A Quick Guide to Running Windows on a Mac - Part 1
Part 1: Boot Camp vs Virtualisation, Installing Boot Camp
If you want or need the features that Windows offers, without buying a PC, then you'll be pleased to know that you can run Windows on a Mac reasonably easily. There are two ways to do this: first, you can use a free app built into OSX called Boot Camp, which will allow you to run your entire machine as a Windows computer; second, you can create what's called a 'virtual machine' on your Mac and run both OSX and Windows side by side. Either way, you'll need to buy a licence for Windows.
Boot Camp or Virtualisation?
Both approaches have their pros and cons, so the first decision to make is which of the two approaches is best for you - and that will depend on your reason for using Windows.
- It's free.
- It's pretty straightforward to set up.
- You don't need a very powerful Mac - and you'll get the most from your hardware.
- You have to (re)start your machine every time you want Windows.
- Your machine will have all the susceptibility of a PC to malware and viruses when running Windows.
- Backups are not straightforward.
- You might have hard disk problems (although there are well-documented fixes to these).
- Access Windows alongside OSX whenever you want.
- Easier to backup and restore.
- Integration possibilities (for example, shared files).
- Unless you have a powerful Mac, you'll probably notice performance issues.
- Not suitable for any graphic intensive applications - most notably, games.
Installing Boot Camp
Before you start
You'll need Windows installation software, whether that's a DVD or a download. Have the installation software to hand, plus a USB hard disk (or memory stick), and use Boot Camp to walk you through the process of creating a 'boot drive'. You'll need a second USB drive or stick to store the OSX Windows installation drivers.
Turn on your Mac, then navigate to 'Applications > Utilities > Boot Camp Assistant'. Get through the introduction and you'll then be given links to the latest Windows drivers; save these to your spare USB drive.
Now you will be asked to decide how much space to give Windows. At time of writing, Windows 8.1 64bit will require 20Gb, but we don't recommend going ahead unless you can allocate at least 40Gb. If you'll be using Windows and OSX equally then there is an option to divide the hard drive in half. Once you've decided the partition size, click 'Partition'; you'll then have a new Bootcamp drive icon on your desktop.
Restart & Install
Your Mac will then restart to the Windows installation drive, which will ask where you want to install Windows. Select 'Bootcamp', then 'Drive Options > Format > OK' (don't worry about a message warning about lost files as there are none to lose in a new partition). Then wait for Windows to install and for your Mac to reboot again and walk you through the process of configuring Windows.
The next time you start your Mac, hold down the Option key and you can choose Windows or OSX.
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