Windows 8 was bad enough that it forced me — a lifelong Windows user up until that point — to switch my entire family over to Macs. True story. But after seeing how Microsoft has stepped it up with Windows 10 (the Start menu is finally back and Internet Explorer is nearly gone), I’m now interested in giving it a try once again.
Like most people using MacBooks, I have no interest in getting rid of my laptop, but thankfully I don’t have to buy any new hardware to use Windows 10. Thanks to Apple creating some helpful tools and some solid third-party options, it’s rather easy to get Windows 10 up and running right alongside OS X.
Virtual Machine or Boot Camp?
There are two easy ways to install Windows on a Mac. You can use a virtualization program, which runs Windows 10 like an app right on top of OS X, or you can use Apple’s built-in Boot Camp program to partition your hard drive to dual-boot Windows 10 right next to OS X.
Virtual machines like Parallels and VMware cost upwards of $70 on top of what you already have to pay for Windows 10, and while you can run OS X and Windows simultaneously, the drain on your processing power can force both operating systems to run less than optimally.
Boot Camp is the easiest way to get Windows 10 on your Mac
Boot Camp doesn’t allow you to easily transfer content between OS X and Windows partitions like virtual machines do, and you can’t run the two operating systems simultaneously. But it does give Windows full access to the processing power of your Mac. It’s also completely free (apart from the Windows 10 license), and a shared Dropbox / Google Drive / OneDrive folder can make data transfers a bit easier.
Right now, the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to get Windows 10 on your Mac is Boot Camp, and that’s what we’re using for this tutorial. The first thing you should do is check the system requirements to make sure your Mac can actually run Windows 10. Your Mac needs at least 2GB of RAM (4GB of RAM would be better) and at least 30GB of free hard drive space to properly run Boot Camp. You’ll also need at least a 16GB flash drive so Boot Camp can create a bootable drive to install Windows 10.
Read Next: Our Windows 10 Review.
Installing Windows 10 with Boot Camp
Before we go any further, you should back up your Mac. While Boot Camp is very stable, anything can go wrong when you partition your hard drive, and you want to be protected. Once you download your copy of Windows 10 — the full version, not the upgrade — we can begin the installation process. (You can also buy Windows 10 on a USB flash drive.)
Open up Boot Camp Assistant, which can be found in the Utilities folder in your Applications list. Boot Camp will prompt you to back up your Mac, which you should have already done. The next page will ask you to select the tasks you want Boot Camp to complete. Check all the boxes, make sure your flash drive is plugged in, and click continue. Select the Windows 10 ISO location (Boot Camp automatically found it in my Downloads folder), and choose the USB drive as the destination, and click Continue. Boot Camp will create a boot drive with all of the necessary drivers.
Now is the time to go outside and clean out the garage, start building a new vision board, or get a head start on your taxes — this is going to take a while. It took a bit over an hour for Boot Camp to finish the boot drive in our test.
(Since Windows 10 is fresh out the box, Boot Camp doesn’t officially support it yet, which could mean some drivers are missing. After a few initial issues including an unresponsive Start menu that was fixed by a restart, The Verge’s MacBook Air running Windows 10 ran flawlessly, with no noticeable driver errors. But still, install at your own risk until Apple issues an update for Boot Camp.)
If you want to play games, make sure your partition is large enough
After Boot Camp creates your USB boot drive, it will prompt you to choose how much of your hard drive you want to partition for Windows. This is a critical decision: after you choose, you cannot shrink or expand the partition without completely reinstalling Windows. If you just want access to Windows 10 and only plan on using a couple apps, 30GB will suffice (a minimum of 20GB is necessary). But if you’re looking to play PC games or use Windows 10 as your main OS, you’re going to want to ramp up the available space in the partition. Once you make your decision, click Install.
During this part of the installation, your Mac will restart a few times, ultimately landing you at a screen that will ask you which partition you want to install Windows 10 on. Select the partition labeled "Boot Camp," format it for NFTS, and continue with the installation. You’ll go through the setup wizard where Windows will ask you for the product key and you’ll be on your way.
The Windows 10 experience on Mac
To switch back and forth between OS X and Windows 10, you’ll need to restart your Mac. Once it begins to reboot, hold down the Option key until you see the boot manager. Click on the partition with the corresponding operating system you want to use.
Removing Windows 10 is as simple as installing it
If Windows 10 is giving you issues or you just want to get rid of it, removing Windows from your Mac and restoring it to the original, single partition state is a simple process: open Boot Camp, and check the "Remove Windows 7 or later" box, then click Continue. To remove the entire Windows partition, click Restore on the next screen. Boot Camp will ask for your password and then restore your Mac to its original state.
Windows 10 runs well on the Mac — on our early-2014 MacBook Air, the OS hasn’t shown any noticeable sluggishness or major issues that you wouldn’t find on a PC. The biggest difference between using Windows 10 on a Mac and a PC is the keyboard. You can’t remap keys easily, which means if you were used to using Cmd+c for copy on OS X, you’ll have to remember that it won’t work on Windows (it’s Cntrl+c). It’s definitely an inconvenience, but not one big enough to say you shouldn’t give Windows 10 on Mac a try.
The main issue you’ll have is battery life, as we barely got 3 hours of usage on a full charge. Will it change when Apple updates Boot Camp for Windows 10? Possibly, but if you’re looking for anything close to the 10 hours of battery life you normally get from a MacBook Air, you should probably just pick up our selection for the best Windows 10 laptop.
Verge Video: Windows 10 review