How to install and run Windows on Mac

9th Aug 2011 | 14:35

How to install and run Windows on Mac

Plus how to run Windows programs on your Mac

Windows on Mac: your options explained

Whether you're a Mac user who occasionally needs to use Windows, or a Windows user who's just switched to Mac, it's great to know you can enjoy the best of both worlds and run Windows on Mac without having to run completely separate computers.

That is, as long as you Mac has an Intel CPU inside you can run Windows on your Mac.

All you need is a copy of Microsoft Windows, of course, some virtualisation software and for your Mac to meet Windows' minimum specs

Whether you own a Mac with multiple internal SSD or hard disk drives or just the one, the principle is the same: you'll need to create a Windows-compatible partition or dedicated drive that you can install and run Windows on Mac.

Run Windows in Boot Camp

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to do this is to use the Boot Camp Assistant software that comes bundled with every copy of Mac OS X - you'll find it in your Mac's Applications > Utilities folder.

Boot Camp enables you to choose where you'd like the Windows-compatible partition to go, how big you'd like it to be and then enables you to install all the drivers you need for Windows to take advantage of your Mac's features - from its keyboard and trackpad to its graphics card and Wi-Fi.

Boot Camp's only real disadvantage is that it only enables you to run one operating system at time.

Boot camp

IN LION: Boot Camp Assistant is the built-in Windows installer for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. You'll find it in the Applications > Utilities folder

To use Windows and its bundled applications like Internet Explorer, you'll need to reboot your Mac - something that's a bit of a time-waster and can be cumbersome to do - especially if you'd like to share files between the two.

You can choose which operating system you wish to boot into by holding down the <Alt> key when you start your Mac.

Run Windows in Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion

The alternative is to use dedicated virtualisation programmes such as Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac (£64.99) or VMware Fusion 3 for Mac (£53.95 standalone / £67.37 with 12 months' worth of updates)

These enable you to run both operating systems at the same time - either by running Windows in its own dedicated window (the guest OS) in Mac OS X (the host OS) or by switching to full virtualisation mode where Windows-only apps like Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player appear to run in Mac OS X just like any other app on your Mac.


IN PARALLEL:Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac enables you to create a virtual machine for Windows on your Mac. You can even use it to migrate all your files, settings and preferences from your PC

In Parallels this is called Coherence, in VMware Fusion it's called Unity. The major advantage of these approaches is that you'll be more easily able to share files between the Mac and Windows platforms - and you won't have to keep rebooting every time you want to use a specific app.

If you only use plan to use Windows occasionally on your Mac, the price of Parallels or VMware Fusion maybe hard to justify.

Run Windows in Oracle VirtualBox

Luckily there is an alternative in the shape of Oracle VirtualBox It feels a little antiquated and lacks the bells and whistles of Parallels and VMware Fusion, but it's also open source and - best of all - free.

If you're switching from PC to Mac full-time, then both Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac and VMware Fusion 3 include Migration Assistants than make it easy to move all your stuff from your Windows machine to your new virtual one, while keeping all your Windows settings, preferences, etc in tact. Neither Boot Camp or Oracle Virtualbox includes these features.

Now that's sorted, lets take a look at how you can install and use Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp, Parallels, VMware Fusion and VirtualBox

Windows on Mac: how to install

How to install Windows using Boot Camp on your Mac

Boot Camp is the dedicated Windows installer for Mac OS X. It enables you to create a separate partition (or dedicated internal disk drive, if you have more than one) and prompts you to download and burn to disc the additional drivers you need so Windows can take advantage of all the features and hardware in your Mac. You can then insert the Windows install disc to install the operating system. Your Mac will reboot from the disc so you can install Windows just as you would on a PC. After several restarts you can use the disc you burned earlier to install the Boot Camp drivers Windows needs.


How to install Windows using Parallels Desktop 6 For Mac

First install Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac (a trial version is available) then launch it to begin the Windows installation process. It can find and use an existing Boot Camp partition, if you have one, or you can use its assistant to create one from scratch.

You can also use its built-in migration assistant to copy any existing preferences, settings and files from your user account on a Windows PC. Like Boot Camp, Parallels will prompt you to install a toolbox of drivers when you first run Windows so it can take advantage of the hardware features of your Mac.

Parallels enables you to run Windows in a dedicated window in Mac OS X or use its Coherence mode. This enables you to access features like the Windows Start menu from within Mac OS X as well as to launch Windows-only apps such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player.


How to install Windows using VMware Fusion 3 for Mac

The installer and operating environment works in a similar way to Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac - although Parallels has the edge when it comes to performance and user-friendliness. Again you can use an existing Boot Camp partition drive or create a virtual machine from scratch. Like Boot Camp and Parallels, VMware Fusion prompts you to install suitable drivers when you first fire up Widows.


How to install Windows using Oracle VirtualBox

A less polished - but free - alternative to Parallels and VMware Fusion, VirtualBox also enables you to run Windows as guest OS to the Mac OS X host. Installing and using it works on similar lines to the other two virtualisation apps, including the ability to run Windows-only applications alongside Mac OS X ones using a 'seamless' approach.



Liked this? Then check out Windows 8: everything you need to know

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