How To Run Windows 8 On Your Mac

Typically, creative professionals and developers prefer the Mac OS X operating system, while corporate and business types favor the Microsoft Windows operating system.

While many developers tend to believe “there is nothing that can’t be done on a Mac that can’t be done on Windows”, clearly the collective preference of developers for Macs speaks volumes.

Yet, even though Mac users are more than happy with the platform of their choice, that doesn’t mean that they don’t sometimes suffer from Windows envy, too.

If you are a Mac user afflicted with Windows envy, have no fear, I have a cure for you, outlined below.

A Cure For Windows Envy Exists

Mac Users, the good news for you is that choosing a Mac doesn’t preclude you from the opportunity to experience the best of both operating systems.  Be rest assured, there is a way for you to run both a Mac and a Windows operating systems at the same time, without having to own a separate computer for each system.

With the existence of system virtual machine software, it is now feasible for Mac users to easily set up and run both operating systems on one Mac computer.

Setting up a virtual machine to run Windows on a Mac is so straightforward that even the average user can manage the setup independently, without needing to consult with technical experts for assistance.

What is even better than that is knowing that navigating between the two systems is even easier than completing the set-up.

With a virtual machine on your Mac, you can seamlessly share files and switch between the two operatings systems with the simple click of a mouse or touch of a touchpad, without needing to reboot at any time.

[Note: Sorry, Windows PC users, it does not appear to be as easy to do the opposite, i.e., to run Mac OS X on a Windows PC.] 

Why Would You Need Both Operating Systems?

Clearly it is getting easier and easier to have anywhere anytime access to your most-commonly-used software programs and personal files no matter which operating system you are using.

Popular software bundles like Microsoft Office (for business applications) and Adobe Creative Suite (for creative applications) are available for both platforms.  Plus, each of these software bundles now also offers its own cloud-based subscription versions in the form of Office365 and Adobe Creative Cloud, respectively.

One would think that it almost doesn’t matter anymore which operating system you have.

However, that is only true until you want to use software that hasn’t been developed for the primary platform you are using.

This may not happen often for you, but when it does, it can be a real show-stopper. In such a situation, having easy access to both operating systems simultaneously can be your savior.

My Experience, As An Example

Maybe you can relate to my experience?

My personal home computer was a Mac, but my work interests were still very business-application focused.  My reason for tracking down a way to run Windows on my Mac was: (1) to be able to use Microsoft Access which surprisingly is not currently available for Mac in any format; and (2) to test an Excel plug-in that was only created for a Windows-based version of Excel.

Not being a software or hardware specialist myself, at first, I had a hard time even knowing where to begin my search on how to run Windows on my Mac.

My initial online research indicated that I could either install Windows on a separate partition or use Boot Camp or a virtual machine like Parallels or Fusion or Virtualbox.

Luckily, I met someone at a Meetup who clarified that what I needed to do was to run Windows on my MacBook Pro by setting up a virtual machine and running Windows within that virtual machine.  He recommended using VMware Fusion software for the virtual machine setup. Note: Parallels was also mentioned as a viable alternative to VMware Fusion.

Following are step-by-step instructions for what is involved in the virtual machine setup. Hopefully you will find this three-step process as easy to follow as I did.

Instructions for How to Run Windows 8 on your Mac:

Here’s how to set up Windows 8 on a MacBook Pro (with standard 4GB Memory) using VMware Fusion 5 for your virtual machine setup.

1.  Purchase two pieces of software:

  • Purchase Windows 8. Be sure to purchase the full version, not the upgrade. Both versions are the same price, currently at $120.  You know that you have ordered the full version because it is not downloadable and is only available by mail. Note: Windows 8 is available as 32-bit or 64-bit version (both are the same price).  The 32-bit version of Windows 8 is appropriate for a typical laptop with 4GB memory.  You can purchase Windows 8 from the Microsoft Store by placing your order via the Sales and Customer Support phone number: 1-877-696-7786 (if calling from the U.S.).
  • Purchase VMware Fusion 5. The price is currently $49.99.  The software is downloadable from the site. If you prefer, you can even start with the 30-day free trial, which worked fine for me.

(Note: Before starting the installs, be sure to have both pieces of software on hand.)

2.  Download & Install your Virtual Machine using VMware Fusion 5.

  • Download Fusion to your Mac. As is typical for Macs, you will find the downloaded file at “Finder>Downloads”.  Note that you will need to have admin rights for the machine you are working on in order to complete the install.
  • Install Fusion on your Mac.  Double click the downloaded Fusion icon or drag the Fusion download to the Applications folder to start the install.  Enter your Mac OSX administrator password when prompted.
  • After initialization completes, enter the Fusion software license key (dashes included), when prompted.  Accept the default options, which can be changed later as needed.

3.  Install the Windows 8 operating system (i.e., the guest operating system) inside the virtual machine you created in Step #2.

  • Create the Virtual Machine & Install the Windows 8 Operating System Within It. After installing VMware Fusion, you will you see a pop-up menu (see Screenshot #1 below), which can also be found on VMware’s Menu bar under “Help>Welcome”.  On this pop-up screen, choose the left-most option: “Create New (from disk)”. This is the “Easy Install” option which will prompt you when to insert the Windows 8 disk and will guide you through installing Windows 8 within your newly created virtual machine.  Accept all the default options, which you can change later if needed.
  • When prompted, enter your Windows Product Key from the sticker on the mailed software cover. (The Windows key is a 25-character code, not counting the dashes, but enter the key including the dashes.)


Reference Screenshot #1 (Below):

The VMware Fusion 5 pop-up “options” screen is shown below. The left-most yellow “Create New” button, is the Easy Install option which will guide you through loading the Windows operating system on your newly created virtual machine:

Reference Screenshot #2 (Below):

After both VMware Fusion 5 and Windows 8 are installed, you will see both operating systems on your monitor, with the Windows 8 window in front of Mac OSX Desktop screen. You can easily jump back and forth between the two operating systems by simply clicking once on either screen. Click on the middle front-most window for Windows. Click on the outer back-most screen for Mac OS X. The top-most upper menu bar adjusts to whichever operating system is active.

You can also see that folders are set up to be mirrored on both screens.

You can get to the Windows 8 start screen by hovering over the bottom corner of that center (front-most) window.

You can dock Windows program shortcuts at the bottom of the Windows screen.

And, that is all you need to do to have access to both a Windows and a Mac operating system one Mac computer.

Good luck with your installs!  Enjoy your new tools!

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By Helen Hoefele

Helen Hoefele writes about Creativity and Analysis on her personal blog at, where she explores her personal interests in the arts in combination with her professional experience in business analytics. You can also follow her on Twitter at: @figmentations.