How to install Windows 10 on a Mac

Boot Camp lets you run Windows 10 on your Mac. Here's how to use it

how to install Windows 10 on a Mac

Sometimes, you just need Windows. It’s not something that Apple would like to admit, and for the most part MacOS has done an admirable job of keeping up with its less stylish and more utilitarian cousin, but sometimes you just need access to a computer that runs Windows 10, whether that be to run a certain app or play your favorite game. Thankfully, as Apple used to say, “there’s an app for that.”

Apple’s custom-tailored solution is called Boot Camp, and it’s the easiest way to get Windows on your Mac without resorting to dark rituals and eldritch sorcery. So here’s how to install Windows 10 on a Mac with minimal fuss and danger.

Step 1: Confirm your Mac’s requirements

Before getting started, make sure your Mac has the available disk space and hardware necessary to handle the Windows install via Boot Camp. As well as that, make sure all the latest updates are completed before you begin.

First, the install requires an Intel-based Mac from 2012-2015 or later (see Apple’s support page for more info). If you’re running an old Mac, you’ll also need an empty external USB drive capable of holding up to 16GB of data (these are our favorites); if your Mac is from 2015 or later (or you’re using a 2013 Mac Pro), you won’t need a USB drive. You can connect the hard drive when preparing if it is not already connected.

Second, the Mac you intend to use for the install needs to have at least 64GB of free disk space on the startup drive (although Apple recommends having 128GB for “the best experience”). Most Mac devices from 2012 and later will work, but MacBooks from before 2015 are unlikely to have enough space. Apple provides a handy system requirements list for various Mac models which details the version of Boot Camp your system requires to complete a Windows install. Note that if you’re using an iMac Pro or Mac Pro with 128GB of memory (or more), your startup disk must have at least as much free space as your Mac has RAM.

Step 2: Buy a copy of Windows

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Windows 10 Microsoft

Luckily, acquiring Windows 10 has never been easier: just head over to the Windows Store. You can choose to purchase a digital copy, which you’ll need to download (and then download this tool to create a Windows 10 disk image), or you can purchase a Windows 10 flash drive which Microsoft will ship to you.

If given an option, always choose the ISO file, which should be available for download even if you bought a physical version of Windows 10: The flash drive option tends to be time-consuming and unnecessary, and should only be used if you have compatibility issues with a download.

Step 3: Open Boot Camp

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Now that you’ve got an install drive for Windows 10, it’s time to open the MacOS Boot Camp Assistant. To do this, simply click Go > Utilities in your Mac’s menu bar, then open Boot Camp Assistant from the list.

Once the app opens, an introductory screen offers information on the application and also suggests creating a backup of your data before continuing with the Windows install — we highly recommend doing this. Click Continue to advance to the next screen.

Now it’s time to start installing Windows. You will have to choose the location of the Windows ISO file — click Choose to find it. You should also decide what size the Windows partition should be on your Mac’s internal drive. Remember that it needs to be at least 64GB (although Apple recommends 128GB if you can spare that much). Choose wisely, as you won’t be able to change this after you’ve installed Windows, then click Install. Boot Camp Assistant now gets to work creating the Windows partition and downloading Windows support software.

Step 4: Format the Windows partition

After the drivers complete installing, the next step is to format the Boot Camp partition so that it can install Windows correctly. Once Boot Camp Assistant has finished creating the partition, it will ask for your administrator password, then restart your Mac and load up the Windows installer. Follow the steps in the installer, entering your product key and choosing the correct version of Windows to install.

Note that you may be prompted where to install Windows — select the BOOTCAMP partition, then click Format. However, Apple advises that in most cases, the correct partition will be selected and formatted automatically. You’ll also need to unplug any connected devices — external storage drives, monitors, etc — that aren’t necessary for the installation.

Step 5: Install Windows drivers and choose your startup disk

Startup Disk Preferences

When the Windows installer has finished, your Mac will load into Windows and the Boot Camp Assistant will open up. Click Next, then Install, and Boot Camp Assistant will begin downloading and installing the necessary Windows drivers. When it’s done, click Finish and your Mac will restart and load back into Windows.

You’ll want to make sure your copy of Windows is as up to date as possible, so click in the Windows 10 search bar and type Check for updates, then click the first result. In the Settings window that opens, click Check for updates and let it download and install them all. This will take a while, but is an important step.

If you want to load into MacOS by default and switch to Windows when you need it, restart your Mac, then immediately press and hold the Option key (labelled Alt on some Mac keyboards) until the Startup Manager screen appears. Here you can choose whether to load up MacOS or Windows (labelled as Boot Camp). Click on your partition of choice, then click the arrow underneath it or press Return.

On the other hand, if you would prefer to always load into Windows, head over to Startup Disk preferences (you can search for it using Spotlight or find it in System Preferences). Choose the startup disk housing Windows 10 so that from now on your Mac will start in Windows. Restart your computer entirely and it should open onto the Windows screen.

Touch Bar Support on Windows

If you’re installing Windows on a brand-new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, fear not, as you’ll still be able to get some functionality out of your OLED touch pad when running Windows. Once you boot into Windows your Touch Bar will retain some functionality, but not exactly the full range available in MacOS. The Touch Bar will still have support for all of your MacBook’s basic controls — brightness, volume, play and pause — and at the touch of a button it can switch over to a standard row of F keys.

It’s also worth noting many features may not work correctly while using the Windows partition. Apple supports Windows 10 but you’ll still notice a difference in performance. MacBook hardware is made for MacOS, so it doesn’t always get along with Windows 10, in particular your trackpad might be a little less responsive, and some Apple-specific hardware will cease to function entirely — like the TouchID sensor on the power button.

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