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!

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