How To Run Windows On Killer Mac Hardware

Windows is a great operating system, but PC laptops often leave a lot to be desired. If you're a Mac owner (or you're just in love with Mac hardware), you can install Windows natively on your computer in just a few steps. Here's how.

Why Install Windows?

It's no secret I'm a big Windows fan, but I've always been disappointed with PC hardware that I didn't build myself. When it comes to laptops, everything seems to have something wrong with it. The trackpad is a pain to use, the keyboard feels cheep, or the things are just too darn big (though the ultrabook movement is starting to solve the size problem). So, after selling my old MacBook Pro, I ended up buying a MacBook Air, running Windows on it 99 per cent of the time, and I've never been happier.

Obviously, everyone's needs are different. Maybe you still need a few Windows programs, or maybe you just aren't a huge fan of OS X (but you love Mac hardware). Whatever your needs, installing Windows on a Mac is dead simple, even if you don't have a CD drive. All you need is a copy of Windows and the Boot Camp program that comes preinstalled on OS X.

Note: If you hate Apple and feel like ranting to me about the so-called "Apple Tax" (why are you even reading this?), please do it somewhere else. Believe it or not, some of us don't love OS X, but find Apple's hardware phenomenal, and are willing to pay a bit extra for it, especially considering you'll be using this computer regularly for a few years. Plus, if you buy refurbished, you can probably get a pretty good deal. So please don't rant about this in the comments. Please keep the discussion focused on Boot Camp.

Step One: Create Your Bootable Windows Thumb Drive (Optional)

If you have a Windows disc and a computer with a CD drive, you can skip this step. If you have a MacBook Air (or you bought Windows as a digital download), you'll need to put the installer on a thumb drive before you can continue. Luckily, Boot Camp has this feature built-in in OS X Lion. To do this:

  1. Insert your flash drive into your computer and find your Windows ISO image. If you don't have a Windows ISO (i.e. if you have Windows on a physical CD), this would be a good time to create an ISO with Disk Utility — though you'll need a Mac with a CD drive to do so. Also note that you'll need a flash drive with at least 8GB of space — even if your ISO is only 3GB in size (probably because it doesn't take into account discs that are only upgrades).
  2. Run the Boot Camp Assistant (from /Applications/Utilities) and click continue.
  3. Check the "Create a Windows 7 Install Disk" and "Download the Latest Windows Support Software from Apple" boxes and click continue. This will create a Windows installation thumb drive, along with all the drivers you'll need for your Mac's hardware.
  4. On the next screen, choose your Windows ISO image from your computer and click continue. It will download and copy the necessary files. This step can take a while, and the progress bar can seem like it's stopped moving. Just leave it alone for a while and let it do it's thing — it'll get there eventually.
  5. When it's done, it will prompt you. Close the Boot Camp Assistant when you're done.

Step Two: Partition Your Hard Drive and Install Windows

Before installing Windows, you'll need to split your hard drive into two parts — one that houses OS X, and one that houses Windows. This is called partitioning, and won't delete any of your OS X data (though I'd back it up before continuing, just to be safe). The Boot Camp Assistant can make this process simple, so we'll use it to perform the required tasks. To do this, just:

  1. Open up Boot Camp Assistant (from /Applications/Utilities), check the "Install Windows 7" box, and click Continue.
  2. Next, choose how big you want your Windows partition to be. For Windows 7, Boot Camp requires at least 20GB, though if you plan on using Windows a lot, I'd make it much bigger (I chose to divide them equally). You won't be able to resize this later, so make sure you pick the right size now.
  3. With your Windows 7 thumb drive still in the computer, click the Install button. Boot camp will partition your disk, then reboot your computer. It might reboot a few times, but soon, you'll be greeted with the Windows 7 installation screen.
  4. Go through the installation as you normally would. When it asks you to choose a drive, choose the drive labelled BOOTCAMP, as this is the Windows partition we created in step two. Let Windows install, and when it's done (again, after rebooting a few times), you'll see the familiar Windows 7 desktop.

Step Three: Install Apple's Drivers

The last thing you need to do is install Apple's driver software to make sure your trackpad, keyboard, volume buttons, and more work as they should (since by default, they won't). To do this:

  1. Open up Windows Explorer and head to your Windows thumb drive. Open up the WindowsSupport folder and double-click on Setup.exe.
  2. The setup should take you through the process of installing all the drivers. It'll also ask you whether you want OS X or Windows to be your default operating system, so you can choose that here. If you ever want to boot into the other OS, just hold the Option key when you boot up your Mac — it'll give you the choice of booting into OS X or Windows.

That's all there is to it. You can now install all your favourite Windows programs, share your data between the two partitions, and even get your favourite Mac features in Windows. Enjoy!


Comments

    sorry. you lost me at "windows is a great operating system"

      Seriously! Then why bother even commenting?
      Windows 8 will eat anything Apple can throw at you. Only problem I have is that an up to date donor laptop will be exorbitantly priced!

        If you're so confident about W8, why did you feel the need to answer him? As for your assertion, who cares? I have to use and support Windows at work - haven't used it at home in almost 20 years. I don't have time for all the hassle.

          Pretty sure there is a large base of people out there that feel the same way I do about 8!

          Im forced to use a Mac at work. Such a rubbish OS. I usually have to force a reboot about once a day when everything comes creaking to a halt.

      and what might you suppose people choose? OSX, with its not-compatibiltity and lack of games, or linux with its..... it shouldnt really be considered at all, windows is far better

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    Last edited 28/03/14 4:43 pm

      1. What is WinBl0ws? I don't know that OS. Is it anything to do with Windows?

      2. What does this acronym you mention, 'MAC', stand for? Is it anything to do with Macs?

      3. What is wrong with you?

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        Last edited 28/03/14 4:42 pm

          How clever you are! What does the second 'O' in BIOOYA stand for?

            1. its called windows 7, the one before windows 8, and after vista
            2. the acronym MAC is actually a shortened version of mackintosh
            3. work on your grammar
            4. i dont know why people leap to the defense of osx, windows is much better, you may say, ' it has no viruses.' Or, ' its really stable.' but we all know we can shut down an Apple fan with the simple word 'games'

        I see you are easily confused by the vocabulary of 12 year old children in this modern age. Stress not though, I'm sure once this lad (or ladette) grows up a little they'll realise the necessity of using a real computer in order to get important tasks done.

      Two things,
      1. If you wanted to be taken seriously, you killed any chance of it by calling it WinBl0ws. People will never treat you seriously when you talk like a kid who just got banned from his favourite computer forum.
      2. It is correct that lifehacker is quite pro-hackintosh when it comes to desktops, and sometimes netbooks. It is also true however, that lifehacker usually recommends not hackintoshing a laptop. It is well known that many windows notebooks are quite sub-par, and that macbooks tend to be of better quality. That is all this article is talking about.

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        Last edited 28/03/14 4:43 pm

          And yet... Your original comment. Perhaps you need the chill pill 'mate'

    this might just sway me into a mac purchase. i always knew running windows on a macbook air was available to me, but to see installation broken down this easy might just be the difference maker. thanks for sharing!

    And then go for Parallels to seamlessly run Windows applications on OSX. I recommend setting up bootcamp first, then install Parallels to use the bootcamp installation of windows. Then you have the best of both worlds:
    virutalisation when you want to run OSX and one or two windows applications and
    bootcamp for the full windows experience and performance.

    I don't think a CD drive in any computer will help you read any recent Windows install disc, which are DVDs. Sure I'm nitpicking, but this IS a tech site...

    Can Windows supply Apple's more proprietory connector drivers?

      Bootcamp supplies them.

    I like Apple's hardware but I don't want a pretentious glowing Apple logo on my Ultrabook.

    Think I'll wait for a Lenovo Yoga.

    Apple do have some great hardware, but surely another way to do this is just to upgrade your PC hardware. Better graphics cards, SSD's, max out on RAM etc?

    can you then go and delete the OSx partion on the hard drive? macbook airs dont have that much storage and if you dont plan on using macOS....

    Or do you have to have MacOS for it to work properly?

    I've got windows running on my Macbook, and windows works great. It's just a pity the Apple hardware is crappy. Combined with subpar drivers, I would certainly not recommend people follow this path.

    all the power of mac hardware and the ease of use of windows...

    I created a windows7 partition on my macbook last weekend.
    deleted it a day later, was nothing but a waste of space.

    How about AMD support it's graphics card on my macbook pro when it runs W7... Seriously, it can't recognise it's own card.

    If anyone has any answers on how to actually update my graphics drivers... please comment!!!

    Step 1) Pay twice what the hardware is worth
    Step 2) Do a lot of f^%king around for no good reason

      bullshit... look at HP's new line of craptops and riptops priced to match Apple hardware giving everyone the sense that they are on par.

        youre completely right............... in the sense that hp's new line is nearly priced to match. exept they're better, do macbook pro's have a very sazzy core i7, 8gb ram 2.25 gb dedicated graphics, all for a very nice $1400 NZD?
        the awnser is no, what you get in a mac is style, but you dont want that in a computer, not really, you want specs

          Things have changed! Check out the MBA, it's cheaper than most ultrabooks here in AUS! CRAZY!!!! (And it has better specs)

    Nobody seems to be mentioning the extremely high cost of doing this.
    At a BARE minimum (bought legally) this will cost you something like AUD$1,500. That's a spicy meatball.

    wow, lol you kiddies are angry little Squirrel Bunnies!

    1. hardware and Software are tools and or toys, not things that 'define you''. Use what you get the most enjoyment out of or best suits.

    2. rEFIt

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