How to Run Microsoft Windows on an Apple Mac
Updated: Aug 6
I work with business and residential clients in Brisbane, Logan and the Redlands and I carry out all sorts of computer repairs and other computer services on both Windows PC's and Apple Mac's. I was recently working with a customer in Logan who wanted to install Parallels Desktop on a Mac. His intention was to run a flight simulator program which required the Microsoft Windows operating system. There may be occasions like this when you would want to run Microsoft Windows on an Apple Mac.
There are a couple of standard methods which can be used to get Windows running on a Mac, but these aren't the only options. In this post I’d like to look at four ways in which you can run Microsoft Windows 10 on an Apple Mac computer. If you find it a bit too technical don't worry, as I'm available to help or do it for you.
In order to implement any one of these methods you'll require a bootable Windows 10 installation flash drive. Full details of how to create one of these are available from Microsoft on their Windows 10 download page.
1. Parallels Desktop
Parallels Desktop 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 isn't free of charge. 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 actually installing a virtual machine (VM) on your Mac. This VM 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 other applications you may be using at the time.
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've 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. When complete, you run Windows simply by launching the Parallels Desktop app within your normal Mac environment.
2. Boot Camp
The Boot Camp option is built into the macOS and 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 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. Another way of choosing between the macOS and Windows operating systems is to select your boot disk at startup. To do this hold 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.
3. 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's effectively a manual version of Boot Camp.
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'll 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.
4. 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 got hold of a rather old iMac which wasn’t booting up. I had a number of macOS installers on flash drives but these were newer versions which 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.
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 the 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.
If you're somewhere in Brisbane, Logan City or the Redlands, and you need assistance with getting Windows running on your Mac, I'm here to help. I can advise you on the best way to go, and get it up and running for you. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you're located in any of the wide range of suburbs I cover.