4 Ways to Run Microsoft Windows on a Mac

I received an email yesterday from a potential new client telling me that he wanted to install Parallels on a Mac. His intention was to run a flight simulator program that required a Microsoft Windows operating system. I replied to his email and provided a couple of options.

There may indeed be occasions when you would want to run Windows on a Mac. There are a couple of standard methods which can be used to implement this functionality, but these are not the only options. I’d like to look at four ways in which you can run Microsoft Windows 10 on an Apple Mac computer. In order to implement any one of these methods, you will require a bootable Windows 10 installation flash drive. Full details of how to do this are available from Microsoft on their Windows 10 download page.

Parallels Desktop

This was the method requested by my client and is in many ways the most straightforward method. It is also the only one of the four methods I shall describe which requires a financial outlay. The pricing for the different licensing options for Parallels Desktop can be found on the Parallels website.

By installing Parallels Desktop on a Mac, you are effectively installing a virtual machine on your Mac. This virtual machine runs as an app just like all the other apps on your Mac, and you are able to switch between the Parallels app and any others you may be using.

The first step is to download and install Parallels Desktop. Having installed and launched the software, you can skip the first step about using Windows from Boot Camp. At the next step, you can either skip or click on Install Windows. If you select the latter, Parallels will proceed to download Windows 10 for you. Since we have already created a bootable Windows 10 installer we shall select Skip instead.

In the next window, you are presented with a number of choices. You should select Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file and click Continue. Assuming you have already connected the Windows flash drive to the Mac, the installation image should be found automatically. Then click Continue.

At the next screen, you can enter a Windows 10 license key if you already have one, or continue without entering a key at this stage. Then select the edition of Windows you’d like to install (normally Windows 10 Home). Click Continue again, then provide a name for your installation and click Create. The installation of Windows 10 will proceed from this point.

Boot Camp

The Boot Camp option involves creating a second partition on your hard disk, which will contain your Windows installation. Prior to beginning this process, connect your Windows installation flash drive to the computer. Open Finder, go to the Utilities, and select Boot Camp Assistant. Click Continue and then at the next screen select the location of the ISO file on your flash drive. Then select how you would like to partition your hard drive. You are effectively splitting the drive into two parts, one for the macOS and one for Windows. After specifying the partition sizes, click Install.

The system will download Windows support software, partition the disk, and proceed with the installation of Windows. You will need to enter your Mac administrator password at the beginning of the process. The computer will then reboot and the Windows 10 installation will begin. When you eventually reach the Windows desktop screen you will see a window entitled Boot Camp which will guide you through the remainder of the process, specifically the installation of the required device drivers. When the process completes you can restart the system.

To boot back into the macOS, click the Boot Camp icon in the system tray and select Restart in macOS… You can also select Startup Disk in the macOS System Preferences to specify your preferred startup partition, whether macOS or Windows. It’s also possible to select your boot disk at startup by holding down the option key immediately after switching the Mac on. You will then be presented with both options and you can click to select your preference.

Create a Partition Manually and Install Windows

This option is similar to the Boot Camp option, except that it gives you control over the process at a lower level. It is effectively a manual version of Boot Camp which is attractive for an IT support professional like myself.

Begin by selecting Disk Utility in Utilities. You will see your hard disk listed as an Internal disk. Select Partition and then Partition again if prompted at the next screen. Following this you will specify the sizes of your partitions, then give your new Windows partition a name and format it as MS-DOS (FAT). Then click Apply and confirm the partitioning operation by clicking on Partition and then Continue. The partitioning of the disk will then proceed.

Ensure that you’ve connected your Windows installation flash drive to the computer, then restart and hold down the option key while it restarts. You will be presented with two options from which to boot. One is your Mac’s hard drive and the other is the flash drive containing the Windows 10 ISO. Select the latter. The Windows 10 logo should appear and after a short time the Windows Setup window. Here you can select your language, time and currency format, and keyboard. Then click Next and then Install now.

If you already have a Windows 10 key you can enter this in the next window, or select I don’t have a product key. Then choose the version of Windows 10 you’d like to install. You’ll be able to activate Windows with a product key at a later stage. Accept the Windows license terms and click Next.

In the subsequent window you will need to select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) and then you’ll see a list of all the partitions on the computer’s hard disk. You need to select the partition you just created for Windows 10 and click on Format followed by OK. After the formatting is complete, click Next to proceed with the Windows 10 installation.

Turn Your Mac Into a Windows Computer

This final option is unlikely to be useful in most circumstances, but it is possible to remove the macOS entirely from your Mac so that it boots purely as a Windows computer. A number of years ago I worked with a client who had procured a rather old iMac that wasn’t booting up. I had a number of macOS installers on flash drives but these were newer versions that couldn’t be installed on the old iMac. The client was happy to install Windows and so we actually installed Windows 7 on the iMac and everything worked well.

In order to turn your Mac into a Windows machine, boot from your Windows 10 flash drive as described in the previous section. Then follow the steps described. When you reach the window with the option to select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced), press Shift F10 and a command prompt window should open. Type diskpart to launch the Microsoft DiskPart utility. Then type list disk <Enter> and you will see a list of the disks present. Type select disk 0 <Enter>, followed by clean <Enter> and then convert gpt <Enter>. Then type exit <Enter> to exit DiskPart and close the command prompt window.

Now click on the Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) option and proceed with the installation of Windows 10 as before. When the installation completes, the computer will reboot into Windows 10 with no longer any trace of a macOS operating system.

Conclusion

So there you have four methods you can use to run Microsoft Windows on your Mac computer. For most people, one of the first two options will be your preference, depending on whether you want to run Windows within your macOS environment, or keep the two operating systems separate. In keeping them separate you devote all your Mac’s resources to one or the other. On the other hand, if you want to have all your apps together at your fingertips, Parallels Desktop may be your best solution. The choice is yours.

This Windows on a Mac installation guide was written by Norm McLaughlin. Norm is the owner of Norm’s Computer Services, a local computer repair and IT support business in Brisbane, Australia. He offers all sorts of services for both Windows and Mac computers.

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