A complete guide to installing Windows 10 on a Mac
While there is currently little difference between different operating systems and you can use your digital life on any operating system of your choice, as a Mac user, you may need to run certain Windows applications. Obviously, there are options like the awesome CrossOver, Wineskin, etc., but it can only take you so far, especially if the game is an app in your mind. Emulation and virtualization are limited – sometimes especially when you need to “touch metal” or need access to hardware to run an application – so a real Windows installation on your hardware is enough.
In this article, we’ll see how to install Windows 10 on a Mac as an optional boot partition.
Bootcamp: the only tool you need
The first thing is to get an ISO for the Windows installation. You will find download the link here. On a Mac, you’ll be told that Windows 10 isn’t compatible with the system, but don’t worry because the ISO link is at the bottom of the screen.
The software tool that allows you to install Windows on Mac OS is actually called “Bootcamp Assistant”. Bootcamp is located in the Mac OS Utilities directory, which you can access by going to “Applications -> Utilities” or by pressing “Command + Shift + U” anywhere on your desktop or in the Finder window.
Observe: Bootcamp Assistant originally supported XP, Vista, and Windows 7. Version 4.0, which shipped with OS X 10.6 to 10.8, was only compatible with Windows 7. Bootcamp 5.0 was released in mid-OS X 10.8 and only supported Windows 7 and 8 (officially). Bootcamp 6.0 added Windows 10 support for OS X 10.12.
Before you begin, you need:
- compatible Mac with at least 40GB of free space (more if you have it)
- at least an 8GB USB key
- ISO file from a Windows installation, such as Windows 10
- the legal license key for the version of Windows that you installed
Before you begin: Obviously, this process works perfectly nine times out of ten, but make sure you back up your entire system drive anyway.
After running Bootcamp Assistant, you will be prompted to perform the desired actions. The first one asks if you want to create an installation disc for Windows 7 or later on a USB stick.
The next option is to download the latest Windows support files. These can help Windows installation work properly for your Windows installation. If this box is checked, the files will be written to the installation USB drive, which will be installed on the target partition after Windows is installed.
The third and final option is to install Windows 7 or later. This is the third step in the process, and this is the actual installation. If your system drive does not have enough space to partition it for Windows, the last item is a ghost image.
If you have the space and all the tasks have been checked, you can start. When you click Continue, you will be prompted for the ISO and destination USB drive.
If you have only one drive and there is enough space on the system drive, you can now partition your hard disk according to the available space. Drag the slider to select the amount of disk space you want to allocate to the Windows partition (we usually have about half and half), and you’re done.
If you have multiple drives connected, you have the option to install Windows on this partition. We think it’s better to install Windows on a separate hard drive because you have a lot more space for applications and data.
Is it over? Press “Install” and copying to USB will start.
The USB stick is filled with Windows installation and Apple hardware drivers that are installed after Windows. After that, partitioning and installation begins, and no doubt the familiar long Windows installation process begins. You will be asked to select a location and keyboard language, etc. You will also be asked for a Windows license key.
You will be asked where you want to install Windows, and the partitioning process has marked the partition with the word BOOTCAMP so you know what it is. Format this partition with the button below and continue the installation until this partition is selected, click Next.
Once Windows is installed, it will restart. Usually, you’ll be prompted to automatically install Apple drivers on your Mac when you first start a new installation of Windows. If this does not happen automatically, go to the Windows USB drive, locate the Bootcamp folder, and run “setup.exe” to install all the appropriate drivers for your Mac hardware.
That’s all, you’re done.
From there, you can start Windows by selecting the Windows Startup disk in System Preferences and pressing Restart or, from a cold boot, holding down the Option key and selecting the operating system you want to start.
As you can see, this is a potentially trouble-free installation, and in our experience it’s rarely catastrophic, but of course “safety first” dictates that in order for something not to happen, you need to make sure it can’t happen.
You were warned.
Make a good backup of your computer before trying to partition the live computer you need for your daily work. Probably all is well, but before you skip this step, ask yourself, “Can I afford to take this opportunity, no matter how small?” Even better, avoid the problem of partitioning a live system drive by installing it on a separate drive if you have one available.
As always, thanks for reading and be sure to leave your questions or comments with us in the section below.