Although at this time there is pretty much no difference in the various operating systems, and you can run your digital life in any OS that you choose, there are times when as a Mac user you might need to run certain Windows apps. Obviously there are options, like the brilliant CrossOver, Wineskin, etc., but that can only get you so far, especially if a game is the application you had in mind. Emulation and virtualisation are limited – sometimes especially when you need to “hit the metal” or require to access hardware to run an app – then a genuine install of Windows running on your hardware is all that will do.
In this article we will look at how to install Windows 10 in your Mac as an optional boot partition.
Bootcamp: the only tool you need
The first order of business is to get your Windows install ISO. You can find the download link here. On the Mac you will be told Windows 10 is not compatible with your system, but don’t worryas the link for the ISO is lower down the screen.
The software tool that enables you to install Windows alongside Mac OS is actually called “Bootcamp Assistant.” Bootcamp resides in the Utilities directory of Mac OS which you can get to either by navigating to “Applications -> Utilities” or by pressing “Command + Shift + U” on any Finder desktop or window.
Note: Bootcamp Assistant originally supported XP, Vista and Windows 7. Version 4.0 shipped with OS X 10.6 through to 10.8 any only supported Windows 7. Bootcamp 5.0 was released partway through 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 start you will need:
- a compatible Mac with at least 40Gb of free space (more if you have it)
- a USB stick of at least 8Gb
- an ISO file of a Windows install, for example Windows 10
- a legitimate license key for the version of Windows you are installing
Before you begin: obviously this process will work perfectly nine times out of ten, but to be on the safe side make a backup of your entire system disk just in case.
Once you run Bootcamp Assistant, you will be prompted for the operations you wish to perform. The first asks if you wish to create a Windows 7 or later install disk onto a USB.
The next option is to download the latest Windows support files These enable the finished Windows install to operate the Mac hardware correctly. If checked, the files will be written to the install USB for installation to the target partition after Windows has 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 you don’t have enough space on your system disk to partition it for Windows, the last item will be ghosted.
If you have the space and all tasks are checked, then you are good to go. When you click continue, you will be prompted for the ISO and a destination USB stick.
If you only have one drive and have enough space on your system disk, you can now partition your hard drive based on the available space. Drag the slider to select the amount of drive space you want to allocate to the Windows partition (we usually go about half and half), and you’re done.
If you have more than one drive attached, you will be given the option to install Windows on that partition. In our opinion it’s much better to install Windows to a separate hard drive as you will have much more space for apps and data.
All done? Press “Install” and the copy to USB process begins.
The USB drive will be populated with the Windows install and the Apple hardware drivers which will be installed after Windows. After that, the partitioning and installation begins, and the lengthy Windows install process that you are undoubtedly familiar with begins. You will be prompted to select your locality and language for your keyboard, etc. You will also be asked for your Windows License Key.
You will be asked where you would like to install Windows, and the partitioning process has helpfully labelled the partition with the word BOOTCAMP so you know which it is. Format that partition with the button below, and then with that partition selected, click Next to continue the install to completion.
Once Windows is installed, it will reboot. Usually you are automatically prompted to install the Apple drivers for the hardware in your Mac on first boot of the new Windows install. If this doesn’t happen automatically, go to the USB while in Windows, find the Bootcamp folder and run the “setup.exe” to install all the correct drivers for the Mac hardware.
That’s it, you’re done.
From then on you can boot into Windows either by choosing the Windows startup disk from your System Preferences and pressing Restart or from cold boot while holding down the Option key to choose which OS to boot into.
As you can see, it is a potentially trouble-free install, and in our experience it’s rarely catastrophic, but of course “safety first” dictates that in order to prevent something happening, you have to make sure it cannot happen.
You have been warned.
Make a good solid backup of your machine before you attempt to partition a live computer that you need for your day-to-day work. The chances are it will be fine, but ask yourself before you ignore this step, “Can I afford to take that chance no matter how slim?” Better yet, avoid the issue of partitioning your live system drive by installing to a whole separate drive if you have one available.
As always thanks for reading and be sure to leave us any questions or comments in the section below.