Run Windows 10 Natively On Your Mac: The Good, Bad & Ugly
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While Mac OS X works well for most tasks, there are times when it just can’t do what you want it to; usually that’s some application or game that just isn’t supported natively. More often than not, this means running Windows on your Mac 4 Ways To Get Windows On Your Mac 4 Ways To Get Windows On Your Mac Want Windows 8 running on your Mac, but don't know where to start? Let us show you how. Read More .

You can often get away with running Windows in a Virtual Machine using Parallels or VirtualBox, but sometimes that won’t cut it. Maybe you’re using a peripheral that doesn’t play nice with virtualisation (like some printers) or you want to squeeze as much performance as possible from a game.

Maybe you really like Apple’s hardware, but can’t stand OS X. In either case, you want to boot Windows 10 on your Mac.

Consider Virtualization

If you just need to get Windows 10 up and running to use a particular application once in a while, you can save a lot of hassle by just running Windows 10 in a virtual machine inside OS X using virtualization software like Parallels, VMWare Fusion or VirtualBox How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide With VirtualBox you can easily install and test multiple operating systems. We'll show you how to set up Windows 10 and Ubuntu Linux as a virtual machine. Read More .

There are a number of advantages to going down the virtualization route. You don’t need to partition your hard drive and potentially waste space – your Windows installation will only take up as much space as it needs. Installation is a lot faster and more straightforward, and you don’t need to worry about downloading and installing drivers.

The main downside, of course, is that by using this method you’re running multiple operating systems at the same time, so it’s by no means efficient. You’ll need to make sure that your Mac has enough RAM to handle both OS X and Windows, and battery life will take a significant hit while the VM is running.

This is also definitely not the solution if you’re wanting to do anything particularly graphics intensive. While virtualization software has made great strides in the last few years in making the graphics card more accessible to virtual machines, performance is still nowhere near what you’ll get running Windows natively.

Booting Directly Into Windows

If virtualization isn’t an option for you, you’ll want to boot directly into Windows. This means partitioning your hard drive so that it’s shared between OS X and Windows (unless you plan to only run Windows) and then using the Boot Camp Utility in OS X to create a bootable USB drive containing the Windows installer and Apple’s Boot Camp drivers.

Boot Camp

The Boot Camp Assistant is Apple’s utility for running Windows natively on your Mac (meaning that you shut down OS X and boot into Windows). It makes it easy to partition your drive, download the drivers that you need and create a bootable USB drive using an ISO file (if you bought Windows 10 from a retail store, you’ll probably be better off just using the DVD or USB drive that came with it).

This guide assumes that you’ve bought Windows from Microsoft’s online store and that you’ve got an ISO file from them. You can download Windows 10 directly from Microsoft here.

When you start up Boot Camp Assistant (found in /Applications/Utilities/), you’ll be given the option to create a bootable install disk using a USB drive and download the latest Boot Camp drivers. To do either you will need a USB drive plugged in (at least 8GB if you want to create a Windows installation drive). If you choose both options, the Assistant will automatically copy the drivers to the install disk. If you’re planning on just downloading the drivers, you may wish to just download them directly from the Apple support website (see the Running Windows Only section below).boot-camp-assistant

To use the BootCamp Assistant for prepping your Mac to install Windows, you’ll need at least 50GB free on your hard drive and also check the “Install or remove Windows 7 or later version” option. The Assistant will give you a slider allowing you to choose how much space you want to allocate to Windows. It’ll then shrink your OS X partition accordingly and create a new partition ready for the Windows installation.

Once you’ve created the installer and partitioned your hard drive, you can restart your Mac and boot using the USB drive you just created. The Boot Camp Assistant should do this for you automatically, but you can also select the USB drive from the boot menu by holding down the Option key as your Mac boots.

To install Windows, you’ll need to do a “custom install” rather than an upgrade, and you’ll need to format the partition created by the Boot Camp Assistant. Then sit back, relax, and grab yourself a beverage as Windows completes the installation process.

Once you’ve finished fighting your way through the initial setup process and got to the desktop, it’s time to install the Boot Camp drivers. Open a File Explorer window and go to the USB drive that you set up with the Boot Camp Assistant and find the Boot Camp folder. Now it’s just a case of running setup.exe — it’ll install everything for you.

Once that’s done, everything should work — it includes drivers for graphics card, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, audio, webcam, keyboard (including backlighting and the media keys) and the trackpad.

Boot Camp Performance

If the main reason you want to run Windows 10 in Boot Camp is for performance, you probably want to know what to expect.

First up, the good news – if you’re heading to Windows for gaming A Detailed Look At The State Of Gaming On The Mac in 2014 A Detailed Look At The State Of Gaming On The Mac in 2014 Can players finally ditch Windows completely and use a Mac for work and play? Read More , you’ll probably get good graphics performance out of your Mac (as long as you have a dedicated graphics card). That’s because, generally speaking, a lot of games are written for Windows first and will often use Direct X (a Microsoft technology); the same games in OS X will have to make do with a different technology, OpenGL, which is cross-platform and well supported but generally less efficient resulting in lower performance.

Now, the not so good news. You know how your Mac gets incredible battery life and has an amazing trackpad? They’re both so good because they’re optimized for use with OS X, which is tailored to work perfectly with a very specific set of hardware and is heavily optimised because of it. Windows, designed to run on lots of different hardware, is nowhere near as optimised, and it shows. You’ll most likely lose a few hours battery life running Windows — with some reports of a 50% reduction in battery life. Your mileage may vary, but it definitely doesn’t stand up to OS X.

Unfortunately, the trackpad doesn’t behave so well in Windows, either. While you can set up tap to click and two finger right clicking, it just doesn’t feel as nice as it does in OS X.

Extra Drivers

If you’re wanting to play games you’ll probably want to go and find the latest drivers for the particular graphics card in your Mac from either AMD or NVIDIA. These can increase the performance of your graphics card even further, but beware: they may break functionality like the ability to change the brightness of your display.

The Boot Camp drivers work well enough, though power management and trackpad functionality are definitely nowhere near as good as they are in OS X. Thankfully, better options are available which bring them a lot closer… if you’re willing to pay for them.

power-plan-assistant

Power Plan Assistant helps to eke out a bit more battery life by giving you much greater customisation over power saving mechanisms, such as how quickly your monitor should dim and turn off. It lets you have multiple profiles (for different battery percentage ranges, or when you’re charging), and also provides quick access to toggling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on or off — which usually requires diving into your network/Bluetooth settings.

trackpad-plus-plus-control-panel

Trackpad++ (which requires Power Plan Assistant to be installed) gives you back the extra trackpad functionality from OS X that you lost in Boot Camp. Yes, the settings window is super cluttered and confusing, but you can tweak pretty much anything from scrolling sensitivity to extra gestures (like pinch to zoom), and even configure things like trackpad rejection when you’re typing.

Both of these applications are free to install, but require a reinstall with every version release unless you have a serial number (which you can only get with a $17 “donation” to the developer).

Running Windows Only

You may decide that you’re done with OS X 7 Tips for Switching from Mac to Windows 7 Tips for Switching from Mac to Windows You'll be surprised to see how much Windows has to offer. Transition smoothly from Mac to Windows with our advice. Read More and that you only want to run Windows on your Mac. In this case, you’ll probably still want to use the Boot Camp utility to download the Boot Camp drivers, although you won’t need to use its partitioning tool to resize your hard drive as you’re planning on wiping it anyway.

In case it wasn’t obvious, if you’re planning on installing Windows on the Mac by itself, you’ll be wiping your hard drive, so you’ll want to make sure that all of your files are saved elsewhere (you should already your files saved elsewhere because they’re already backed up, right?). Bear in mind that if you’re relying on getting your files from a backup, Time Machine won’t work because Windows has no way of accessing Time Machine (though being able to read Mac filesystems definitely helps 4 Ways to Read a Mac Formatted Drive in Windows 4 Ways to Read a Mac Formatted Drive in Windows The Mac drive you are trying to read on Windows may not be broken! Some Mac drives are formatted with HFS+, a file system Windows can't read unless you use the right tools. Read More ). The best way to make sure is to just copy all of the files you want onto another hard drive so you’re definitely sure you have everything you need.

If you’ve already wiped your hard drive and installed Windows only to realise that you didn’t download the Boot Camp drivers using the utility, fear not; you can download them directly from the Apple website. Older Macs (pre 2013) need Boot Camp 5.1.5621, whereas newer Macs (from 2013 on) need Boot Camp 5.1.5640.

Besides that, installation is the same as for Boot Camp. Just use the partition selector under Windows installation to delete any current partitions before formatting for Windows, and you’ll still want to install the Boot Camp drivers (and any other 3rd party drivers mentioned above).

On EFI vs BIOS

Traditionally, computers have used a Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) to compile a system report listing the hardware that the computer has available to it. This includes the CPU model and its specifications, the amount of RAM installed, any storage devices (like any hard drives installed via IDE or SATA) and other devices (optical drives, graphics cards, sound cards, or any other expansion card). This report is then passed on to the operating system so that it knows what it’s working with.

Macs don’t use a BIOS, but rather use a system called the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI). It performs much the same functions as a BIOS, but allows extra features (such as support for a graphical user interface and built in support for booting over a network).

For older versions of Windows that only supported booting with a BIOS, a compatibility support module (CSM) translates the information from the EFI to a virtual BIOS which is then provided to the operating system to allow it to boot.

Microsoft started providing support for EFI booting from Windows 8 onwards. Booting from EFI results in much faster boot times, is by default much more secure (protecting you from malware hijacking your computer or running outside of what can be detected and fixed by antivirus software) and allows you to boot from devices larger than 2TB. Windows 10, like Windows 8, supports booting from either a BIOS or the EFI.

Unfortunately, driver support can be a bit hit and miss when booting Windows in EFI mode. For example, the Mid–2012 13-inch MacBook Pro will happily boot into Windows 10 in EFI mode, but for whatever reason Windows 10 will absolutely refuse to recognise the sound card.

Whether you should boot via an EFI or BIOS comes down to whether your particular Mac is fully supported by Windows in EFI mode, and requires a bit of research. Booting in EFI mode is generally much faster, but you run the risk of something not being properly supported; this may or may not be a deal breaker based on your own personal requirements.

While BIOS mode is slower and will one day be phased out, that day is not today. It’s the method officially supported by Apple and its Boot Camp drivers, so if reliability, compatibility and ease of setup is your biggest priority, BIOS mode is still the way to go.

Windows Works Well… Mostly

If you need to run the odd Windows application on your Mac, you should definitely consider running a virtual machine 4 Ways To Get Windows On Your Mac 4 Ways To Get Windows On Your Mac Want Windows 8 running on your Mac, but don't know where to start? Let us show you how. Read More . For most users it should be more than sufficient, and is generally much easier to set up and transition to and from OS X.

However, sometimes you really do just need to run Windows natively, whether it’s for gaming or you just can’t stand OS X any longer. Boot Camp makes this much easier to set up, too. With drivers that all install together, you’ll be up and running in no time.

You’ll have better graphics performance at the expense of battery life and trackpad usability, but sometimes a Mac’s gotta do what a Mac’s gotta do.

Do you use Boot Camp? Have you given up OS X altogether on your Mac? Has it been successful or frustrating? Let us know in a comment below!

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  1. Neil
    September 29, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    Got fed up when Apple said the latest version of OSX wouldn't run on my older IMac so decided to try windows 10 install was easy and bootcamp installed all the drivers apart from sound which I had to do manually other than that runs perfect and is far faster than OSX so well pleased with the change from OSX to Windows 10

  2. Jay
    September 22, 2017 at 4:11 am

    I just wanted to take the 20 seconds to say this article was well-written while being informative.

    "Maybe you really like Apple’s hardware, but can’t stand OS X."

    This in particular speaks to me.

  3. Monte
    July 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    I am running win10 in bootcamp on my mac. In actuality, it performs better than most PCs running windows 10 except for annoying network items.
    The firewire to ETH cable wont work on the Win side.
    Various connectivity issues arise even when I use wireless. .Net apps have issues, and connectivity is not as good as when on the Mac partition using the same wifi.
    It is super frustrating. I have tried updating the bootcamp drivers and all that, as well as updating the drivers in the win 10 side. Nothing resolves it.
    Think Im going to move to VMware Workstation to run Windows to see if its any better.

  4. Mitch
    April 30, 2017 at 1:28 am

    Beware! As Roy said, the trackpad performance is 'not as nice' under Windows Bootcamp, it's very smooth under Windows Virtualbox (100% open source free). Also, with Virtualbox you don't need to 'update' as much since Windows runs as a virtual machine. Plus you can save and restore multiple snapshots in seconds with Virtualbox (so you can run trial software, erase a virus, etc., and do it all again).

  5. Zer0head
    April 8, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    perhaps i missed it in the original article however there is one last step that must be performed post native windows install which is to run the 'Boot Camp Installer' - for me, the installer had already launched and was waiting for me to acknowledge and 'next / next' through it. For me this was a critical 'last mile' step as I had bangs in Device Manager for several devices, among them the wireless network card. Post BC install and reboot all is well and DevMgr is happy - all drivers loaded and all hardware functioning as expected. Don't forget to enable BitLocker, turn the firewall feature on, load up an AV client, and in general sanitize the W10 install to your liking.

    Thank you for the write up, much appreciated - saved me a lot of time. Macbook Pro w/Retina 15" - lightening fast boot and a beautiful display....

    On to running OSX in a VM now....
    ~ ZH

    • John
      May 2, 2017 at 1:38 am

      Hi

      I gather that you recommend Bootcamp ... sounds like you've had success.

      I have a Macbook Pro Retina 15". It is a mid 2012 model. What year is yours?
      Do you have any good links to a "How to" for the process? I'm currently running latest OS with Parallels and it is highly problematic ... Win10 updates seem to regularly bring incompatibility issues with Parallels and I waste a lot of time with their support process which is diabolically clunky.
      Does your trackpad work well? Keyboard?

      Hope you can help.

      Thanks

  6. Hector Silva
    October 26, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks for your guide, im switching my macbook to Windows 10 because of MS office 2016, but for MSoffice- i miss too much outlook (with the integration of the ms word to use tables) and a lot of tools in excel (formula step by step evaluation does not exist in mac version and a lot of VBA tools...) and sadly, i have to use this software most of the day, and a virtual machine with unity (is what im running right now)... just does not cut it...
    do you know where i can get the compatibility details for a Macbook mid-2012 (13-inch)?

    • John
      May 2, 2017 at 1:40 am

      Hello Hector
      Did you find any info re compatibility for your Macbook? I have the 15" model.
      Cheers, John

      • Hector Silva
        May 2, 2017 at 11:26 am

        Hi John.

        actually, yes,i found it... for EFI sound was missing (i remember having other issues, although, i cannot recall it right now.... so, i tried BIOS installation, it was ok, for the most part, but the trackpad was so bad.... even with the third party software i had to re caliber a couple of times a day.... i just got tired and ended selling the mac, i though in buying a new MAC, but when i checked that you cannot install more RAM in the new models,because is soldered i just got angry and got a Dell machine, it was a very good change, sometimes i miss the OS (everytime i need to SSH my server), But thats the thing, i miss it , but i dont need it (i got plenty of alternatives to compensate the things i miss)... its sad though...the MAC has not changed much since SJ died, and the differences are not advantages anymore, they just get in the way.

        • John
          May 2, 2017 at 2:52 pm

          thanks for your reply Hector.

          Which Dell did you end up getting? The XPS models get good reviews I see.

      • Hector Silva
        May 2, 2017 at 3:48 pm

        Hi john

        I got an inspiron 15' (7559). Very good machine and I expanded it to 16GB Ram and a 512 GB SSD. Using it with win 10 as main OS. I don't regret it. (first time I have a good graphic card in a laptop)