Using Boot Camp Assistant to Install Windows on Your Mac

Boot Camp Assistant supports Windows 10, 8, and 7

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 an actual Windows environment (not emulated or virtualized).

Boot Camp Assistant also provides the Windows drivers needed to use Apple hardware, including camera, audio, networking, keyboard, mouse, trackpad, and video. Without these drivers, Windows functions, but you can't change video resolution, listen to audio, or connect to a network. While the keyboard and mouse or trackpad work, these only provide simple 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 information applies to Boot Camp Assistant 6, which is required to install Windows 10. It is included in macOS Big Sur (11) through macOS Sierra (10.12). Although the exact text and menu names may differ, Boot Camp Assistant 5 and 4 for Windows 8 and 7 are similar enough that you can use this guide with those earlier versions.

What Boot Camp Assistant Does

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 your Mac hardware.
  • Provide a Windows control panel that lets you select the environment the Mac will boot into. (Your Mac 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 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7.
  • An MS-DOS (FAT) formatted flash drive.
  • A Mac with an Intel processor.

Previous Versions of Boot Camp Assistant

If your Mac has an earlier version of Boot Camp Assistant or earlier versions of OS X than 10.5, review this detailed guide to using these early 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 6.x: 64-bit Windows 10
  • Boot Camp Assistant 5.x: 64-bit Windows 8 and 7
  • Boot Camp Assistant 4.x: Windows 7

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 your Mac has.

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

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

Back Up Before You Begin

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.

So, before going any further, back up your Mac's drive. There are plenty of backup applications available. When the backup is finished, you can start working with Boot Camp Assistant.

Attach the USB flash drive used in this process 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 installation to fail.

Boot Camp Assistant's Three 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 want to accomplish, you may not need to use all three tasks.

  • Create a Windows 10 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 download the image file 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 is copied to the USB flash drive you are using for the Windows 10 install disk.
  • Install Windows 10: This option either creates a Windows partition on your Mac's startup drive or removes a Windows partition if one is present. The name of this option changes if you have a Windows partition on your Mac to Remove Windows 10.
Boot Camp Assistants three primary tasks

Your Mac automatically starts the Windows installation process after the appropriate partition is created.

If you're removing a Windows partition, this option deletes the Windows partition and merges the newly freed space with your existing Mac partition to create one larger space.

Select the Tasks

Place a check mark next to the tasks you want to perform. You can select more than one task, and the tasks are performed in the appropriate order. For example, if you select the following tasks:

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

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

Typically, you select all the tasks and have Boot Camp Assistant run them 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.

Create the Windows Installer

Boot Camp Assistant 6 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 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 Tasks window, add a check mark to the box labeled Create a Windows 10 or later install disk. (Remove check marks from the remaining tasks if you want to perform only the install disk creation.) When you're ready, click Continue.

    Boot Camp Assistant Select Tasks screen with Create a Windows 10 or later install disk
  3. Click the Choose button next to the ISO Image field and locate the Windows 10 ISO image file you saved on your Mac so that it appears in the ISO image field.

    Create Bootable USB Drive for Windows Installation window
  4. In the Destination Disk section, select the USB flash drive you want to use as the bootable Windows installer disk. The selected destination disk is reformatted, causing all data on the selected device to be erased. Click the Continue button when ready.

    Flash drive selected in the Create Bootable USB Drive for Windows Installation window
  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 while. 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.

Create the Windows 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.

  1. Launch Boot Camp Assistant, located at /Applications/Utilities and read the introductory text.

  2. Don't rely on batteries during this process; plug your Mac into AC power if it's not already. Click the Continue button.

  3. Put a check mark next to Download the latest Windows support software from Apple. (Remove the check marks from the remaining two items if you are only downloading the support software.) Click Continue.

    The Select Tasks screen in Boot Camp Assistant
  4. Choose to save the Windows support software to any external drive attached to your Mac.

Save to a USB Flash Drive

  1. Format your USB flash drive in the MS-DOS (FAT) format. Formatting the USB flash drive erases any data on the device, so make sure the data is backed up somewhere else if you want to keep it. Formatting instructions for OS X El Capitan or later can be found in 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 Disk Utility: Format a Hard Drive. In both cases, 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 and 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 been 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 are installing Windows soon or eject the drive for later use.

Save to a CD or DVD

If you're using Boot Camp Assistant 4.x, you can also opt 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 4 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 optical drive. Insert the blank media into the optical drive and then click Burn.

  3. When the burn is complete, the Mac ejects the CD or DVD.

  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.

Create the Windows Partition

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.

  1. Launch Boot Camp Assistant. The Select Tasks window opens.

  2. If you're installing Windows on a portable Mac, connect it to an AC power source.

  3. Place a check mark next to Install Windows 10 or later. Click Continue.

    Boot Camp Assistant Select Tasks window
  4. If your Mac has multiple internal drives, you are shown a list of the available drives. Select the drive you want 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 an entire drive for use by Windows. If you choose to use an entire drive for Windows, any data currently stored on the drive is erased, so be sure to back up this data to another drive if you want to keep it. Make your selection and click Continue.

  5. 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, you 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 is taken from the free space currently available on the Mac partition.

    Boot Camp Assistant Create a Partition for Windows screen
  6. 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.

  7. Insert the USB flash drive containing the Windows 10 Install disk and click Install. Boot Camp Assistant creates the Windows partition and names it BOOTCAMP. It then restarts your Mac and begins the Windows installation process.

Install Windows

The Windows 10 installer takes over to complete the installation of Windows 10. Follow the on-screen instructions provided by Microsoft.

During the Windows 10 installation process, you are asked where to install Windows 10. You are 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.

    Partitions available for Windows 10 in Boot Camp Assistant
  2. Click the Drive Options (Advanced) link.

  3. Click the Format link and then click OK.

  4. Click Next.

  5. From here, follow the normal Windows 10 installation process.

Eventually, the Windows install process completes, and your Mac reboots into Windows.

Install Windows Support Software

After the 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 usually the same USB flash drive 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 is a setup.exe file. Double click the setup.exe file to start the Boot Camp driver installer.

  4. Follow the on-screen instructions.

  5. You are asked if you want to allow Boot Camp to make changes to your computer. Click Yes and then follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation of Windows 10 and the Boot Camp drivers.

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

Your Mac reboots to the Windows 10 environment.

Select 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 to display any hidden icons, including—possibly—the Boot Camp Control Panel.

  1. Select the Startup Disk tab in the control panel.

  2. Select the drive (OS) you want 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.

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