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Mac vs Windows. Windows vs Mac. Why choose if you can get the best of both worlds by dual booting? Install Windows on Mac so you can jump back and forth from one operating system to another on the same computer.
By now, the practice is well-established and Windows can work on Mac well. In this article, we’ll have a deep look at installing Windows on Mac. Don’t worry, we’ll have your back the whole way through!
Boot Camp for Mac vs virtualization software
If you want to install Windows on your Mac, you have two options. You can either use Mac Boot Camp, a native feature of the macOS operating system, or you can use a third party virtualization program. Both methods have their own pros and cons, so let’s dive in.
Boot Camp is built into the operating system of all Macs. If you go to your Applications > Utilities folder, you’ll see the Boot Camp Assistant app. It makes the separate partition on your hard drive for installing and running Windows. Once Windows is installed in Boot Camp, every time you turn on your Mac, you will be asked to choose the operating system you want to run. This means that in order to switch from macOS to Windows, you need to reboot your computer.
- built into your operating system
- easy to use — Boot Camp Assistant guides you through the installation process
- puts less strain on your Mac’s memory and processing power
- completely free (not Windows of course)
- easy to update
- you need to reboot your computer to switch between the systems
- transferring data between operating systems isn’t easy
Virtualization programs are third-party applications that allow to install a separate operating system on one machine. They run like any other app on your Mac, so you can see the entire Windows desktop within a window on your computer.
Among the most popular virtualization programs are VirtualBox, Parallels, and VMware. Each one has its peculiarities, but we’ll try to sum up what they have in common.
- you can run both operating systems at the same time
- easy file integration between systems
- you need at least 8 GB of RAM for Mac to run smoothly
- virtualization apps are not cheap
- updates are not free
Depending on your specific needs, you can choose the option that works best for you. But we suggest using Boot Camp. It’s a free native feature of your operating system, running directly on your hardware. Therefore, it will be faster than any other method. And below, you’ll find all information on how to run Boot Camp on your Mac.
How to use Boot Camp: Preparing your Mac
1. Check the system requirements
Some versions of Windows require a certain processor and more hard drive space than the others. Therefore, you have to check the documentation that came with your copy of Windows to learn what you need.
You also need to make sure that your Mac is compatible with the version of Windows you want to install. For instance, Windows 10 is supported on these models:
- MacBook (2015 and later)
- MacBook Pro (2012 and later)
- MacBook Air (2012 and later)
- iMac (2012 and later)
- Mac Mini (2012 and later)
2. Clean up your hard drive
You need to have at least 55 GB of free disk space on your startup drive for installing Windows on a Mac. And if you don’t feel like spending the next several hours cleaning your Mac manually, you can use a powerful utility CleanMyMac X to find and remove all the junk from your startup disk.
CleanMyMac has everything to finish the 3-hour task of cleaning your hard drive in less than 5 minutes. It will scan every inch of your system and remove gigabytes of junk in two clicks. By the way, CleanMyMac finds about 75 GB of junk on average — more than enough for a smooth Windows installation.
Here’s how to clean your Mac with CleanMyMac X:
- Download CleanMyMac here.
- Run the app and click Scan.
- Click Run.
That’s it! Gigabytes of junk are gone from your computer forever.
3. Back up your Mac
Finally, you should also perform a backup of your Mac in case something goes wrong. Although, it happens very rarely, it’s always better to back up your important data. There are a few methods of backing up your Mac, so choose the most convenient one for you.
You can make automatic backups with Time Machine — software that comes with your Mac. It backs up all data, so you can recover individual files or your entire system from your backups. You may also store files in iCloud and access them whenever you need. iCloud comes with 5 GB of free storage but you can upgrade it any time. If you have an external storage device, you can copy some files and folders on it.
We do recommend you to back up your Mac before installing Windows as it minimizes the chance of losing important data.
How to Install Windows with Boot Camp
Here’s how to install Boot Camp. The installation can be a little time consuming, but it is by no means difficult. Check out the details below.
Step 1: Get a Windows disk image
First of all, you need to get the Windows disk image (ISO file) from the Microsoft website. Here’s how to download it:
- Visit the Windows 10 disk image download website.
- Go to the Select edition menu and choose Windows 10.
- Click Confirm.
- Choose the language of installation and click Confirm.
- Click 64-bit Download and then click Save.
The ISO file now will be downloaded to your Mac.
Step 2: Open Boot Camp Assistant
Boot Camp Assistant guides you through installing Windows on your Mac. You just have to follow the onscreen instructions. To launch the Boot Camp Assistant, go to Applications > Utilities folder. Click continue and Boot Camp for Mac will automatically locate the ISO file on your system.
Step 3: Create a partition for Windows
When you are done with the Assistant, your Mac restarts to the Windows installer. When you are asked where you want to install Windows, choose the BOOTCAMP partition and click Format.
*Note that this step is only required if you’re using a flash drive or optical drive to install Windows. In other cases, the right partition will be selected and formatted for you automatically.
Step 4: Install Windows
To finish the installation, you have to follow the onscreen instructions. Take a long breath — the next 12 steps may seem like climbing Everest, but it’s much easier than you think. Here’s how to install Windows on a Mac:
- Choose your ISO file and click the Install button.
- Type your Password and click OK. You will see the Windows Setup screen.
- Select your language.
- Click Install Now.
- Type your product key if you have it. Otherwise, click 'I don’t have a product key'.
- Select Windows 10 Pro or Windows Home and then click Next.
- Click Drive 0 Partition X: BOOTCAMP.
- Click Next. Windows 10 will be installed.
- When the Setup screen appears, click either Use Express Settings or Customize Your Installation. We recommend you to choose the Customize button and disable most, if not all of the switches.
- Then you’ll be asked to create an account. Type a username. You can also add a password if you want.
- Click Next.
- Choose whether you want to use the Cortana personal assistant or not. You can disable it by clicking Not Now button.
Windows will boot fully so you can use it normally.
On the Welcome to Boot Camp Installer box, click Next and accept the terms in the license agreement. Then click Install to proceed. When the installer completes, click Finish to reboot your machine.
Step 5: Restart your Mac
By default, your Mac will still boot to macOS. To access Windows, you have to turn your Mac off and then turn it on while holding the Option (Alt) key. You will be asked from which drive you’d like to boot.
Note that while in Windows, the Mac’s Command key functions as the Windows key, while the Option key functions as the Alt key. If you have a Touch Bar, you’ll see a complete set of buttons, similar to the Control Strip in macOS.
How to remove Windows from your Mac
If for some reasons you don’t need Windows anymore, you can permanently remove it from your Mac. Follow these steps:
- Boot into macOS, launch Boot Camp Assistant and click Continue.
- Choose 'Remove Windows 7 or later version' or 'Remove Windows 10 or later version'.
- Click Restore when you see the Restore Disk to a Single Volume option.
The Boot Camp Assistant will automatically remove Windows from your Mac.
Warning: All data, including software and files, stored on the Windows partition will be deleted, so make the backup copies first.
That may seem like a lot of steps, but it doesn’t take all that long to install Windows on a Mac. Now you can enjoy two operating systems and switch between them right when you need. Cheers!
These might also interest you:
What you need to install Windows 10 on Mac
- MacBook introduced in 2015 or later
- MacBook Air introduced in 2012 or later
- MacBook Pro introduced in 2012 or later
- Mac mini introduced in 2012 or later
- iMac introduced in 2012 or later1
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro introduced in 2013 or later
The latest macOS updates, which can include updates to Boot Camp Assistant. You will use Boot Camp Assistant to install Windows 10.
64GB or more free storage space on your Mac startup disk:
- Your Mac can have as little as 64GB of free storage space, but at least 128GB of free storage space provides the best experience. Automatic Windows updates require that much space or more.
- If you have an iMac Pro or Mac Pro with 128GB of memory (RAM) or more, your startup disk needs at least as much free storage space as your Mac has memory.2
An external USB flash drive with a storage capacity of 16GB or more, unless you're using a Mac that doesn't need a flash drive to install Windows.
A 64-bit version of Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro on a disk image (ISO) or other installation media. If installing Windows on your Mac for the first time, this must be a full version of Windows, not an upgrade.
- If your copy of Windows came on a USB flash drive, or you have a Windows product key and no installation disc, download a Windows 10 disk image from Microsoft.
- If your copy of Windows came on a DVD, you might need to create a disk image of that DVD.
How to install Windows 10 on Mac
To install Windows, use Boot Camp Assistant, which is included with your Mac.
1. Use Boot Camp Assistant to create a Windows partition
Open Boot Camp Assistant, which is in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder. Then follow the onscreen instructions.
- If you're asked to insert a USB drive, plug your USB flash drive into your Mac. Boot Camp Assistant will use it to create a bootable USB drive for Windows installation.
- When Boot Camp Assistant asks you to set the size of the Windows partition, remember the minimum storage-space requirements in the previous section. Set a partition size that meets your needs, because you can't change its size later.
2. Format the Windows (BOOTCAMP) partition
When Boot Camp Assistant finishes, your Mac restarts to the Windows installer. If the installer asks where to install Windows, select the BOOTCAMP partition and click Format. In most cases, the installer selects and formats the BOOTCAMP partition automatically.
3. Install Windows
Unplug any external devices that aren't necessary during installation. Then click Next and follow the onscreen instructions to begin installing Windows.
4. Use the Boot Camp installer in Windows
After Windows installation completes, your Mac starts up in Windows and opens a ”Welcome to the Boot Camp installer” window. Follow the onscreen instructions to install Boot Camp and Windows support software (drivers). You will be asked to restart when done.
- If the Boot Camp installer never opens, open the Boot Camp installer manually and use it to complete Boot Camp installation.
- If you have an external display connected to a Thunderbolt 3 port on your Mac, the display will be blank (black, gray, or blue) for up to 2 minutes during installation.
How to switch between Windows and macOS
Restart, then press and hold the Option (or Alt) ⌥ key during startup to switch between Windows and macOS.
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If you have one of these Mac models using OS X El Capitan 10.11 or later, you don't need a USB flash drive to install Windows:
Free Mac Apps Downloads
- MacBook introduced in 2015 or later
- MacBook Air introduced in 2017 or later3
- MacBook Pro introduced in 2015 or later3
- iMac introduced in 2015 or later
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro introduced in late 2013
To remove Windows from your Mac, use Boot Camp Assistant, not any other utility.
For more information about using Windows on your Mac, open Boot Camp Assistant and click the Open Boot Camp Help button.
1. If you're using an iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014) or iMac (27-inch, Late 2013) or iMac (27-inch, Late 2012) with a 3TB hard drive and macOS Mojave or later, learn about an alert you might see during installation.
2. For example, if your Mac has 128GB of memory, its startup disk must have at least 128GB of storage space available for Windows. To see how much memory your Mac has, choose Apple menu > About This Mac. To see how much storage space is available, click the Storage tab in the same window.
3. These Mac models were offered with 128GB hard drives as an option. Apple recommends 256GB or larger hard drives so that you can create a Boot Camp partition of at least 128GB.