How To Try Out Windows 8 On Your MacBook Air

Simon Slangen 10-09-2012

try windows 8Windows 8 is coming out at the end of October, and although the opinions about it are divided (to say the least), it’s undeniable that Microsoft is making a major move with this latest iteration of its flagship operating system.


If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a user of Mac OS X, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be intrigued. If Windows 8 has captured your interest, why not take it for a test run? While the operating system hasn’t launched, you can download a free preview! Don’t forget to skim through our Windows 8 guide The Windows 8 Guide This Windows 8 guide outlines everything new about Windows 8, from the tablet-like start screen to the new "app" concept to the familiar desktop mode. Read More first!

Get your quick fix by installing Windows 8 in VirtualBox, like Justin Pot showed in his 2011 article Try Out Windows 8 In VirtualBox Right Now For Free Are you curious about Windows 8, the upcoming operating system from Microsoft? Try it out in a virtual machine, right now, for free. All you need to do is download the free ISO file and... Read More . But with the release just around the corner, the Windows 8 version you’ll find on Microsoft’s website has since matured to a release preview. In this article, I’ll show you how to install it on a separate partition on your MacBook Air.

1. Download The Windows 8 Release Preview

A release preview, in case you were wondering, shows the operating system as it’s intended to be released. A few bug fixes will likely be added, but the core functionality should remain the same. While the operating system hasn’t launched, you can download this release preview for free. However, you’ll have to buy a copy if you want to keep on using the operating system after it starts shipping.

First things first. You’ll need to download the Windows 8 Release Preview. You can choose between the 32- and 64-bit versions, and a good dozen different languages. Write down the serial code that’s listed below the respective download; you’ll need it in a bit.

2. Create a Bootable USB Stick with Boot Camp Assistant

You’ve probably noticed the lack of an optical drive in your MacBook Air. Don’t fret, we’ll create a bootable USB stick instead to replace the traditional install disk. You’ll need a sufficiently big USB stick (at least 4 GB). Back up all important content on your USB stick before you jump in, because it’ll be erased in the process.


Open Boot Camp Assistant from Applications -> Utilities -> Boot Camp Assistant.

try windows 8

In Boot Camp Assistant, tick off all three items. In order, these will create your USB install disk, download the Windows Boot Camp drivers, and start the installation when those two are finished. Notice that Windows 8 isn’t officially supported yet, but we can pass it off as an instance of Windows 7 in Boot Camp Assistant.

windows 8 on macbook air


Boot Camp Assistant will ask you to select your USB flash drive — it should show up automatically — and the ISO file of Windows 8 you just downloaded. In the next step, the application will transform your USB stick and download the necessary Windows support software. This might take a while.

Finally, you’ll have to set aside disk space for your Windows 8 partition. Microsoft lists 20 GB as the minimum requirement, but it is best set aside at least twice that number, and more if you can spare it.

3. Install Windows 8

At the start of the installation, you’ll have to select the drive on which to install Windows 8 from a list of partitions. Instead, select the partition called BOOTCAMP, and click on the Delete button. With the newly created free space still selected, now click on the New button. After selecting this partition as your target partition, you should be able to finish the installation as usual.

Warning! Make sure not to delete anything besides the BOOTCAMP partition, or you might end up losing everything that’s on your computer.

4. Install The Boot Camp Software

After Windows 8 is finished, it’s recommended to install the Windows support software provided by Apple. This will enable you to use your function keys, right-clicking, and multi-touch scrolling within Windows 8.


windows 8 on macbook air

To do so, press the cmd key left of your spacebar to go to your Windows desktop, and click on the Windows Explorer icon in the task bar. Select your USB stick in the left sidebar, open the folder called WindowsSupport, and double click on the setup application to start the installation. You’ll have to restart Windows 8 when you’re done.

5. Switch Between Windows 8 and Mac OS X

The Boot Camp software won’t open on Windows 8 at the moment, but you can enjoy the most important benefits — like a usable trackpad and function keys — already. To switch between Windows 8 and Mac OS X, hold the option (alt) key while you’re restarting. Here you’ll be able to select your operating system of choice.

try windows 8


If your computer is set to boot Windows by default, that’s easily remedied by booting into Mac OS X as described above, and going to System Preferences -> Startup Disk and selecting your Mac OS X partition.

Let us know about your experience with Windows 8 in the comments section below the article!

Related topics: MacBook Air, Windows 8.

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  1. Az
    January 2, 2013 at 10:23 am

    THANK YOU SO MUCH.. Very helpful guide!

  2. Idan Tovim
    October 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm


  3. sigits Sigit
    September 12, 2012 at 7:43 am

    I like to make it virtual not with bootcamp

  4. Kao Vang
    September 11, 2012 at 12:06 am

    My buddy wanted to do this. I'll forward it to him.

  5. Graham
    September 10, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I will be trying this out!
    At last an answer to all those compatibility problems between the Mac Book Air and the world of real business computing :)

  6. Ashwin Ramesh
    September 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Surely will give this a try if I win your Giveaway competition :D

  7. yuvsch
    September 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I don't like windows 8.
    It's ugly

    • GrrGrrr
      September 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      indeed it is.

      • Simon Slangen
        September 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm

        I still spend 90% of my time on Mac OS X, but I like the fact that Microsoft is trying to push the boundaries; trying something different.

  8. Hiren Patel
    September 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Nice info.
    Is it possible to install Mac OS on Windows based PC if it has same hardware configuration compare to mac Machine.

    • yuvsch
      September 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      search google for hackintosh, there's plenty of info about that.

  9. Ahmed Khalil
    September 10, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Nice Tips, but i would like to ask if Windows 8 work good in MAC BOOK air? i mean is their any problem with drivers or hardware?

    • Richard Borkovec
      September 10, 2012 at 7:04 am

      I don't think it would. I have Win 8 Pro RTM on my laptop, and it runs basically the same hardware the Macbooks use, and Windows 8 works great on it.

      • Ahmed Khalil
        September 10, 2012 at 8:29 am

        I mean the performance of the system with the hardware and also temperature effect on the labtop

        • Prashanth
          September 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm

          Good point. I also would like to know what happens to the performance of a Windows OS on a Mac hardware. The basic instruction set is the same because of the Intel processors. But the drivers on the different OSes can make a lot of difference.

          How smooth would a Windows installation on a Macbook be?

        • Simon Slangen
          September 10, 2012 at 11:36 pm

          The performance is very smooth. In fact, once you've installed the Bootcamp support software, I think it runs about as smoothly as it would on any other laptop.

        • Prashanth
          September 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm

          I tried out the above tutorial and installed a Win8 RTM on my macbook air.
          Sad to say, even after the bootcamp drivers, the laptop heats up like crazy, and I finally ended up removing Windows.
          Also, I could not get into Bootcamp Control Panel once the drivers were installed.

          TL;DR: Not worth the time.

        • Simon Slangen
          September 15, 2012 at 10:06 pm

          The Bootcamp Control Panel is a known issue. Technically, Windows 8 isn't supported under Boot Camp, but the drivers themselves still work as advertised (e.g. function keys, multi-touchpad).

          I'm sorry to hear about your laptop's heat problems under Windows 8. I haven't experienced those issues myself (that is, not more than on Mac OS X), and I use my Windows 8 partition quite extensively; among other things, for gaming.

        • Ahmed Khalil
          September 16, 2012 at 7:58 pm


        • Ahmed Khalil
          September 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm


  10. venkatp16
    September 10, 2012 at 2:21 am

    Will give it a try..TIll now we tried Mac OS on windows machine.