Really, you don't have to choose. With Apple's Boot Camp, you can run Microsoft Windows 10 and OS X Yosemite or later on your Mac, turning your machine into a dual-boot Windows/OS X system.

Boot Camp sets up a partition on your Mac's hard drive and installs Windows in the partition. Then you can switch between the two systems by rebooting into whichever one you want.

That's the catch: you have to restart your Mac to run the other OS. If you want to run Windows and OS X side by side, check out Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion, which allow you to run Windows and OS X simultaneously, no reboot required.

Installing Windows on your Mac takes some time, and you need to have your own copy of Windows 10, as Apple does not supply it with Boot Camp. But once you've collected everything you need, the process is straightforward.

Gather your materials

Here's what you need:

    • An Intel-based Mac that supports Windows 10. Most Macs released since the middle of 2012 should work, but consult this list from Apple to confirm you have a compatible Mac.
    • A 64-bit Microsoft Windows full-installation DVD, USB flash drive, or disk image (ISO). You can purchase a disk image of Windows 10 on Microsoft's site. If you have the full Windows 10 installation software on a DVD or USB flash drive, see Apple's site for instructions on how to create an ISO image.
    • A USB keyboard and mouse or trackpad.
    • A 16GB or larger USB flash drive. Boot Camp erases and reformats the USB flash drive as part of the process, so make a backup of the contents of the flash drive.
    • 30GB of free hard disk space on your startup drive. While Boot Camp does not erase your hard disk, it does shift its contents around, so make sure you have a current and complete backup of your startup disk in case something gets lost.

    Set up the drive with Boot Camp Assistant

    Before you begin, did you make copies of important files on your hard drive and flash drive? If so, proceed to drive setup.

    1. Navigate to the Utilities folder, inside the Applications folder, and open Boot Camp Assistant, which will walk you through setting up a partition on your startup disk and downloading software drivers for Windows. Boot Camp Assistant's Introduction window gives you an overview of Boot Camp. Click Continue.
    2. bc-assistant.png
    3. In the Select Tasks window, choose which tasks you want the assistant to perform for you. You can have it create an installation disk, download support software from Apple, and create a Windows partition and start the installation process. If you haven't plugged in the USB flash drive, now's the time. Click Continue.
    4. The Create Bootable USB Drive for Windows Installation window lets you select the ISO image and the destination disk you want to use to create a bootable drive. Click Continue.
    5. A dialog warns you that the drive you selected will be erased. If you are fine with that, click Continue. The Assistant formats the drive, copies Windows files to it, and downloads Windows support software.
    6. You may be prompted to add a new helper tool. Enter your password in the dialog and click Add Helper.

    Create a partition

    Next you create the partition for Windows. You have to use an internal drive; an external drive won't do.

    • In the Create a Partition for Windows window, set how much space you want to dedicate to your OS X and Windows partitions. The Windows installation tool recommends using at least 25GB for the Windows partition. Click Install.
    • partition.png

      Boot Camp Assistant now partitions your disk and then restarts into the Windows setup and installation tool.

      Install Windows 10

      With your drive now partitioned, follow the Windows setup instructions to install Windows 10.

    1. In the Windows Setup window, set a few preferences and click Next.
    2. Enter your product key to activate your copy of Windows, and then click Next.
    3. Select the OS version you want to install, if you are given a choice, and click Next.
    4. Read the license terms, and click Next.
    5. Select Bootcamp for where you want to install Windows, and click Next.
    6. Click the Format icon to format the partition for Windows 10.
    7. You see a dialog warning you about lost files. Be brave, and click OK.
    8. Now click Next, and you'll a status window where you can monitor the installation progress. Once done, you'll restart again into Windows 10.

    Set up Windows 10

    Almost done. Windows takes over and walks you through a few more setup steps.

    1. In the Setup Steps window, if you want to keep things moving, select Express settings. You can always go back and customize your settings later.
    2. Then create your user account and click Next. You'll see a few friendly messages keeping you informed about what's happening and assuring you that this won't take long.

    Install Boot Camp

    And it doesn't take long. Finally, you are in the Boot Camp installer, where you install drivers required to run Windows on your Mac.

    1. In the Boot Camp installer window, click Next to complete these final steps. The window shows you your progress.
    2. Once done, click Finish.

    The Boot Camp installer wraps up its business, and Windows 10 runs on your Mac.


    To switch back to OS X, go to the system tray, click the Boot Camp icon, and select Restart from OS X.

    To switch from OS X to Windows, in the System Preference's Startup Disk pane, select the Bootcamp Windows icon and click Restart.

    Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.