Nowadays it has never been easier to run Windows on a Mac so we’ve looked at the best ways to do so in 2021 including on M1 Macs.
Installing Windows 10 or Windows 11 on your Mac is useful for many reasons from running Windows only software to playing PC only games.
It’s also much cheaper and more convenient than buying a separate PC or laptop just to use Windows on.
However, there’s no doubt that some ways of installing Windows on a Mac are much easier, reliable and effective than others.
We’ve taken a closer look at the different options available so you can decide which one is best for you.
Are There Any Risks Installing Windows on Mac?
Because installing Windows on a Mac involves separating it into either a virtual environment or a separate partition on your hard drive, there are absolutely no risks installing Windows on your Mac.
Running Windows on a Mac effectively isolates the rest of your Mac from any potential problems with viruses, malware or adware.
If the Windows installation were to get a virus or corrupted in some way, it wouldn’t damage macOS. You can simply delete the installation and reinstall it.
It’s also extremely easy to install Microsoft Windows on a Mac nowadays and Virtual Machines like Parallels make it easy even for beginners to do it.
However, we always recommend backing-up your Mac to an before making any major changes to it.
If you’re worried whether installing Windows on a Mac is illegal, there’s no need to.
Installing Windows on a Mac (or any other computer) is perfectly legal. In fact, Apple actively encourages it by providing Boot Camp in Intel Macs and there’s no issues with the Windows EULA installing Windows on a Mac using any of these methods.
Can You Install Windows 11 on a Mac?
Windows 11 was released by Microsoft on October 5th 2021 and you can now including M1 Macs.
Windows 11 requires a physical TPM chip to run and although Macs don’t have one, can now emulate a virtual TPM chip so that Windows 11 will run on both Intel and M1 Macs.
It’s important to be aware however that on M1 Macs, you can only run the Insider Preview versions of Windows 11 For ARM which is not compatible with many Windows games and applications.
You can find full instructions on .
How To Play Windows Games on a Mac
All of the following methods of installing Windows on a Mac are suitable for playing Windows games on a Mac but some are more suitable than other depending on the game you want to play.
For example, some games such as will not work with virtualization software because they are protected by the anti-cheat software Vanguard which will not run in a virtual environment.
Will Windows Work on M1 Macs?
You can although not all of these methods support it. We have indicated in these reviews which methods support the M1 chip and which do not.
At the moment, Parallels 17 is the only software that officially supports running Windows on M1 Macs including the latest , although there is a Preview version of VMWare Fusion that now supports Apple Silicon M1 chips too.
Does Windows 365 Work on a Mac?
is a new Cloud service by Microsoft that will allow Mac users to use Windows 10 and 11 online in any browser.
At the moment, Microsoft Windows 365 is only available to Windows 365 Enterprise customers but is due to be rolled out to smaller businesses in Fall 2021.
However, it will eventually offer another way for Mac users to access Windows on a Mac including Windows 11 eventually.
With this in mind, here then are the best ways to install Windows on a Mac of 2021 in order of ranking.
1. Virtual Machine (Best For Beginners)
A virtual machine (also known as a virtual environment or virtualization software) allows you to run Windows “virtually” within macOS.
By far the two best virtual machines for Mac users are and .
There’s also VirtualBox which is free and open source but much harder to setup and use.
Although VMWare has improved a lot, we still think Parallels is the best way to run Windows on your Mac in 2021 for its ease of installation, speed, and the way it conveniently allows you to switch between macOS and Windows instantly.
Parallels is also the .
Apple’s latest generation of Silicon Macs use a different ARM M1 chip and Parallels is the currently the only officially supported way to run Windows on Apple silicon M1 Macs.
At the moment, the only major rival to Parallels is VMWare Fusion which is not expected to officially support M1 Macs until Spring 2022 although there is currently an Apple Silicon Preview of VMWare Fusion version that does work with the M1 chip.
You can even install Windows on a Mac for free with Parallels as you only need to purchase a Windows 10 activation key nowadays if you want to customize it.
Or if you already have Windows 10 installed on a PC, you can use the same 25 figure activation key during the Windows installation process in Parallels to get another fully activated copy for free on your Mac.
Virtual Machines are by far the most convenient Windows on Mac solution for most users because they allow you to use your Mac as normal but switch to a a Windows application at any time when you need it.
You have full access to the rest of your Mac apps while enjoying the convenience of having the Windows available too.
Parallels has got this off to a tee nowadays with Coherence Mode blurring the line between macOS and Windows so that you can work in both with almost no separation between the two.
The main rival to Parallels is VMWare Fusion which has now released a free version for non-commercial use but we’ve found that nothing comes close to Parallels in terms of ease of setup, use and support.
You can to test it first.
Parallels costs $79.99
for a home license or $99.99 for a Pro License suitable for developers, testers and power users.
For a limited time you can also get for students and teachers.
If you want to learn more, check out our full .
2. Apple Boot Camp (Best For Gamers)
By far the most popular alternative to installing Windows with a virtualization software is by using .
Using Boot Camp to run Windows and install Windows only games is especially popular with gamers because Boot Camp leverages more power from your graphics card as it doesn’t have to run a virtual machine like Parallels does.
This makes playing games like much smoother and less choppy as there are far fewer dropped frames.
Boot Camp is a free tool in macOS which allows you to install Windows on a partition on your Mac hard drive so you can choose whether to boot your Mac in either Windows or macOS.
Because Boot Camp only allows your Mac to boot in either Windows or macOS (rather than running both at the same time as with a virtual environment) your Mac can devote all of its resources to the high demands of games and other power hungry applications.
The other big advantage of Boot Camp is that it’s free in macOS – just search for “Boot Camp” using Spotlight on your Mac and you’ll see it.
The disadvantage of installing Windows with Boot Camp is that you’re restricted to using either Windows or macOS at one time – you can’t switch between the two instantly like with virtualization software.
Note also that that are some iMacs which can’t use Boot Camp in macOS Mojave.
Finally, be aware that Apple has confirmed that Boot Camp will not work with Apple Silicon M1 Macs which is the new chipset and ARM processors that powers new Macs from late 2020 onwards.
If you are thinking of buying a new Mac in 2021, Boot Camp is definitely not an option if you want to install Windows on it.
You can find full instructions on how to install Windows 10 on Mac for free with Boot Camp here.
If you’re also interested in other ways to play Windows games on a Mac, you may also be interested in which is a gaming platform by NVIDIA which allows Mac users to play Windows only games in the Cloud.
Wine (stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator) is a free way to install Windows on your Mac and it works by “wrapping” Windows in macOS.
Note that Wine is 32 bit only which means it does not work with macOS Catalina which only supports 64 bit applications.
This is hard to explain without getting very technical and boring but it basically allows your Mac to interpret what are called Windows API calls.
For more on .
However, we only recommend Wine for those that really know what they’re doing and have strong technical skills with Macs. Wine is notoriously difficult to use, setup and many times, doesn’t even work properly for all problems.
If you’re brave enough to try Wine, definitely check out the list of supported Wine applications first to avoid saving yourself a lot of pain.
is based on Wine but in a far easier to use interface. It’s much easier to setup and use but it’s not free and costs $39.95.
Also, since it’s based on Wine, it can only run Windows programs that are Wine compatible which restricts the number of games and apps that work with it on a Mac.
Apart from Parallels though, Crossover is currently the only way to play some Windows games on M1 Macs. Crossover uses what’s called Rosetta 2 in macOS to “translate” Intel chip only games and software to work with the M1 chip.
You can watch Team Fortress 2 being played on an M1 Mac using Crossover below and as you can see, the performance is pretty good.
It doesn’t work with all games though and we recommend checking the list of Crossover supported apps and games before buying it.
You can also try a to try it first.
5. Remote Desktop Software
Another option to access Windows on a Mac is to run Windows remotely on another PC and use to connect to it.
This involves using a remote desktop application of which there are many on the market.
They all basically connect to a Windows machine and then display the desktop of the PC on your Mac desktop.
This isn’t an ideal solution though because there’s usually plenty of lag between the PC, Mac or mobile device you’re connecting to and your Mac.
It’s also limited in what you can actually do – you can usually drag files and folders, open documents and save files but it’s certainly not suitable for playing games.
For a look at some of the options available, check out our guide to the .
Frame doesn’t actually run Windows on your Mac but it does allow you to access Windows applications remotely and use them on your Mac in your browser.
Frame uses the same principle as remote desktop software by hosting Windows and Windows applications in the Cloud and then giving you access to them via your browser.
The main drawback of Frame is that it doesn’t actually give you access to Windows, it’s Cloud based so requires an internet connection and it’s not cheap with plans starting at $20 per user per month.
My experience running Windows 10 in Boot Camp on a Early 2020 Intel Macbook Air is that it runs fine but monitoring CPU core temp I do notice that temps occasionally bump against the 100c Tj max temps for this CPU. What is odd is that the fan which really does so little anyway does not ramp up even though I am averaging around 70c. If you do anything CPU intensive its going to throttle the CPU for sure. Much of this probably is because Apple has not done much to address these sort of issues when running Windows 10.
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