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Should you be running Windows 10 on a Mac? You can install and run Windows 10 for free in Mac OS X with VirtualBox and Microsoft’s Windows 10 Preview. Since this installs Windows on a virtual machine on top of existing Mac system software, running Windows is basically the same as running any other application, making it much easier than configuring Boot Camp for a native Windows experience.
Institution up Windows 10 to run on the Mac is quite simple and the requirements are simple enough, but the more resources the computer has, the better the overall experience will be.
To get started, you first need to download Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft and purchase VirtualBox. The rest is just a matter of following the simple instructions, and soon Windows will be running in MacOS X in no time.
- Download VirtualBox from Oracle (free) – install this like any other app
- Download Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft (free) – post this somewhere easy to find, like the Mac Desktop (here and here are additional Windows 10 ISO links from MSFT if needed)
- At least 8 GB of disk space to install Windows on the virtual machine
- A moderately fast computer with plenty of RAM and CPU (the newer the better, as usual)
A quick side note: VirtualBox is cross-platform compatible, and while we demonstrate how to install Windows 10 in Mac OS Catalina, macOS Mojave, macOS Sierra, Mac OS X High Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite here, you can get these exact tutorial on any other major operating system and beyond the Mac as well. Essentially, this means you can run Windows 10 in Mac OS X (High Sierra, Yosemite, Mavericks, you name it), Windows 7, or even Linux, with the exact same software and instructions, handy right?
How to Start Windows 10 on Mac with VirtualBox for Mac OS X
Now that you have the software components necessary to run Windows 10 in a virtual machine, let’s go through the installation process:
- Open VirtualBox and click on “New” button to build a new virtual machine
- Name the new virtual machine “Windows 10 VM” (or something equally obvious), select “Microsoft Windows” as the type and choose “Windows 10” as the version, then choose Continue
- Select to create a new virtual hard disk, then choose Continue again
- Back to the primary VirtualBox screen, choose “Start” to boot the new Windows 10 volume
- Since no drive or operating system is installed yet, you will be prompted to choose a virtual optical disc, click the folder icon and choose the Windows 10 ISO you downloaded earlier, then click “Start”
- In a few moments you will be in the Windows 10 installer, select your language and click “Next”
- Go through the standard Windows 10 setup experience, this may take a while, but eventually you’ll create a user account, select a username, and do some basic Windows configurations
- When the installation is complete, Windows 10 will run in VirtualBox, right on your Mac – yes, this is full featured version of Windows
Once done, exit VirtualBox like any other application and Windows 10 will shut down. To use Windows again in Mac OS X, restart VirtualBox, select your Windows 10 virtual machine and click “Start” button to boot Windows in the app. Easy right?
Yes, this is a full version of Windows 10. These preview builds will eventually expire when the final version comes from Microsoft but it is speculated that they may make Windows 10 free. Anyway, when it final version appears, you can install and run it within VirtualBox in the same way as described above.
Keep in mind that this is a virtual machine, which basically means that the VirtualBox app functions as a virtual computer on top of your existing Mac. No doubt this affects performance, which is part of why the more resources the computer has, the better the experience, so you won’t want to use this to try and play some wild Windows games in Mac OS X more than sufficient for basic Windows tasks, using Windows apps like Internet Explorer, or just getting a feel for Windows 10. For a truly native Windows experience on a Mac, you might want to install Windows with Boot Camp as a side-by-side bootable operating system, we’ll cover that separately here if that interests you.
If you enjoy this VirtualBox experience, you may be pleased to find that you can also use many other operating systems in the virtual machine environment. If you want to try Linux, you can run Ubuntu on your Mac with VirtualBox, or many versions of Internet Explorer in different Windows VMs, Windows 8, even Android 4, older versions of Mac OS X such as Snow Leopard, and a lot more. can explore our VirtualBox section for more.
If you’re tired of Windows 10, you can either delete the virtual machine from VirtualBox, or manually delete the Windows .vdi file (the virtual disk image) from your hard drive. Keep in mind that deleting the VM will also delete any files you created in Windows.
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