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Many Mac users are still unaware that you can install Windows 10 on a Mac for free from Microsoft perfectly legally, including on Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs.

The same is true for Windows 11 meaning you can also install Windows 11 on a Mac for free.

Microsoft doesn’t actually require users to activate Windows 10 or Windows 11 with a product key unless you want to customize the look of it.

In fact you can no longer buy a Windows 10 license from Microsoft although you can still buy a Windows 11 license for $139.99.

The only advantage of buying a Windows license though it is that it allows you to customize the look for Windows such as the desktop, lock screen, styling, removal of watermarks etc.

For most Mac users that just want to install Windows only programs or play Windows games on a Mac, this is not necessary and so you can enjoy Windows 10 for free on your Mac.

Here we show you how you can easily get Windows 10 on your Mac for free, including Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs including those running macOS Ventura in little more than 10 minutes.

How To Install Windows 10 on Mac For Free

There are two ways we recommend to install Windows 10 for free on a Mac:

  • Using a Virtual Machine (Both Intel and Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs)
  • Using Boot Camp (Intel Macs only)

The best way to run Windows on a Mac is to install it in a virtual machine.

A virtual machine allows you to run Windows and macOS at the same time so that you can switch between the two at any moment with just one click.

By far the best virtual environment on Mac is Parallels which makes it extremely easy to install Windows on macOS.

You can download a free trial of Parallels to install Windows 10 for free with it although you will need to subscribe after 14 days if you want to continue using it.

With Parallels, you can switch between Windows games or apps and macOS instantly in just a click.

In fact, Parallels is the only way to run Windows on a Mac that is officially endorsed by Microsoft.

Parallels is also the best way to run Windows on M1 & M2 Macs and was the first virtual machine to support Apple Silicon Macs.

Note however that like all virtual machines, Parallels can only install Windows for ARM on M1/M2  Macs which is a specially adapted version of Windows for ARM processors like the M1 and M2 chip.

Windows 10 for ARM is no longer being developed by Microsoft however so you have to download an old Windows Insider Preview version of Windows 10 for ARM to install on M1/M2 Macs which is more complicated.

Parallels can however automatically install and download Windows 11 for ARM from Microsoft.

You can download a free trial of Parallels and you can can read our full Parallels review for a more detailed look.

Virtual Machine vs Boot Camp For Windows 10

If you’ve got an Intel chip Mac, the alternative to a using a virtual machine is to install Windows 10 in a separate partition on your hard drive using Apple’s Boot Camp.

Boot Camp is a free tool in macOS that allows you to install Windows on a separate partition on your Mac’s hard drive.

However this means that you can only boot your Mac in either macOS or Windows at one time. You can’t run them simultaneously like you can in a virtual machine.

The other big disadvantage is that Boot Camp also does not work with Apple Silicon M1 or M2 Macs.

The advantage of Boot Camp however that it is completely free whereas Parallels is only free for 14 days.

For the needs of most Mac users that want to run Windows only programs on Mac, using a virtual machine is by far your best option.

The only reason you may want to use Boot Camp is if the Windows program or game you want to use either doesn’t work in virtual environments or requires a lot of graphics processing power.

Examples include games such as Valorant or Hogwarts Legacy which won’t work in virtual environments due to the anti-cheat software that the games come with.

Boot Camp may also be a better solution to run powerful CAD applications or graphic design software which are highly demanding on your Mac’s resources and don’t run well in virtual environments.

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 Apple Silicon M1/M2 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 M-Series Macs.

You can find full instructions on how to run Windows 11 on a Mac here.

How To Run Windows 10 on Mac For Free

Here we show you how to run Windows 10 on a Mac for free using the free trial of Parallels.

If you have an Intel Mac and want a completely free solution, then you should check out our guide to how to install Windows on a Mac with Boot Camp.

Before you start, you should have at least:

  • At least 4GB of RAM but we recommend 8GB of RAM if possible
  • At least 40GB of hard drive space free just to run Parallels and Windows. However, if you intend to install lots of games and software we recommend at least double this.

If you don’t have enough space, you can also recover storage space on your Mac.

Alternatively, you can get an external drive for your Mac and install Windows on that although it’s generally better to install it on your Mac hard drive if possible.

Note that If you want to install Windows 10 on an M1 or M2 Mac, the following procedure is slightly different and you can find instructions how to install Windows on an M1 Mac for free here.

With this in mind, follow these instructions to install Windows 10 on any Intel Mac for free.

  • Download a free trial of Parallels for Mac.
  • Double click on the Parallels installer. Note that you can’t just drag it into your Applications folder – you need to run the installer for Parallels to install in macOS. You may see a warning that “Parallels is an application downloaded from the internet. Are you sure you want to open it?” Click Open and you will then need to enter your Mac admin password in order to allow the installer to run.
  • If you’ve never installed Parallels on your Mac before, when the installer is complete it will automatically launch the Windows 10 installation wizard. This conveniently installs Windows 10 on your Mac with no further action needed from you. Simply click Install Windows at the bottom and then skip to step 5 and sit back for about 10 minutes while Windows 10 downloads and installs.

install windows 10 mac - parallels windows 10 installer

  • If you have previously tried installing Parallels on your Mac before, Parallels will detect this and you may not see the auto-installer above. Instead you will see the New Virtual Machine installation assistant below. Click on Get Windows 10 From Microsoft.

parallels wizard

  • You’ll be given a choice of Windows versions to choose from. Select the last option Download Windows 10 – don’t worry about the “If you have a license key” warning because as highlighted in the introduction to this tutorial, you no longer need to activate Windows 10 to actually use it.

windows 10 mac free - parallels installer

  • Parallels will then download a free ISO image of Windows 10. The ISO image is a fully functional free “unactivated” version of Windows 10. The only benefit that activation offers is the ability to customize Windows 10 with wallpapers, themes, lock screens etc and it also removes a small watermark on the lower right hand corner of Windows so you really don’t have to pay for an license if you don’t want to.

windows 10 download

  • If for any reason Parallels can’t download Windows 10, you can download the free ISO image of Windows 10 from Microsoft yourself and put it on a Pen Drive with at least 5GB of space. You would then have to select the second option in the Virtual Machine Wizard Install Windows from a DVD or Image File. If you go this route, make sure you download the 64-bit version of Windows and not the 32-bit version.

download windows 10 iso mac

  • Before the Windows installer starts, you will be prompted to create a Parallels account. This is done instantly when you enter your email and click Create Account – you don’t have to wait for any confirmation emails or anything, you just have to choose a password. You can also use your Facebook or Google account to sign-up instead.

parallels account signup

  • When you’ve created a Parallels account, you will see Windows being setup just as if you were installing it on a PC. This can take up to to ten minutes to complete and you’ll see a progress bar across the bottom.

windows 10 installer

  • After the installer has run, Windows will start the final setup phase. Don’t worry if it seems to hang as it’s still working.

parallels windows 10 installation assistant

  • Windows will then go into the final setup phase and you’ll then be warned it could take several minutes (although it should only be a few minutes at most). Make sure you don’t turn off your Mac or press anything.

install windows 10

  • Finally, you’ll see an “Installation Complete” message and hey presto, you’ve got Windows 10 on your Mac.

windows 10 running on mac

  • When you use Windows for the first time, you will hear and see various pop-ups in Windows as Parallels automatically detects hardware on your Mac. This is one of the best things about Parallels as it instantly integrates Windows with your Mac. With other virtual environments, you usually have to manually configure ports, hardware and sharing between your Mac and PC but Parallels automates the entire process so that your Mac and PC work in harmony from the start. You’ll even see all of your Mac desktop documents on your Windows desktop without having to do anything.
  • You may also see a Windows Activation screen pop-up but you can simply click Close it unless you’ve bought a full license for Windows and have a product key.

windows 10 activation screen parallels

download office windows 10

And that’s it – you’ve installed Windows 10 on your Mac for free!

The only cost you’ll face is that after 14 days, the free trial of Parallels will expire.

You’ll then have to buy a license for $79.99 which includes free upgrades.

Parallels is updated frequently to keep apace of updates to macOS and Windows so this may work out cheaper in the long run than having to buy a new version every year if new versions of macOS and Windows are released.

You don’t have to upgrade every year but the likelihood is you’ll need to upgrade at least every 2-3 years or so as Macs, macOS and Windows evolve.

One thing to be aware of is that you may notice that your Mac’s cooling fans go into overdrive when installing Windows via Parallels and running Windows on your Mac.

This is because running a virtual environment is a very intensive process for your Mac’s resources and Windows will need a lot of RAM and CPU power to run on your Mac.

The system requirements for Parallels are an Intel Core processor with a minimum of 4GB of RAM but it recommends 8GB of RAM.

However, even when running it on a MacBook Pro with a 2.3 GHz Intel Core iZ with 8GB, it’s still pushing it. If you check Activity Monitor, you may notice that Windows 10 sometimes uses all of your CPU resources.

install windows 10 mac - windows cpu usage

Don’t be alarmed by this – your Mac can handle it but you should reduce the number of applications running on your Mac to a minimum to help Parallels and Windows operate as smoothly as possible.

The best advice is basically to use Parallels on the newest Mac possible with the most RAM possible.

The latest versions of Parallels support macOS features like Dark Mode and there’s also a handy picture-in-picture mode that allows you to keep your Windows desktop window in view at all times while you work in macOS.

run windows 10 mac - parallels picture in picture mode

Parallels is also the only virtual machine for Mac that works with Touch Bar MacBook Pros.

You can configure the Touch Bar to launch Windows apps such as Internet Explorer, OneNote, Chrome etc or change volume, brightness and other settings.

You can see the full set of pre-configured actions and configurations built into Parallels by default below:

windows on mac free - touchbar configurations parallels

You can even configure it so that your Windows Task Bar:

windows 10 mac - windows task bar

is the same as your Touch Bar for easier launching of apps:

windows 10 mac - parallels touch bar integration

You can pretty much configure the Touch Bar to work however you want although it can get quite complicated to setup specific actions as you need to know a little about XML code but you can find full instructions how to do so here.

Parallels can be used to install any operating system including Linux and older versions of Windows and macOS (note however that you can’t install older versions of macOS or Windows on M1 Macs).

However, we don’t advise installing older versions of Windows unless you really need them, especially as old as Windows XP because it is no longer supported by Microsoft.

We hope this tutorial has shown you how easy it is to install Windows 10 on your Mac for free but if you have any questions, problems or suggestions, let us know in the comments below.

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14 Responses

  1. Di6

    I downloaded FIFA 20 from Origin, it is asking to activate windows to play. Go to settings to activate.

  2. Ib H

    My download af windows expired, and I was asked to pay for Parallel – so its seems that it was not a free download.
    Did I do anything wrong??

    • MacHow2

      Once the trial period of Parallels is expired, you have to upgrade Parallels. Your Windows 7 won’t expire though although Microsoft has announced that support for Windows 7 ends on January 14th 2020.

  3. Scott D.

    Very helpful article! I do have a question, though: If you don’t activate Windows with a valid product key, are you still able to get Windows patches and updates?


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