Here we show you how to install Windows on Mac for free using Boot Camp. Yes that’s right, it doesn’t cost you a cent to install Windows on your Mac in 2020 and it’s perfectly legal.
A little known fact is that Microsoft now allows you to install Windows 10 for free on Mac because you don’t actually have to activate Windows 10 with a product key if you don’t want to anymore.
Activation offers only minor benefits such as the ability to customize Windows and remove a small watermark in the bottom right corner of the screen.
Although we don’t usually recommend it as the best way to run Windows on Mac, Boot Camp is free to use as its included in macOS.
Here are full step-by-step instructions how to install Windows on Mac without a CD or DVD. Before you start though, you’ll need to have the following:
- An ISO image of Windows 10 from Microsoft. You can download and install this absolutely free and it doesn’t need fully activating unless you want to customize Windows.
- An external storage device with at least 16GB of space. This is to save the ISO image on and can either be a Pen Drive or any external hard drive to create the Windows Install Disk. It’s also used to save the Windows Support Software drivers from Apple which allows your Mac hardware (keyboard, monitor, trackpad etc) to work with Windows. However, if you have any of the following models of Mac running OS X El Capitan 10.11 or later, you don’t need an external device at all because your Mac can use the internal drive to temporarily store what you need to install Windows.
- MacBook Pro (2015 and later)
- MacBook Air (2015 and later)
- MacBook (2015 and later)
- iMac (2015 and later)
- iMac Pro
- Mac Pro (Late 2013)
- At least 55GB or more of free disk space on your Mac. We highly recommend using at least 50GB as Windows will occupy about 20GB and if you intend on installing several games or applications, you will need lots more hard drive space devoted to Windows. It’s better to go for more rather than less and if at a later stage you decide you don’t want to have half of your Mac’s hard drive devoted to Windows, you can erase the Windows partition at a later date and regain the hard drive space for OS X.
- A full battery if you have no power source available but we highly recommend having your Mac plugged-in for this process.
- A backup of your Mac hard drive. Or at least, make sure your most important files and folder are backed up or saved somewhere else. Although nothing should go wrong when installing Windows, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. The best thing to use is an external hard drive for backups so don’t miss our guide to the best external hard drive for Mac.
- A cup of tea or coffee. This entire process should take around 40 minutes to one hour.
If you’ve got all of these things then you’re ready to go. In this example, we’ve installed Windows 7 on Mac using Boot Camp but if you’re installing Windows 10, you can skip the product key activation step.
- Go to Applications – Utilities and open Boot Camp Assistant on your Mac.
- Boot Camp will warn you that it will create a partition on your hard drive and that you should make a backup of your Mac before proceeding. If you’ve done this, click Continue.
- In the dialogue that follows, make sure that all options are selected i.e Create a Windows 7 or later install disk, Download the latest Windows support software from Apple and Install Windows 7 or later version. If you don’t want to install Windows right now or just want a Windows install USB drive that you can use on another Mac, leave the last option unchecked.
- Click Continue then Choose.. and browse to the Windows 10 ISO image that you downloaded earlier. If you’re using an external drive or Flash Pen Drive, make sure the ISO image is on there and choose that location. If you’re not using an external device, just browse to where it is saved on your Mac. You can choose how much hard drive space you want to dedicate to Windows but if you are intending on installing lots of games or Windows programs, the bigger the better.
- Click Install and the Windows boot disk installation process will start including downloading of the Windows support software from Apple that Boot Camp requires in order to install Windows. This can take some time to complete and it may appear to be frozen or stuck but it’s just decompressing the files.
- When this is complete, your Mac will restart and Windows will setup up on your Mac just as if you were installing it on a PC for the first time. Configure your language settings, time and currency and keyboard language.
- When prompted for a Windows 10 Product Key, just click “I don’t have a product key” at the bottom of the screen. Remember that Microsoft now allow you to use Windows 10 without activating it so you don’t need a Product Key. You can select either Windows 10 Home or Pro but Home is the cheaper of the two and sufficient for the needs of most users although you can see how they compare side-by-side here.
- Accept the License prompts and Windows will start the final stages of installation.
After a few minutes your Mac will reboot again and you’ll be taken to a final setup screen called Get Going Fast. You can choose the Express Setting in the corner or manually configure it however you want.
- You’ll be asked to create a Windows account. Windows will encourage you to use the Cortana personal assistant (basically Microsoft’s answer to Siri) but we’d recommend selecting Not Now.
- Windows 10 will then open on your Mac but Boot Camp hasn’t quite finished yet. You’ll see another Boot Camp installer dialogue that will prompt you to install more drivers. Click Next until these are complete and your Mac will reboot.
- Finally, click on the Windows Start Menu and select Apple Software Update. This will update Windows with the latest drivers so that your soundcard, graphics card and other hardware work smoothly with Windows. Your Mac will once again reboot to Windows 10.
- A last piece of advice is to make sure that Windows security patches are up to date. Go to Start > Settings > Update & Security and Windows will automatically download any security updates. You don’t have to do this but it’s advisable.
And that’s it, you’ve got Windows 10 installed on your Mac for free.
Of course, you won’t always want to boot your Mac in Windows. Most of the time you want to boot your Mac in OS X as normal so to enable macOS as your default operating system, in Windows go to Control Panel, System and Security and then scroll to the bottom where you will see Boot Camp. There you can select Macintosh HD as your default operating system and click OK to save.
Alternatively, if you want to choose whether your Mac boots into Windows or OS X, simply hold down the Option key on your Mac when you switch it on:
And after about 5-10 seconds, you will be given the option of whether to boot in macOS or Windows.
If you have any problems installing Windows 10 on your Mac with Boot Camp let us know. Or if after reading this you decide you’d rather have the option of using Windows and macOS simultaneously, read our guide on the best way to install Windows on Mac.