Another free option is the UTM virtual machine but again, it’s pretty basic to run Windows on a Mac with and doesn’t have many features.
If you want to know more about virtual environments, you can check out all the VM’s that are available for Macs in our look at the best virtual machines for Mac.
Very easy to install Windows
Runs Windows and macOS simultaneously
Excellent for gaming
Fast startup and shutdown time
Supports Windows keyboard shortcuts
Optimized for macOS Sonoma and Windows 11
Supports DirectX and Metal
Officially supports running Windows on M-chip 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
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
Traditionally, Apple Boot Camp has been one of the most popular ways to install Windows on a Mac but is gradually becoming more obsolete because of Apple’s decision to drop support for it from Apple Silicon Macs.
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.
Historically, using Boot Camp to run Windows only games has been 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.
Boot Camp therefore makes playing resource intensive games like Valheim on a Mac much smoother and less choppy as there are far fewer dropped frames.
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.
The other big drawback is that Boot Camp also does not work with Apple Silicon Macs which is the chipset that’s powered Macs made from late 2020 onwards.
This means you can’t dual boot in Windows or macOS on an Apple Silicon Mac with Boot Camp.
Doesn’t require installing Windows to use Windows games and apps
Doesn’t require rebooting your Mac to play Windows games
Works with some games and software on M-chip Macs
Supports DirectX 12
Doesn’t work with all Windows apps and games
Slow to update when new versions of macOS are released
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 the Windows gaming software Crossover (see above).
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 Sonoma.
Wine also now works on the latest Apple Silicon Macs and supports Rosetta for running Intel applications on M1, M2 and M3 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 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
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 Windows App 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).
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 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 Macs
Subscriptions are expensive
Requires you to manually setup everything yourself
For gaming only supports maximum frame rates of 60fps
Only allows you to access Windows remotely, not physically on your Mac
7. Windows App
“Windows App” is a new service from Microsoft that allows you to stream Windows to a Mac.
Windows App was released in November 2023 although it is basically a reworking of Windows 365 which was announced in summer 2021.
Windows App allows you to stream Windows 11 from Microsoft Cloud to any Mac either in a browser or via a remote desktop client.
Windows App 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 App also allows Apple Silicon M1, M2 and M3 Macs to access the standard version of Windows 10 or Windows 11 instead of just Windows ARM as is the case with virtual machines.
The Windows app allows Mac users to instantly connect to the following Microsoft services:
Azure Virtual Desktop
Microsoft Dev Box
Remote Desktop Services
Other remote Windows based PCs
It will even allow Mac users to use your webcam, speakers, printers, SD cards and other peripherals with the remote version of Windows.
We wouldn’t recommend using Windows App for using resource intensive applications or playing PC games though due to the technical limitations of accessing software remotely.
If you choose to access Windows remotely in the Cloud from your Mac such as with Windows App 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 also 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.
You can also use both Windows 10 and Windows 11 for free perfectly legally.
Microsoft only requires you to purchase a product key for Windows if you want to personalize things like the desktop wallpaper, theme and other minor tweaks.