Nowadays it has never been easier to run Windows on a Mac so we’ve looked at the best ways to do so in 2023 including on M1 & M2 Macs.
Installing Windows 10 or Windows 11 on your Mac is useful for many reasons from running Windows only software to playing PC only games.
It’s also much cheaper and more convenient than buying a separate PC or laptop just to use Windows on.
However, there’s no doubt that some ways of installing Windows on a Mac are much easier, reliable and effective than others.
We’ve taken a closer look at the different options available so you can decide which one is best for you.
In our extensive research, we found that Parallels is by far the best way to run Windows on a Mac in 2023 thanks to its ease of installation, support for running Windows M1/M2 Macs and official endorsement by Microsoft.
- Are There Any Risks Installing Windows on Mac?
- Can You Install Windows 11 on a Mac?
- How To Play Windows Games on a Mac
- Will Windows Work on M1 & M2 Macs?
- Does Windows 365 Work on a Mac?
- 1. Virtual Machine (Best For Beginners)
- 2. Apple Boot Camp (Best For Gamers, Intel Only)
- 3. Wine
- 4. Crossover
- 5. Remote Desktop Software
- 6. Cloud Computing Services
- 7. Windows 365
- 8. Frame
Are There Any Risks Installing Windows on Mac?
Because installing Windows on a Mac involves separating it into either a virtual environment or a separate partition on your hard drive, there are absolutely no risks installing Windows on your Mac.
Running Windows on a Mac effectively isolates the rest of your Mac from any potential problems with viruses, malware or adware.
If the Windows installation were to get a virus or corrupted in some way, it wouldn’t damage macOS. You can simply delete the installation and reinstall it.
It’s also extremely easy to install Microsoft Windows on a Mac nowadays and Virtual Machines like Parallels make it easy even for beginners to do it.
However, we always recommend backing-up your Mac to an external hard drive before making any major changes to it.
If you choose to access Windows remotely in the Cloud from your Mac such as with Windows 365 or cloud computing services, then there’s no need to do this as Windows doesn’t actually touch your Mac at all – it’s all hosted in the Cloud.
If you’re worried whether installing Windows on a Mac is illegal, there’s no need to.
Installing Windows on a Mac (or any other computer) is perfectly legal.
In fact, Apple actively encourages it by providing Boot Camp in Intel Macs and there’s no issues with the Windows EULA installing Windows on a Mac using any of these methods.
Can You Install Windows 11 on a Mac?
Windows 11 was released by Microsoft on October 5th 2021 and you can now install Windows 11 on a Mac including the latest Apple Silicon M1 and M2 chip Macs.
Windows 11 requires a physical TPM chip to run and although Macs don’t have one, Parallels can now emulate a virtual TPM chip so that Windows 11 will run on both Intel and M1 or M2 Macs.
In fact Parallels is the only solution officially authorized by Microsoft to run Windows 11 on a Mac.
Parallels allows you to run Windows and macOS at the same time so that you can switch between the two instantly.
It’s important to be aware however that on Apple Silicon M1 & M2 Macs, you can only run the Windows 11 For ARM version which is not compatible with many Windows games and applications.
You also can’t dual boot Windows on M1 or M2 Macs yet using Apple Boot Camp as Boot Camp does not work on Apple Silicon Macs.
You can find full instructions on how to run Windows 11 on a Mac here.
How To Play Windows Games on a Mac
All of the following methods of installing Windows on a Mac are suitable for playing Windows games on a Mac but some are more suitable than other depending on the game you want to play.
The same applies to Hogwarts Legacy which isn’t available for Mac but won’t work even if you install Windows on a Mac because it is protected by the Denuvo anti-cheat software.
For these types of games it’s better to use Boot Camp if you’ve got an Intel Mac.
If you’ve got an Apple Silicon M1 or M2 Mac your only option is to use a Cloud gaming service such as NVIDIA GeForce Now For Mac as Boot Camp is not available for Apple Silicon Macs.
If you’ve got an Xbox, you can also play Xbox games on a Mac using OneCast which isn’t affected by anti-cheat software.
There are also a few new possibilities to play Windows only games on a Mac in wake of Apple’s WWDC in June 2023 where the company announced a new Game Porting Toolkit to allow developer to port Windows games to Mac more easily.
This is designed as a testing tool but some developer have already been using it to play Windows only games on a Mac that require DirectX 12.
For more on this check out our guide to the best ways to run Windows games on Mac.
Will Windows Work on M1 & M2 Macs?
We have indicated in these reviews which methods support M1 & M2 chips and which do not.
It’s important to be aware that Apple Silicon Macs can only run Windows ARM at the moment which is a slightly different version of Windows to the Standard x86 Intel version.
While many games and apps work on Windows ARM, some do not so be aware of this when installing Windows on an M1 or M2 Mac.
At the moment, Parallels is the only software that is officially authorized by Microsoft to run Windows on M1 and M2 Macs although VMWare Fusion that now supports Apple Silicon chips too.
Parallels is also the only solution to support macOS Ventura on M1 & M2 Macs whereas there is no official support for running Windows in Ventura using any other software.
Does Windows 365 Work on a Mac?
Windows 365 is a new Cloud service by Microsoft that will allow Mac users to use Windows 10 and 11 online in any browser.
At the moment, Microsoft Windows 365 is only available to Windows 365 Enterprise customers but started being rolled out to smaller businesses in Fall 2021.
However, it will eventually offer another way for Mac users to access Windows on a Mac including Windows 11 eventually.
Microsoft is currently rebranding Microsoft Office with Microsoft 365 across all platforms including macOS.
You May Also Like:
- Best Way To Play Windows Games On Mac
- How To Run iOS Apps On Mac
- How To Run 32 Bit Apps & Games On Mac
- Best Virtual Machines For Mac
- How To Run Windows 11 On Mac
With this in mind, here then are the best ways to install Windows on a Mac of 2023 in order of ranking.
1. Virtual Machine (Best For Beginners)
A virtual machine (also known as a virtual environment or virtualization software) allows you to run Windows “virtually” within macOS.
By far the best virtual machine for Mac is Parallels which automatically downloads and installs Windows on a Mac and is easy enough for anyone to use.
The closest rival to Parallels is VMWare Fusion but it’s nowhere near as easy to setup Windows as Parallels especially on Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs.
Parallels is the best way to run Windows on your Mac in 2023 for its ease of installation, speed, and the number of ways it conveniently allows you to switch between macOS and Windows such as blended in Coherence view mode or separated in Window view mode.
Parallels is also the best way to run Windows on M1 & M2 Macs and the only solution that officially works with the latest version of macOS Ventura.
Apple’s latest generation of Silicon Macs use different ARM M1/M2 chips and Parallels was the first VM to officially support Windows on Apple silicon M1 & M2 Macs.
Parallels is also the only solution officially authorized by Microsoft to run Windows 11 on a Mac.
At the moment, the only major rival to Parallels is VMware Fusion which took a lot longer to officially support M1 or M2 Macs although VMware 13 is now fully compatible with Apple Silicon and the latest Tech Preview has improved support for macOS Sonoma too.
You can even install Windows on a Mac for free with Parallels for 14 days by using the free trial as you only need to purchase a Windows 10/11 activation key nowadays if you want to customize it.
Or if you already have Windows 10 or 11 installed on a PC, you can use the same 25 figure activation key during the Windows installation process in Parallels to get another fully activated copy for free on your Mac.
Virtual Machines are by far the most convenient Windows on Mac solution for most users because they allow you to use your Mac as normal but switch to a Windows application at any time when you need it.
You have full access to the rest of your Mac apps while enjoying the convenience of having Windows available too.
Parallels has got this off to a tee nowadays with Coherence Mode blurring the line between macOS and Windows so that you can work in both with almost no separation between the two.
The main rival to Parallels is VMware Fusion which has now released a free version for non-commercial use but we’ve found that nothing comes close to Parallels in terms of ease of setup, use and support.
The only disadvantage of virtual machines like Parallels for gaming is that they don’t work with games that use anti-cheat protection software such as Vanguard.
This is because the anti-cheat software will not run in virtual machines.
You can try Parallels for Mac for free here to test it first.
There’s also Parallels Business Edition for $149.99 which is designed for system admins and IT Teams that need to deploy Windows on large numbers of Macs across corporate networks.
For a limited time you can also get 50% off Parallels with an educational discount for students and teachers.
If you want to learn more, check out our full Parallels Desktop review.
You can also check out which other virtual machines are available in our look at the best virtual machines for Mac.
- Very easy to install Windows
- Officially authorized by Microsoft to run Windows 11 on Mac
- Runs Windows and macOS simultaneously
- Excellent for gaming
- Fast startup and shutdown time
- Supports Windows keyboard shortcuts
- Optimized for macOS Ventura, Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur and Windows 10 & 11
- Now supports DirectX and Metal
- Officially supports running Windows on M1 & M2 Macs
- Can be deployed across lots of Macs by IT teams
- Updates aren’t free
- Requires a separate license for each Mac you want to install it on
- Subscription pricing model
- Can’t accelerate graphics card for gaming as well as Boot Camp
- Will not support games that use anti-cheat protection software
- Does not support running DirectX 12 (but does support DirectX 11)
2. Apple Boot Camp (Best For Gamers, Intel Only)
By far the most popular alternative to installing Windows with a virtualization software is by using Apple Boot Camp.
Using Boot Camp to run Windows and install Windows only games is especially popular with gamers because Boot Camp leverages more power from your graphics card as it doesn’t have to run a virtual machine like Parallels does.
This makes playing games like Valheim on a Mac much smoother and less choppy as there are far fewer dropped frames.
Boot Camp is a free tool in macOS which allows you to install Windows on a partition on your Mac hard drive so you can choose whether to dual boot your Mac in either Windows or macOS.
Because Boot Camp only allows your Mac to boot in either Windows or macOS (rather than running both at the same time as with a virtual environment) your Mac can devote all of its resources to the high demands of games and other power hungry applications.
The other big advantage of Boot Camp is that it’s free in macOS – just search for “Boot Camp” using Spotlight on your Mac and you’ll see it.
The disadvantage of installing Windows with Boot Camp is that you’re restricted to using either Windows or macOS at one time – you can’t switch between the two instantly like with virtualization software.
This means you can’t dual boot in Windows or macOS on an M1 or M2 Mac yet.
So if you’ve bought a new Mac in from around November 2020 onwards, Boot Camp is definitely not an option if you want to install Windows on it and you’re much better off going with a virtual machine like Parallels.
Note also that that are some iMacs which can’t use Boot Camp in macOS Mojave.
|Install Windows 10 & 11|
|Play Windows Games|
|Run Windows and macOS without restarting|
|Works on M1 Macs|
|Run Windows and macOS apps at the same time|
|Share files and folders between macOS and Windows|
|Transfer all data from PC to your Mac|
|Copy and paste images between macOS and Windows|
For those with Intel Macs however, you can find full instructions on how to install Windows 10 on Mac for free with Boot Camp here.
You can also find full instructions on how to install Windows 11 on Mac for free with Boot Camp here.
If you’re also interested in other ways to play Windows games on a Mac, you may also be interested in GeForce Now For Mac which is a gaming platform by NVIDIA which allows Mac users to play Windows only games in the Cloud.
- Free in macOS
- Easy to setup
- Dedicates all of your Mac’s hardware and resources to running Windows
- Better for gaming as it leverages more power from the graphics card
- Works for games protected by Vanguard anti-cheat software
- Works for apps and games that require DirectX 12
- Only allows you to boot in either macOS or Windows
- Requires dedicating some of your Mac hard drive space to running Windows
- Some games won’t work with Boot Camp installations
- Will not work with the latest Apple Silicon M1 & M2 Macs
Wine (stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator) is a free way to install Windows on your Mac and it works by “wrapping” Windows in macOS.
Wine is a free open-source project although it is sponsored by CodeWeavers that are also behind Crossover (see below for more).
Wine is neither a Windows emulator or a virtual machine but is known as a compatibility layer that translates Windows applications and games to work on Mac and Linux.
Until recently, Wine was only 32-bit which meant that it did not support the latest versions of macOS but Wine 7 has been updated to support 64-bit operating systems including macOS Monterey and Ventura.
Wine also now works on the latest Apple Silicon Macs and supports Rosetta for running Intel applications on M1 and M2 Macs.
We only recommend Wine for those that really know what they’re doing and have strong technical skills with Macs. Wine is notoriously difficult to use, setup and many times, doesn’t even work properly for all problems.
If you’re brave enough to try Wine, definitely check out the list of supported Wine applications first to avoid saving yourself a lot of pain.
- Free to use
- No copy of Windows required
- Now supports 64-bit applications and games
- Works on Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs
- Complicated to setup for many apps
- Doesn’t work with all Windows programs
- Installation often breaks with updates to macOS
- Does not work with games protected by anti-cheat software
- Does not support DirectX 12
Crossover is a compatibility layer which “translates” Windows only apps and games to work on a Mac.
Crossover is based on Wine but in a far easier to use interface. It’s much easier to setup and use but it’s not free and starts at $39.95 per year.
Also, since it’s based on Wine, it can only run Windows programs that are Wine compatible which restricts the number of games and apps that work with it on a Mac.
Apart from Parallels though, Crossover is currently the only way to play some Windows games on M1 & M2 Macs.
Crossover uses what’s called Rosetta 2 in macOS to “translate” Intel chip only games and software to work with Apple Silicon chips.
You can watch Team Fortress 2 being played on an M1 Mac using Crossover below and as you can see, the performance is pretty good.
It doesn’t work with all games though and we recommend checking the list of Crossover supported apps and games before buying it.
Crossover has also announced that the next version of Crossover 23 will support DirectX 12.
This will open a lot of Windows/console only games to Mac users such as Diablo 4 and Hogwarts Legacy which require DirectX 12.
Pricing for Crossover starts at $39.95 per year for the basic Crossover One plan (only available in the USA) which does not include support.
Crossover Pro is $59.95 per year and includes one year of support and there’s also Crossover Life for $499.95 which gives you lifetime upgrades and support.
You can also try a 14 day free trial of Crossover to test it first.
- Doesn’t require installing Windows
- Doesn’t require rebooting your Mac to play Windows games
- Works with some games and software on M1 & M2 Macs
- Next version of Crossover 23 will support DirectX 12
- Annual subscription
- Limited amount of Windows games and apps it can run
- Can only run the same apps and games as Wine
- Slow to update when new versions of macOS are released
- Doesn’t work with many games and apps on M1 and M2 Macs
- Doesn’t currently work with apps and games that require DirectX 12
- Doesn’t work with games protected by anti-cheat software
5. Remote Desktop Software
Another option to access Windows on a Mac is to run Windows remotely on another PC and use remote desktop software on your Mac to connect to it.
This involves using a remote desktop application of which there are many on the market.
They all basically connect to any Windows machine and then display the desktop of the PC on your Mac desktop.
This isn’t an ideal solution though because there’s usually plenty of lag between the PC, Mac or mobile device you’re connecting to and your Mac.
It’s also limited in what you can actually do – you can usually drag files and folders, open documents and save files but it’s certainly not suitable for playing games.
Probably the easiest way to do this nowadays is to use Microsoft Windows 365 which streams Windows to a Mac from the Cloud and can be used either with a remote desktop client or simply a browser (see more on this below).
For a look at some of the options available, check out our guide to the best remote desktop tools for Mac.
- Doesn’t require installing Windows on any emulators on a Mac
- Lots of apps to help you connect to a Windows machine
- Easy to use once setup
- Some remote desktop apps work with Apple Silicon M1 & M2 Macs
- Allows you to access and use apps that require DirectX 12
- Can be lots of lag
- Remote desktop apps vary in price
- Doesn’t give you access to as many features as Parallels
- Requires access to a PC
6. Cloud Computing Services
Cloud computing services allow you to hire or access a Windows PC in the Cloud which you can connect to remotely from a Mac.
With remote desktop software, you need a physical Windows PC to access remotely but with Cloud computing services, the Windows PC is provided for you in the Cloud.
You can install anything you want on the cloud PC including Windows only applications and games.
The most well known cloud computing services are Shadow and airGPU which are both commonly used by Mac users to play Windows only games in the Cloud but can be used for running any Windows application.
Both provide their own Mac desktop client to connect to a Cloud PC and are very easy to setup and install.
Cloud computing services require you to setup and install Windows applications and games remotely on the PC and then you can use them remotely from your Mac.
Cloud computing services also give you complete freedom to install whatever you want on your Cloud PC including game mods and DirectX 12 for example.
The main disadvantage of cloud computing services is that they are expensive to hire.
airGPU subscriptions for example start at $0.65 per hour for a cloud PC with a basic Nvidia Quadro RTX 4000 graphics card which soon adds-up if you’re using it for long periods.
This doesn’t include storage space either so you’ll have to add an extra $3.50 per 50GB of SSD storage space.
Considering you need at least 50+GB to install Windows and probably double this to install application, this can take the cost well over $1.50 an hour to use airGPU.
Alternatively, a Shadow subscription starts at $39.99 per month for a cloud PC with an Nvidia GTX 1080s graphics card with 250GB SSD drive space which may work out cheaper than paying hourly with airGPU.
The data transfer speeds for both airGPU and Shadow are extremely fast though with speeds of up to 100GB per second possible.
If you don’t have access to a Windows PC, then a cloud computing solution provides a convenient if expensive way of using one on a Mac
- Allows you to install any Windows application in the Cloud from a Mac
- Doesn’t require you to have access to your own Windows computer
- Easy to setup and use
- Works for applications that require DirectX 12
- Works on Intel and Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs
- Subscriptions are expensive
- Requires you to manually setup everything yourself
- For gaming only supports maximum frame rates of 60fps
7. Windows 365
Microsoft 365 uses the same principle as cloud computing services except everything is provided and setup by Microsoft automatically so it’s arguably easier if you just want to use Windows only applications and are not interested in gaming.
Windows 365 was first launched in October 2021 and works on both Intel and M1/M2 M-series Macs although currently it’s only licensed as a solution for businesses and enterprises on a per-user, per-month basis.
Windows 365 allows you to use Windows in the Cloud as if it were installed on your Mac. It also allows you to virtualize Windows 11 for testing, running emulators and testing application compatibility.
Windows 365 allows you to use all Windows apps such as Microsoft 365, Outlook, OneDrive and the desktop version of Microsoft Teams.
We wouldn’t recommend using Windows 365 for playing PC games though.
Pricing for Windows 365 depends on how powerful you need your Windows Cloud PC configuration and how many users you want to use it.
The Windows 365 Basic Plan starts at $31.00 per user per month which gives you 2 vCPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB storage for your Windows 11 environment.
Note that if you cancel your Windows 365 subscription at any time, you will lose access to any data saved in it.
- Runs Windows in the Cloud on a Mac
- Windows is automatically accessible and setup for you
- Works on Intel and Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs
- Doesn’t require you to setup anything
- Supports Windows keyboard shortcuts
- Easy to get started
- Allows you to access and use apps that require DirectX 12
- Only for business and enterprises
- Requires more expensive plans for powerful Windows environments
- Pricing is per user
- Requires a fast internet connection
- You lose your Windows installation and data if you cancel the subscription
- Not suitable for gaming
Frame doesn’t actually run Windows on your Mac but it does allow you to access Windows applications remotely and use them on your Mac in any browser.
Frame is known as a Desktop as a Solution Service (DaaS) that delivers Windows apps and programs to users on any device including Macs.
Frame uses the same principle as cloud computing services by hosting Windows and Windows applications in the Cloud and then giving you access to them via your browser.
However, unlike Windows 365, you can’t actually use Microsoft Windows itself but you can use Windows based applications using Frame.
Frame is particularly popular for accessing Windows only CAD applications on Mac such as Solidworks and is mainly aimed at Enterprises that need system administrators to manage access across networks.
The main drawback of Frame is that it doesn’t actually give you access to Windows, only Windows applications.
Frame is also entirely Cloud based so requires a fast internet connection to work effectively.
Frame is aimed mainly at Enterprise customers rather than individuals with pricing plans starting at $24 per user per month.
- Nothing to install, all Cloud based
- Supports a wide range of Windows applications
- Provides ready made access to Windows only applications
- Doesn’t actually give you access to Windows itself
- Can suffer lag depending on stability of connection
- Doesn’t work with apps and games that require DirectX 12
- Doesn’t work with games protected by anti-cheat software
- Pricing aimed mainly at Enterprise customers