How to install Windows 8 on a Mac

how to install windows 8 on a mac

Though Windows 8 has received mixed reviews, it remains Microsoft’s latest operating system. If you own a Mac, and you want to use Windows, purchasing Windows 8 is likely the best option.

Unfortunately, it’s also a bit harder to install that than Windows 7. Changes to the way Microsoft sells its new operating system, along with a lack of support from the current version of Boot Camp, makes installation slightly more harrowing. But don’t worry; the steps are still doable for even the newest Mac owner.

Before you begin

windows8boxes

Windows 8 is the first version of Microsoft’s operating system to lack a retail copy. Want to walk down to the local electronics store and buy a fresh install? Too bad! You’ll find none on their shelves. You’ll only be able to purchase upgrade versions, and, since those require you have a previous Windows installation, they won’t work with Boot Camp.

The upgrade version will work if you’ve already installed Windows on your Mac with a valid key. Owners who have Windows 7 can follow the steps in this guide, install that version of Windows, and then install Windows 8 Upgrade.

Since the retail version is gone, you’ll instead have to buy an OEM copy. This isn’t carried by most brick-and-mortar retailers, but speciality computer retailers might have it. You can also find it at online stores like Amazon and Newegg. A regular copy of Windows 8 OEM is $99 and Windows 8 Pro OEM is $139.

You’ll also need to make sure your Mac has OS X Mountain Lion (so you have the latest version of Boot Camp) and at least 20GB of empty hard disk space. Free space is needed because Windows 8 will be installed on a partition of your Mac’s hard drive reserved specifically for it. That partition will also be used to store any software you install while using Windows 8.

Create a bootable USB drive (for Macs with no optical drive)

Owning a Windows 8 disk isn’t helpful if your Mac doesn’t have an optical drive. To make matters worse, Microsoft doesn’t offer an online install of Windows 8 OEM. You’ll need to use an alternative method of installation.

The easiest solution is to use an external optical drive that connects to your Mac via USB. These are not hard to find, but they’re also not free. Expect to pay $25 to $50 if you buy from an online retailer, or $79 if you buy Apple’s own version. If you decide to purchase an external optical drive, skip to the next step.

appleopticaldrive

Still reading? Okay. To skip the use of an optical drive entirely, you’ll need a USB drive with at least 4GB of space and access to a Windows PC that does have an optical drive.

Download and install Imgburn to that computer, insert your Windows 8 install disk (but don’t run the installer), and then run ImgBurn. Select “Create Image from Disc,” select the optical drive (if not already chosen), set a destination, and then click the icon at the bottom. This will create a .ISO file from the Windows 8 install disc.

windows7dvd-usb

Now that you have the .ISO file, you need to put that file on a USB drive. To do this, download the Windows 7 USB/DVD tool from Microsoft’s website. Despite the name, it works with Windows 8 as well. Install the utility, open it, and select “USB Device” at the second step. Connect a USB flash drive, select it in the utility, and then continue with the wizard. After a few minutes, you’ll have a bootable installation drive.

If you don’t want to use Windows 7 USB/DVD tool, or you have trouble with it, Unetbootin works as well. Though primarily used for Linux, Unetbootin supports creation of bootable Windows drivers. You simply need to select the Windows .ISO manually, instead of from the drop-down list of Linux distros.

Begin Boot Camp

Open Boot Camp through a Finder search for “boot camp” or by opening Launchpad and then the Other folder. You’ll come to an introduction screen that provides information and suggests a backup of important information before you install Windows (always a good idea). Click the Continue button.

windows8onmac1

You’ll see several options in the next screen. De-select “Create a Windows 7 or later version install disk” because you already have an install disc or a bootable USB drive. Leave the other two options selected, and then click Continue again.

Now you’ll have a choice of where to play the support software files. These drivers help your make communication with Windows, an operating system it wasn’t designed for. You can send these drivers to a CD/DVD or to a USB drive – your choice. Don’t place them on the same USB drive that contains your Windows .ISO, though.

windows8onmac2

Check that you have a network connection, then click Continue once more. The support drivers will now download. This processor can take some time, so go make a sandwich, do some push-ups, and water the flowers.

Once the support drivers have finished, the next step is to create a partition. Boot Camp will give Windows only 20GB of space by default, which is enough to do an install and not much else. We suggest increasing that number by dragging the bar between the Mac OS X and Windows 8 partitions. Click the Install button once you’re satisfied with the space reserved for Windows.

windows8onmac4

After partitioning is complete, which should only take a few minutes, restart the Mac and insert your Windows install disc or the bootable USB drive you created earlier. The system will automatically try to boot from your Windows 8 installation media. If you receive a “No boot drive found” error message, try restarting again but this time hold down the Option key while doing so. This brings up the boot manager which will display three partitions: one for OS X, one for OS X recovery, and one for Windows. Select the Windows option to proceed with installation.

Install Windows 8

windows8installscreen

Now you’re in the Windows 8 installation wizard. Follow the on-screen instructions and you’ll come to a screen that asks which partition you want to install Windows on. Select the one labeled BOOTCAMP. You will also need to format this partition to NTFS (the Windows file system) before installation can proceed.

And that’s it. There are more steps, but they aren’t different from installing Windows 8 on any other laptop, and the wizard will explain what you need to do (create a user account, for example). You’ll have Windows 8 on your Mac within half an hour.

After installation is complete, your final task is to install the Windows support drivers. Insert the disc or USB drive you placed them on and open setup.exe in the WindowsSupport folder. Follow the installation wizard and you’ll be done.

Wrapping up Windows 8

windows8onmacheader

You’ve now installed Windows 8 on your Mac. There are, however, two more things you should know about how to operate the new OS.

To switch between Mac OS X and Windows 8 you must restart the system. Hold down the option key as soon as it begins to boot. This will bring you to the boot manager. Now you can select either OS X, the recovery partition, or Windows 8.

Also, you may notice features that don’t work properly when in Windows. At the time of this writing, Apple does not support Windows 8, so the support drivers you download are for Windows 7. In addition, the drivers for Windows are basic even when fully supported, so don’t expect your experience to take complete advantage of your Mac’s hardware.

Computing

It took Dell years to fix 1 problem on its best laptop. Here’s how it did it

The new Dell XPS 13 moves the webcam from the below the screen to the top, finally vanquishing the one obstacle facing thin, sleek laptop displays. We have the exclusive story on how it was done.
Mobile

iPhone 8 vs. iPhone 7: Is it time to upgrade your device?

We take a closer look at Apple's iPhone 8 to see how it measures up against the iPhone 7. Is there enough going on to justify an upgrade? Which of these iPhones would suit you best? Find out in our comparison.
Computing

Open RAR files with the greatest of ease using these awesome applications

Few things are more bothersome than not being able to open a file when you need it most. Check out our quick guide about how to open RAR files in Windows and MacOS. We will walk you through the process, step by step.
Computing

Zipping files on a Chromebook? Follow these four easy steps

Chromebooks support file compression, though they work a little differently than on Windows or Mac. Here's the step-by-step process to zipping files on a Chromebook, and then unzipping them again for extraction.
Computing

Microsoft leans on A.I. to resume safe delivery of Windows 10 Update

Microsoft is leaning on artificial intelligence as it resumes the automatic rollout of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. You should start seeing the update soon now that Microsoft has resolved problems with the initial software.
Product Review

The Digital Storm Aventum X is an unstoppable gaming PC. Trust us, we tried

Packed with dual-Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti graphics card and a 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, the Aventum X is an infinitely upgradeable gaming PC that’s capable of far more performance than you’ll ever need.
Computing

‘Flexgate’ is the latest controversy plaguing some MacBook Pro owners

iFixit recently uncovered a new "Flexgate" issue with MacBook Pros after some consumers reported a "stage light" effect, where the backlighting on the device would fail and cause the bottom of the display to become slightly distorted.
Computing

Breeze through security with these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags

Getting through airport security is a drag, but your laptop bag shouldn’t be. Thankfully, these checkpoint-friendly laptop bags will get you and your gear to your destination with ease.
Computing

Ditch the backdrop from your photos with these handy tools

Need to know how to remove the background from an image? Here's how, whether you prefer to use a premium program like Photoshop or one of the many web-based alternatives currently in existence.
Computing

Think someone's leeching off your Wi-Fi connection? Here's how to find out

It's important to find out immediately if anyone is stealing your bandwidth. Here's how to tell if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi using a few simple tools, along with some suggestions on improving security.
Web

Google Chrome’s latest decision could prevent most ad-blockers from functioning

Google Chrome's newest change is cited as a step forward for speed and security, but could profoundly alter how the majority of ad-blocking extensions operate. The move potentially gives Google more control over which ads can be blocked.
Computing

Samsung permits peek at an eye-popping, 15-inch 4K OLED laptop display

Samsung is now preparing for the new OLED laptop trend and is providing a look at an eye-popping 15.6-inch 4K OLED panel that is expected to power larger premium laptops in the new year.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Computing

Latest ransomware targets gamers with a malicious sophistication

The latest piece of ransomware, Anatova, has been discovered by the security team at McAfee. Employing a smart tactic to confuse users and able to clean its tracks as it evolves, this is one tough piece of ransomware.