One of the advantages of using a Mac is that it gives you the option to run macOS on your own. Or to install Windows for those occasions when you need to run applications or exclusive Windows games.
In this article, we explain how to install Windows on a Mac. First helped by Apple’s dual-boot Boot Camp assistant. And then with third-party virtualization software. We also discuss the pros and cons of each modality.
One last thing before going into detail. Did you know that you do not need to have a copy of Windows on your Mac to be able to run Windows applications?
What Mac computers can run Windows?
It’s something that depends on the version of Windows you’re trying to install. But you should know that any recent Mac should be able to run Windows 10. In fact, most of the Macs presented since the end of 2012 support it. There is a complete list here.
However, keep in mind that a bug has been discovered in some iMac models. It means that you can not update them to Mojave if you already have Boot Camp installed. For more information, check out this Apple support page.
Your Mac will also need to have at least 64 GB of free disk space if you are installing Windows in a Boot Camp partition. However, since Windows requires 128 GB, Apple suggests that you create a partition of that same amount.
Boot Camp versus virtualization
There are two possibilities when installing Windows on your Mac, and the option you choose will depend on the type of software you need to run.
The first option, provided by Apple itself through the Assistant Boot Camp that is integrated with each Mac, is called “dual boot”, since it gives you the ability to start your Mac using Windows or macOS.
The Apple Boot Camp Wizard can split your Mac’s hard drive (or solid state drive) into two partitions. Leave macOS in a partition, and then install Windows in the second partition. Simply choose the operating system you want to run by pressing the ‘Alt’ key on your keyboard when you start your Mac.
Installing Windows in a Boot Camp partition with this method makes your Mac a simple Windows PC, and dedicates all the power of the processor and memory of your Mac to running Windows without the possibility of interacting with macOS.
This is the best option if you want to play Windows games or run design and graphics software or edit videos. In short, carry out tasks for which you need to take advantage of all the configuration potential of your machine.
The only disadvantage of using Boot Camp is that you lose access to all your normal Mac applications while you are running Windows, which means that you have to close Windows and reboot macOS if you want to use Mac applications, such as Apple Mail or Photos
This is where the other option, known as ‘Virtualization’, can be useful. Instead of dividing the disk drive into different partitions for macOS and Windows, we use a virtualization program (Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion) to create a virtual machine that runs within the macOS environment itself.
The virtual machine (VM) is simply an application that runs on the Mac like any other application. However, the virtual machine imitates the operation of a PC, which will allow you to install Windows in the virtual machine and then add any Windows application you need.
For this reason, it becomes the most convenient option, since it means that you can run your Windows applications on your Mac’s desktop along with all the normal applications of your Mac, so there is no need to restart and choose between macOS or Windows as you will have to do with Boot Camp.
But make no mistake, because virtualization also has certain disadvantages. Running Windows inside a virtual machine means that you are running two operating systems at the same time, so you will need much more processor and memory power to get decent performance.
Still, most of the latest Macs can provide good performance when running Windows in a virtual machine, and it’s only 3D games and applications in high-end graphics environments that need the extra power.
How to get Windows for Mac
If you want to be able to run Windows 10 on your Mac, you should know that it is possible to download it as a disk image file, sometimes also known as an ISO file, from the official Microsoft website.
You can also download ISO files for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. However, these versions of Windows were originally sold on disk hardware, so if you still have the original disc, it is probably faster to create the ISO file from here. It’s quite simple, and Apple also addresses this possibility on its website.
Now that you have the Windows installation files, you only need to launch your virtualization software to run it and install it.
What you need for Boot Camp
Boot Camp Assistant is an application provided by Apple that helps you install Windows on your Mac. You will find the wizard located in the ‘Utilities’ folder inside the main ‘Applications’ folder of your Mac.
Before running the wizard, these are the things you will need to run Windows in Boot Camp:
- Apple recommends that you have a minimum of 64 GB of free storage on your disk or solid state drive in order to install Windows. Actually, 128 GB is recommended.
- You may also need a USB or flash drive with at least 16GB of storage softwareadditional “driver” that Windows needs to recognize the components such as monitor, camera Mac, type of keyboard or mouse employee.
- You will need a version of Windows along with your license. Recent models of Mac and any Mac running Mojave will only work with Windows 10, something to keep in mind. Older models may also support Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
You can check which versions of Windows you can run on your Mac by consulting the list that appears on the official website of Apple. The installation process and time used may vary, depending on the version of Windows you use.
How to run Windows on a Mac through Boot Camp
Once you have completed all the preparations to run the Boot Camp wizard, and have installed Windows on your Mac, here is what you should do:
Step 3: Partition the unit
If this is the first time you use Boot Camp, you will have to select the option to ‘Install Windows 7 or later’. This will allow you to create two disk partitions on your Mac. Thus, macOS is left in one partition, while in the second part Windows will be installed and any other software and applications you want.
Step 4: Adjust the desired size of your partition
By default, the Boot Camp wizard offers to create a small Windows partition of only 32 GB, but you can use the slider to vary the size of the two partitions to your liking. There is another button that simply divides the unit into two of equal size.
If your Mac has more than one hard drive or SSD in its configuration, it is possible to dedicate one of them exclusively for Windows.
However, you should know that Boot Camp does not work well with external drives connected via USB or Thunderbolt, so it is better to use the internal drive whenever possible.
And if you have an external drive connected to your Mac to back up Time Machine, it’s a good idea to eliminate it, since Boot Camp can be a bit confusing if it detects an external drive during installation.
Step 5: Install Windows
Once you have partitioned your Mac’s drive, Boot Camp will shut down your Mac and start the Windows installation program from the USB drive. Just follow the step-by-step instructions to complete the installation of Windows.
As soon as Windows starts, you will also be asked to install the additional Boot Camp drivers from the USB removable memory device.
Step 6: Run Windows
Once this is done, you can use the dual boot or dual boot between macOS and Windows, pressing ‘Alt’ (also known as ‘Option’) on your keyboard when you turn on the Mac. You will see the two partitions with macOS and Windows on the screen.
How to run Windows in a virtual machine
Virtualization programs such as Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion provide an ingenious and flexible dual-boot alternative to Boot Camp and use of different operating systems.
Instead of splitting your Mac’s hard drive into separate partitions, and then installing Windows on the Boot Camp partition, these programs create a virtual machine (VM). It is simply an application that runs on the Mac and acts like a PC .
Next, you can install Windows on the VM, along with any Windows software and applications that you need to run. The VM can work together with other Mac applications. Such as Safari or Apple Mail. So there is no need to change from one operating system to another. That’s something you are forced to do with Boot Camp.
These programs are not free. So you should buy a copy of the program you prefer. In addition to providing your own copy of Windows (although both Parallels and VMware provide test versions that you can try for a while).
There is also a free virtualization program called VirtualBox. But it is quite complex and difficult to use. So we do not advise you if you do not have advanced knowledge in the matter.
We will focus first on the use of Parallels and VMware to install Windows. Check the VirtualBox section if you feel ready for the challenge.
We have more information about the best virtual machines to install Windows on Mac.
Run Windows on a Mac with Parallels
Parallels Desktop 14 (the version currently available) has a more colorful graphical interface than VMware Fusion with advanced functions that allow you to catch the thread very quickly to its possibilities. However, the two programs have the same basic approach.
They provide several options to create a new VM on your Mac, using an installation disc or an ISO file.
It is also possible to connect a Windows PC to your Mac and create a VM on the Mac that is an exact copy of the Windows PC and all the applications you need. And, if you are already using Boot Camp, you can even create a VM that duplicates your Boot Camp partition.
It is a practical and most interesting option. Because it will allow you to quickly check some files or run applications that do not need maximum performance, without having to turn off the Mac to restart with Windows mode.
Once you have decided how you want to install Windows, both programs will allow you to adjust a series of important configurations.
Run Windows on a Mac with VMware Fusion
The interface of VMware is a little more complex. Since it shows a window with many adjustments that could confuse the newest users. Parallels makes things a little easier for beginners by providing a series of predefined options for productivity environments with Office. Or to run high-powered 3D games.
Running Windows on a VM: Hardware
Both VMware Fusion and Parallels allow you to change the hardware configuration of your virtual machines if you need it. Just like if you were choosing physical hardwarefor your Mac or real PC.
If your Mac has a multi-core processor (like the iMac Pro, which has up to 18 processor cores), you can dedicate several cores to your VM to improve performance. You can also allocate additional memory and disk space. And even increase the amount of video memory that your VM will use to handle the graphics.
Other options offered by Parallels and VMware include the ability to connect external devices. Such as a hard drive or even Bluetooth speakers to your Windows virtual machine.
You can also determine how your VM interacts with macOS in such a way that you can share folders and files that you need for a project or work. Or even share your music library or photos.
Run Windows in a VM: Software
A key aspect when Windows runs in the virtual machine of your Mac is the way you can manage it on your Mac’s desktop.
By default, both Parallels and VMware run their VMs in a window. So you’ll get a kind of Windows window that shows the Windows desktop floating in its own window at the top of the Mac’s desktop.
However, it is also possible to expand the Windows desktop. So that it fills the entire screen. This makes your Mac look like a regular Windows PC at the same time as it allows you to switch to Mac applications using ‘Command’ + ‘Tab’.
But a better option for many people is the ability to completely hide the Windows desktop. So that individual Windows applications appear on their own on the Mac desktop. Just like regular Mac applications.
The number of available options is the most variable. But the best thing about virtualization technology is that you will not be able to break the virtual machine. You can save different versions of your VM. In the same way that you save different versions of a Word document.
This allows you to experiment with different configurations to see what options work best. And then simply go back to an earlier version of the virtual machine whenever you want.
Recommended: How to turn on the dark mode of Windows 10
How to run Windows on a Mac for free
It is an alternative method to run Windows on your Mac. It uses Oracle VirtualBox to run Windows as a virtual machine. This section with your comments belongs to Nik Rawlinson.
VirtualBox you can download it for free from here. Proceed as follows:
1. Download the latest version.
2. Once the disk image is downloaded, locate it on your Mac, mount it and double-click on the VirtualBox.pkg file to install the application. You will need 175 MB of free space on your computer. In addition to the space required by Windows (up to 32 GB).
3. Once the installation is finished, start VirtualBox from the applications folder.
4. Download your copy of Windows 10 as explained above. Then place it in a convenient place so you can access it from the VirtualBox installer.
5. Click on the new button in the VirtualBox toolbar and assign a name to your new virtual machine (‘Windows 10’ in our instance) and select the operating system you are installing from the drop-down menu.
6. Click on ‘Continue’.
7. Reserve the resources. When Windows is running, it will behave like a different computer from your Mac, which will continue to run macOS. Your team will lend resources that you can not touch while the virtual machine is running. The most important thing here is memory.
VirtualBox suggests the use of 2 GB (2048 MB) in our machine (a Mac mini with 16 GB of RAM). But we are going to increase it to 4 GB (4096 MB) to give Windows some additional space. If you want to do the same, use the slider.
9. Create a virtual disk. When you configure a virtual machine, not only the operating system is created, but also the applications that run on it. And the files created and edited are stored in a package that your Mac will see as a virtual hard disk.
10. This means that you will not confuse your Windows and MacOS assets. But it also means that you will put a large part of your disk out of reach of MacOS. For this reason, we will continue with the recommendation to reserve 32 GB in VirtualBox.
11. When you click on ‘Continue’, the system will ask you what type of unit you want to create. Continue with VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image) unless you are going to use this Windows installation with a different virtualization application, such as Parallels Desktop.
12. VirtualBox can remove the 32 GB immediately or do it in a fragmented way when necessary, increasing the size of the Windows unit over time as the stored files and installed applications grow.
13. It makes sense to opt for the second. So unless you have some particular reason to give up the total amount, leave the storage option set to the amount that is assigned dynamically and click on continue.
14. At this point, you have already created your new virtual machine. All you need to do is install Windows on it. VirtualBox New shows you a summary of the composition of your virtual machine. And you can switch between different virtualized environments if you have configured more than one.
14. Click on ‘Start’ to start the Windows installation process.
15. Finally, you must locate the installation file. We have stored the download of our installation on an SD card in the slot on the back of our Mac mini. We have to tell VirtualBox where it is. So we click on the folder icon and select the ISO file on the card.
16. Clicking on ‘Open’ returns us to the configuration screen where we click on Start to open the disk image and use it as a means of installation. Once you have selected the language, the installer should know if you are updating an old version or if it is a custom installation.
Choose ‘Custom’, since you are setting up a totally new virtual machine. Then on the next screen, make sure that unit 0 is selected as the installation unit (this should be the only option).
18. The virtual machine will restart a couple of times during the installation before asking you to configure your preferences. You can opt for the ‘Quick Configuration’. It accepts all Microsoft default values, including updates when they are available.
19. If you do not want to do it, click on the ‘Customize’ button and make the adjustments by hand. Next, you must tell Windows if the equipment belongs to you or it is one of your organization.
20. Click next. Then enter the details of your Microsoft account to log in. If you do not have a Microsoft account yet, click on ‘Create a new one’.
The last two steps ask if you prefer to use a PIN instead of a password to access. And if you want to store your files in OneDrive or in the local virtual machine.
From here, Windows will reboot for the last time before displaying the final desktop.
Can I run macOS on a Windows PC?
What happens with the opposite scenario? Is it possible to run macOS on a PC? In a word: no. It is one of those ironies that although Microsoft is famous for its aggressive business practices, Apple has been blunt at this point.
It is possible to run Windows on any X86 computer. But Apple puts your own macOS software at your disposal only on Mac hardware.
Apple’s reasoning is that macOS is designed to work with Apple’s own hardware. And the experience would not be as good on any computer. This is one of the reasons why you will never use a Mac with little power.
But it’s also fair to say that Apple creates software to sell hardware that it does not want to share with technology partners like Microsoft does. So if you want to experience the best of all worlds, you can run Windows on your Mac but not in reverse. That said, there is an alternative that happens to install it on a Hackintosh.