How to Install Windows 7 on a Mac with Boot Camp

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Despite the fact that Macs are dominant in the graphic design and creative fields, Windows PCs still dominate most enterprises and Microsoft has its Office suite locked down for professional users. This is why if you or your company happen to use Macs, it is a good idea to install Windows 7 on them. This way you can get the best of both worlds.

It may be surprising coming from a Microsoft rival, but Apple will let you install a separate partition on your Mac with Windows 7 and Mac OS X/OS X Lion. All you have to do is own an Intel-based Mac, which should be any modern Mac, and have an up-to-date Mac operating system, like Snow Leopard or Lion, with Boot Camp on it. Boot Camp is assistant installation software that creates the Windows 7 partition for you.

Being able to use both a Mac OS and Windows on a single system is a great option for many reasons. You will be able to reap the full benefit of the creative software suits, from Adobe and Apple for instance, along with more traditional enterprise suites from Microsoft. You will be able to do this without having to take up more office room with multiple hosted systems.

Another benefit is that if you have multiple partitions, and one of them gets malware or goes haywire for some reason, you can still set up your system form the other partition and use it to fix the malfunctioning one.

Macs have many other benefits besides just being useful with creative software. The operating system offers a different experience, especially Lion OS X, which may make it more appealing to novice PC users or those not wanting to search through many file names on a constant basis. Here are the steps you will need to take to install Windows 7 on your Mac:

Step 1 :

Make sure you have either Mac OS X v10.7 Lion or Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard installed for any modern version of Boot Camp -- yes, support of previous Mac operating systems exists with previous Boot Camp versions, but this guide will focus on modern Mac operating systems and Boot Camp versions.

You can update Snow Leopard to Lion through the Mac App Store when you purchase Lion. Keep in mind that you need to be at OS X 10.6.6 as a Snow Leopard user before you can upgrade to Lion. If you are a Snow Leopard user and have been following standard software updates from the Apple menu, you should be at 10.6.8. You can read about this update here directly from Apple's website and update. Lion's latest update, as of this writing, is 10.7.4. You can head over here to read about it and update directly from Apple's website.

Mac OS and Software

Step 2 :

Make sure your Boot Camp is up to date, which means version 4.0 for Lion and 3.2 for Snow Leopard. Boot Camp is an assistant application and you can read the manual on Apple's website. If you have Snow Leopard or Lion installed, Boot Camp should already be included, but make sure it is up to date.

Boot Camp

If you have a Mac without an optical drive, like a Macbook Air, make sure you either have an external drive with a Windows 7 disc; or, if you want to update from an ISO image via a USB flash drive, make sure you update form Boot Camp 4.0 and OS X Lion.

Step 3 :

Have a Windows 7 Install disc ready. You can use either 32bit or 64bit, although 64bit is recommended for the best performance. Alternatively, Boot Camp Assistant helps you burn the ISO image to a USB flash drive if you have Lion installed. This is also mentioned in Apple's manual for Boot Camp 4.0 for Lion. Apple also lists the exact Mac models compatible with Windows 7 (64-bit). Apple also mentions the versions of Windows 7 you will need if you want to install a 64bit OS:

“Computers with Mac OS X v10.6 or later work with 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate. The only 64-bit version of Windows supported on these computers is 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate.”

Windows 7

Step 4 :

Go to the Boot Camp Assistant and start the installation process. In orderto do this from Snow Leopard, you need to click on applications from the Dock. Then click on utilities. It should be located toward the middle of the second row from the top. From Lion you can go to utilities directly from Launchpad. From here, go ahead and click on the Boot Camp Assistant.

Boot Camp Assistant

Step 5 :

Follow the instructions and download the additional software necessary to support Windows on your Mac. Updates to drivers will allow your Apple peripherals like keyboards, mice and cameras to work on the Windows partition. Alternatively, you can insert your Mac installation disc to download these drivers (this may depend on if your Mac came with Lion or Snow Leopard and the type of Mac you have).

Download Windows Support Software

Step 6 :

After you installed the Windows compatibility driver software, go ahead and create a Windows partition. You will be asked if you want to create a Windows partition first. You want to do this. A Windows partition will allow you to choose how much of your hard drive space you want to devote to Windows vs. your Mac's operating system. You can choose to make it 50% for each instance, thus dividing the partitions. Alternatively, if you hardly plan on using Windows, choose a lower number for the Windows partition.

Select Task Create a Partition

Step 7 :

Next, you want to start the installer. You will be asked to insert the Windows 7 disc or USB drive with the software and then the installation process will start. The menu will be similar to the one above in step 6. It will appear after you finish selecting the size of your Windows partition. You can also use a different drive if you have multiple hard drives or solid-state drives installed inside your Mac. Keep in mind, however, that external drives cannot be used to host the Windows partition, as Apple mentions here.

Start Windows Installation

Step 8 :

Restart your Mac and boot it into Windows. Eventually your Mac will restart and you can start Windows 7 on it or your pre-installed Mac OS. If you own Snow Leopard, you can press the Option (Alt) key on your keyboard to go to a menu where Apple asks you which operating system you want to use. Alternatively, you can use the Startup Disk control panel to choose your default starting operating system.

When you boot into Windows, you will need to go through the process of updating drivers and making sure your Apple peripherals, like mice and keyboards, work correctly.

Install Windows

Conclusion

Macs are becoming more prevalent in the work place of MBS and even larger enterprises. However, despite Microsoft offering some of its software in the form of Office for Mac, there is a lot of software that is still exclusive to Windows that companies rely on. This is why being able to put both operating systems on a single system can be a life saver. Office for Mac includes Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word. However, what is missing from the Windows version that you may rely on is OneNote. If you want the best of both worlds, you can with this dual-booting guide.

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Contributor

Mike Lata

is a technology enthusiast and freelance writer who has graduated from California State University, Chico in spring '10 with a BA in news-ed journalism/minor in economics. He has been focusing his writing on technology and computing advancements. This includes mobile applications, 3D tech, augmented reality, computing devices such as tablets, and software news for both PC and Mac operating systems. Most of his focus until recently has been on the consumer sector rather than IT professionals and enterprise. Mike recently started writing for AppleMagazine, and has been involved with writing about 3D technology for 3DTV.com. He also sometimes contributes to mobile application sites, such as Appmodo.com, and does other client-based assignments. Mike was originally born in Poland and came to the U.S. when he was 9 years old. He has lived in California ever since.