Monday, October 26, 2015

Run Windows 10 on your Mac

Run Windows 10 on your Mac


One of the key benefits of running a Mac is that you can enjoy the unique experience of having OS X and Windows on the same computer. In this feature we explain how to install and run Microsoft’s latest operating system on your Mac.

Boot Camp or virtual machine?

As with running any non-OS X operating system on your Mac, there are two ways to get Windows 10. Your first option is to install the OS on a separate partition of your hard drive using the built-in Boot Camp. Thus you can boot your OS X device directly into Windows 10, as if it was a Windows PC. Alternatively, you can run Windows as a virtual machine inside an OS X program.

In general, we recommend using Boot Camp to dual boot your Mac, since performance is better. However, while Windows 10 Technical Preview was in beta we strongly recommended using a virtual machine, and with the new Windows still in its early days, we still recommend that path.

Download Windows 10 disc image

Any Mac since 2012 should be able to run Windows 10. First back up your Mac. Next, download the Windows 10 Disc Image. To get this, go to and choose 64-bit download. The link will be valid for 24 hours. The installation file (ISO) will download into your Downloads folder. This part could take a few minutes.

Get Windows 10 for free

If you are installing the operating system for the first time, you will need a Windows product key (xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxxxxxxx). For more information about product keys and when they are required, visit Microsoft’s FAQ page at Windows 10 is free for most users, though you may have to pay if your version of Windows is older than 7. In that case a copy will cost between US$100 and US$150 depending on it version - Home or Pro .

Using Boot Camp

Before you can begin, you’ll need a USB drive with at least 16GB of free space to add the Windows 10 installer and the necessary Boot Camp files. Your Mac will also need at least 30GB of free drive space for the Windows partition. Boot Camp will take the Windows ISO file and create a boot disk that can be used to install Windows on your Mac.

Once you have downloaded the Windows 10 ISO, open the Boot Camp assistant. Tick the following boxes: Create a Windows 7 10 or later version install disk; and Install Windows 10. Insert the USB drive and select the Windows 10 .iso file via the Boot Camp Assistant. Boot Camp will copy the Windows 10 iso and all the Boot Camp drivers needed to run Microsoft’s operating system to the USB stick. After some time your USB drive will become a Windows 10 boot disk.

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The next step is crucial: you need to partition your hard drive. This means choosing how much storage to give to Windows 10, and take away from OS X. The recommended minimum is 20GB, but 30GB or more is better. Windows 10 the OS itself will take up a lot of space. Hand over as much as you can afford.

Once you have set the required space, click Install. Windows 10 will start to install. As this is happening you will see Windows restart a few times. Things are working well if after a while you hit the ‘We’re getting our apps ready’ screen. Don’t worry if this is onscreen for 15 minutes or so. Once the process is finished your Mac will reboot. It should reboot into Windows 10 so you can see the Windows set up screen, but it isn’t a problem if it reboots to OS X. Regardless, whenever you reboot, if you hold the Alt key you’ll see a menu from which you can select which operating system to launch.

Next, enter your product key and select your Windows Boot Camp partition to install Window on. Follow the installation process. Once installed the Mac will boot into Windows 10. Finally, you’ll need to install the Boot Camp drivers that are on the USB stick. Locate them and run setup.exe to install them. You’ll now have Windows 10 on your Mac.

Virtual Machine

Your second option, and the one we recommend since its still early days for Windows 10 is to use a virtual machine. The first step is to get your hands on a virtualization product. Luckily that part doesn’t have to cost you anything. VirtualBox is a free download from Virtual Box. Opt for the latest edition by clicking the ‘amd64’ link beside VirtualBox 5.0 for OS X Hosts in the VirtualBox binaries section at the top of the page. Once the disk image has downloaded, locate it on your Mac, mount it and double-click the VirtualBox. pkg file to install the program.

You’ll need 175MB of free space on your computer to accommodate it, in addition to the space required by Windows (up to 32GB). When the installation completes, launch VirtualBox from your Applications folder.

Download your copy of Windows 10 from and put it somewhere convenient, so you can access it from within the VirtualBox installer. We used the pre-release beta edition, but the process will be the same with the shipping code.

Click the New button on the VirtualBox toolbar and give your new virtual machine a name and select the operating system you’re installing from the Version dropdown menu. Click Continue.

When Windows is up and running it will behave like a separate computer from the rest of your Mac, which will continue to run OS X. To do this it needs to ‘borrow’ resources from your Mac, which your Mac won’t be able to touch while the virtual machine is running. The most important of these is memory.

VirtualBox suggests 2GB (2048MB) on our machine (a Mac mini with 16GB RAM), but we’re going to increase this to 4GB (4096MB) to give Windows some room to breathe. If you want to do the same, use the slider and then click Continue.

When you set up a virtual machine, not only the operating system but also the applications running on it and the files created and edited in it are stored in a bundle, which your Mac will see as a virtual hard drive. This is convenient as it means you won’t get your Windows and OS X assets mixed up, but it also means that you’ll put a large chunk of your disk out of reach of OS X. For this reason we’re going to stick with VirtualBox’s conservative recommendation of a 32GB virtual disk for Windows.

When you click Continue you’ll be asked what kind of drive you want to create. Stick with VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image) unless you’re going to use this installation of Windows with a different virtualization application, such as Parallels Desktop.

VirtualBox can either take away the 32GB immediately or take it piecemeal as and when required by increasing the size of the Windows drive over time as your files and range of installed apps grows.

It makes sense to opt for the latter, so unless you have any particular reason for giving up the full amount right away, leave the storage option set to Dynamically allocated and click Continue. You’ve now created your new virtual machine – all you need to do now is install Windows on it. VirtualBox now shows you a summary of the composition of your virtual machine, and allows you to switch between different virtualised environments in the sidebar if you have set up more than one. Click Start to begin the Windows installation process.

We’ve stored our installation download on an SD card in the slot on the back of our Mac mini. We need to tell VirtualBox where this is, so we click the folder icon on the screen that popped up when we clicked Start and select the ISO file on the card. Clicking Open returns us to the setup screen where we click Start to open the disk image and use it as the installation media.

Once you’ve selected your language, the installer needs to know whether you’re upgrading an old version or opting for a Custom install. Pick Custom, as you’re setting up a brand new virtual machine and then, on the following screen, make sure Drive 0 is selected as the installation drive.

The virtual machine will reboot a couple of times during the installation before asking you to set up your preferences. You can opt for Express Settings, which accepts all of Microsoft’s defaults, including automatically installing updates when they become available.

If you don’t want to do this, click the Customise button and tweak the settings by hand. Next, you need to tell Windows whether the machine belongs to yourself or your organisation. Only you know the right answer here, but if you’re a home or small business user, the chances are the second option is the most appropriate. Click Next, then enter your Microsoft account details to log in. If you don’t have an account, click Create one.

The final two steps ask if you’d rather use a PIN that in place of a password, and whether you want to store your files on OneDrive or the local virtual machine. When you’ve decided what you want to do in each instance, Windows reboots one last time before presenting your with the desktop. You’re now ready to use the OS on your Mac.

By Matt Egan and Nik Rawlinson

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