Using Boot Camp Assistant to Install Windows on Your Mac

Boot Camp Assistant supports Windows 7, 8, and 10

MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Apple Inc.

 ​Boot Camp Assistant, a utility included with your Mac, adds a new partition to your Mac's startup drive to install and run Windows in a fully native environment. Boot Camp Assistant also provides the Windows drivers necessary to use Apple hardware, including such key items as the Mac's built-in camera, audio, networking, keyboard, mouse, trackpad, and video. Without these drivers, Windows would still basically function, but the keyword here is basic, as in extremely basic. You would not be able to change video resolution, make use of any audio, or connect to a network. And while the keyboard and mouse or trackpad should work, they will only provide the simplest of capabilities.

With the Apple drivers that Boot Camp Assistant provides, you may discover that Windows and your Mac hardware are one of the best combinations for running Windows.

This guide was written for Boot Camp Assistant 6. However, although the exact text and menu names may be different, Boot Camp Assistant 4 and 5 are similar enough that you should be able to use this guide with the earlier versions.

What Boot Camp Assistant Does for You

Boot Camp Assistant extends the virtualization environment to:

  • Partition your Mac's internal drive without losing data.
  • Provide the necessary drivers for Windows to recognize and use all of your Mac hardware.
  • Provide a Windows control panel that lets you select the environment the Mac will boot into. (Your Mac already has its own preference pane for selecting the boot environment.)
  • Remove the Windows partition and restore that space for use by your Mac.

What You Need

To proceed, you must have:

  • Boot Camp Assistant 6.x. or later.
  • macOS Sierra or later.
  • 50 GB or more of free space on your hard drive or SSD.
  • A keyboard and mouse or built-in keyboard and trackpad.
  • A full install disc or ISO of Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10.
  • An MS-DOS (FAT) formatted flash drive.

Previous Versions of Boot Camp Assistant

If your Mac has an earlier version of Boot Camp Assistant or earlier versions of OS X (10.5 or earlier), review our detailed guide to using these earlier versions of Boot Camp Assistant.

Which Versions of Windows Are Supported

Since Boot Camp Assistant downloads and creates the Windows drivers needed to finish the Windows install, you need to know which version of Boot Camp Assistant works with which version of Windows.

  • Boot Camp Assistant 4.x: Windows 7
  • Boot Camp Assistant 5.x: 64-bit Windows 7, 8
  • Boot Camp Assistant 6.x: 64-bit Windows 10

Your Mac uses a single version of Boot Camp Assistant, making it difficult to install other versions of Windows that aren't directly supported by the version of Boot Camp Assistant you're using.

To install alternate Windows versions, you'll need to manually download and create the Windows Support Drivers. Use the following links, depending on the version of Windows you wish to use:

Boot Camp Support Software 6 is the current version and can be downloaded through the Boot Camp Assistant app.

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Before You Begin

Windows 10 running on an iMac

Part of the process of installing Windows on your Mac involves repartitioning the Mac's drive. While Boot Camp Assistant is designed to partition a drive without any data loss, there is always the possibility that something can go wrong. And when it comes to losing data, we always think something can go wrong.

So, before going any further, back up your Mac's drive now. There are plenty of backup applications available; some of our favorites include:

When your backup is finished, we can start working with Boot Camp Assistant.

We recommend that the USB flash drive used in this guide be connected directly to one of your Mac's USB ports. Do not connect the flash drive to your Mac through a hub or other device. Doing so can cause the Windows install to fail.

 

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Boot Camp Assistants Three Tasks

Boot Camp Assistants three primary tasks

Boot Camp Assistant can perform three basic tasks to help you get Windows running on your Mac, or uninstall it from your Mac. Depending on what you wish to accomplish, you may not need to make use of all three tasks.

Boot Camp Assistant's Three Tasks

  • Create a Windows 10 or later install disk: Boot Camp Assistant can use a USB flash drive or an external USB drive to create an install disk from a Windows 10 ISO image file. There are various ways to acquire the ISO image file of Windows, but the easiest is to simply download the image file directly from Microsoft.
  • Download the latest Windows support software from Apple: With this option, your Mac downloads the latest Windows 10 drivers and supporting software that allows Windows to work with your Mac's hardware. The support software will be copied to the USB flash drive you are using for the Windows 10 install disk.
  • Install Windows 10 or later version: This option either creates a Windows partition on your Mac's startup drive or removes a Windows partition if one is already present. The actual name of this option will change if you already have a Windows partition on your Mac to Remove Windows 10 or later version.

Your Mac will automatically start the Windows installation process once the appropriate partition is created.

If you're removing a Windows partition, this option will not only delete the Windows partition but also merge the newly freed space with your existing Mac partition to create one larger space.

Selecting the Tasks

Place a checkmark next to the tasks you wish to perform. You can select more than one task; the tasks will be performed in the appropriate order. For example, if you select the following tasks:

  • Download the latest Windows support software from Apple.
  • Install Windows 10 or later version.

Your Mac will first download and save the Windows support software, and then create the necessary partition and start the Windows 10 install process.

Normally you would select all of the tasks and have Boot Camp Assistant run them all for you concurrently. You can also select one task at a time; it makes no difference to the final outcome. If you select more than one task, your Mac automatically continues to the next task.

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Create the Windows Installer

Boot Camp Assistant can create a bootable Windows install disc.

Boot Camp Assistant creates a Windows 10 installer disk. To perform this task, you must have a Windows 10 ISO image file. The ISO file can be stored on your Mac's internal drives, or on an external drive.

  1. Make sure the USB flash drive you intend to use as the bootable Windows install disk is connected to your Mac. If needed, launch Boot Camp Assistant.
  2. In the Select Task window, add a checkmark to the box labeled Create a Windows 10 or later install disk. Remove checkmarks from the remaining tasks to perform just the install disk creation. When you're ready, click Continue.
  3. Click the Choose button next to the ISO Image field, then access the Windows 10 ISO image file you have saved on your Mac.
  4. In the Destination Disk section, select the USB flash drive you wish to use as the bootable Windows installer disk. The selected destination disk will be reformatted causing all data on the selected device to be erased. Click the Continue button when ready.
  5. A drop-down sheet warns you about the possibility of data loss. Click the Continue button.

Boot Camp creates the Windows Installer drive for you. This process can take a bit of time. When complete, Boot Camp Assistant asks for your administrator password so it can make changes to the destination drive. Supply your password and click OK.

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Create the Windows Drivers

Boot Camp Assistant can create the needed Window drivers

To get Windows working on your Mac, you need the latest version of the Apple Windows support software. Boot Camp Assistant downloads the Window drivers for your Mac's hardware to ensure that everything will work at its best.

Launch Boot Camp Assistant

Open Boot Camp Assistant, located at /Applications/Utilities. Read the introductory text. Don't rely on batteries during this process; plug your Mac into AC power if it's not already. Click the Continue button.

Download the Windows Support Software (Drivers)

The Select Tasks step will display. It includes three options:

  • Create a Windows 10 or later Install disk.
  • Download the latest Windows support software from Apple.
  • Install Windows 10 or later version.

Put a checkmark next to Download the latest Windows support software from Apple. Remove the checkmarks from the remaining two items. Click Continue.

Save Windows Support Software

You have the choice to save the Windows support software to any external drive attached to your Mac.

Saving to a USB Flash Drive

  1. Start by preparing your USB flash drive. It will need to be formatted in the MS-DOS (FAT) format. Formatting the USB flash drive will erase any data already on the device, so make sure the data is backed up somewhere else if you want to keep it. Formatting instructions for those using OS X El Capitan or later can be found in the guide: Format a Mac's Drive Using Disk Utility (OS X El Capitan or later). If you're using OS X Yosemite or earlier you can find instructions in the guide: Disk Utility: Format a Hard Drive. In both cases be sure to choose MS-DOS (FAT) as the format and Master Boot Record as the Scheme.
  2. After you format the USB drive, quit Disk Utility and continue with Boot Camp Assistant.
  3. In the Boot Camp Assistant window, select the flash drive you just formatted as the Destination Disk, then click Continue.
  4. Boot Camp Assistant starts the process of downloading the latest versions of the Windows drivers from the Apple support website. Once downloaded, the drivers save to the selected USB flash drive.
  5. Boot Camp Assistant may ask you for your administrator password to add a helper file during the writing of the data to the destination location. Provide your password and click the Add Helper button.
  6. After the Windows support software has saved, Boot Camp Assistant displays a Quit button. Click Quit.

The Windows Support folder, which includes the Windows drivers and a setup application, is now stored on the USB flash drive. Use this flash drive during the Windows install process. Keep the USB flash drive plugged in if you will be installing Windows soon, or eject the drive for later use.

Saving to a CD or DVD

If you're using Boot Camp Assistant 4.x, you can also choose to save the Windows support software to a blank CD or DVD. Boot Camp Assistant burns the information to the blank media for you.

  1. Select Burn a copy to CD or DVD. Click Continue.
  2. Boot Camp Assistant starts the process of downloading the latest versions of the Windows drivers from the Apple support website. When the download is complete, Boot Camp Assistant asks you to insert blank media into your Superdrive. Insert the blank media into your optical drive, and then click Burn.
  3. When the burn is complete, the CD or DVD ejects.
  4. Boot Camp may ask for your administrator password to add a new helper tool. Provide your password and click Add Helper.

The process of downloading and saving the Windows support software is complete. Click the Quit button.

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Create the Windows Partition

Boot Camp Assistant partitioning a Mac's startup drive

One of the primary functions of Boot Camp Assistant is to divide a Mac's drive by adding a partition dedicated to Windows. The partitioning process allows you to select how much space will be taken from your existing Mac partition and assigned for use in the Windows partition. If your Mac uses several drives—as some iMacs, Mac minis, and Mac Pros do—you can select the drive to partition or choose to dedicate an entire drive to Windows.

Partitioning Your Drive for Windows

Launch Boot Camp Assistant, located at /Applications/Utilities. If you're installing Windows on a portable Mac, connect it to an AC power source. You don't want your Mac to shut down halfway through this process because its battery ran out of juice.

The Select Tasks option displays, prompting (or more) of the three different functions that Boot Camp Assistant can perform.

Place a checkmark next to Install Windows 10 or later. Click Continue.

If your Mac has multiple internal drives, you will be shown a list of the available drives. If your Mac has a single drive, skip this step and go on to step 12. Select the drive you wish to use for the Windows installation. You can choose to split the drive into two partitions, with the second partition to be used for the Windows installation, or you can dedicate the entire drive for use by Windows. If you choose to use the entire drive for Windows, any data currently stored on the drive will be erased, so be sure to back this data up to another drive if you want to keep it. Make your selection and click Continue.

The hard drive you selected displays with one section listed as macOS and the new section listed as Windows. No partitioning has been performed yet; first, decide how large you want the Windows partition to be. Between the two proposed partitions is a small dot, which you can click and drag with your mouse. Drag the dot until the Windows partition is the desired size. Any space you add to the Windows partition will be taken from the free space currently available on the Mac partition.

Once you've made the Windows partition the desired size, you're ready to begin the process of creating the partition and installing Windows 10. Close any other open applications, saving any app data as needed. After you click the Install button, your Mac partitions the selected drive and then automatically restarts.

Insert the USB flash drive containing Windows 10 Install disk, and then click Install. Boot Camp Assistant will create the Windows partition and name it BOOTCAMP. It will then restart your Mac and begin the Windows installation process.

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Installing Windows

Windows Setup install location selection

The Windows 10 installer now takes over, to complete the installation of Windows 10. Just follow the onscreen instructions provided by Microsoft.

During the Windows 10 installation process, you will be asked where to install Windows 10. You will be shown an image depicting the drives on your Mac and how they are partitioned. You may see three or more partitions. Select the partition that has BOOTCAMP as part of its name. The partition's name starts with the disk number and partition number and ends with the word BOOTCAMP. For example, "Disk 0 Partition 4: BOOTCAMP."

  1. Select the partition that includes the BOOTCAMP name.
  2. Click the Drive Options (Advanced) link.
  3. Click the Format link, and then click OK.
  4. Click Next.

From here you can continue to follow the normal Windows 10 installation process.

Eventually, the Windows install process will complete, and your Mac will reboot into Windows.

Install Windows Support Software

After Windows 10 installer completes and your Mac reboots into the Windows environment, the Boot Camp Driver installer starts automatically. If it doesn't start on its own you can manually start the installer:

  1. Make sure the USB flash drive containing the Boot Camp driver installer is connected to your Mac. This is normally the same USB flash drive that was used to install Windows 10, but you could have created a separate flash drive with the driver installer if you selected the tasks in the Boot Camp Assistant independently instead of performing all tasks at once.
  2. Open the USB flash drive in Windows 10.
  3. Within the BootCamp folder, you will find a setup.exe file.
  4. Double click the setup.exe file to start the Boot Camp driver installer.
  5. Follow the onscreen instructions.

You will be asked if you want to allow Boot Camp to make changes to your computer. Click Yes, and then follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation of Windows 10 and the Boot Camp drivers.

Once the installer finishes its task, click the Finish button.

Your Mac will reboot to the Windows 10 environment.

Selecting the Default Operating System

The Boot Camp driver installs the Boot Camp Control Panel. It should be visible in the Windows 10 System Tray. If you don’t see it, click the upward facing triangle in the system tray. Any hidden icons, including possibly the Boot Camp Control Panel, will be displayed.

Select the Startup Disk tab in the control panel.

Select the drive (OS) you wish to set as the default.

The macOS has a similar Startup Disk preference pane that you can use to set the default drive (OS).

If you need to boot to another OS on a temporary basis, you can do so by holding down the Option key when you start your Mac and then selecting which drive (OS) to use.