS standard volumes (disk images). That link points to my build of FuseHFS, which should work on 10.6 through 10.9 with OSXFUSE, but there's also the original version that requires MacFUSE and doesn't work on 10.9.

    NOTE: despite them not being available for sale for over a decade, it is illegal to copy and distribute old Mac ROMs, which are required to run most emulators other than vMac or PCE.js. If you're going to do this, make sure to rationalize it somehow. Some of the Apple OSes you may want to use are also not freely available from them, so do be careful and ethical online.