Running Windows on a Mac, part 3: The complete how-to

Need or want to run Windows on a Mac? We walk you through the entire Windows 7 setup experience, driver hacks, troubleshooting tips, and how to get Windows 8 running smoothly.

By , ITworld |  Software, Apple, Mac

This third installment of my series "Running Windows on a Mac" doesn't focus on performance issues or what you can expect anymore, it's all about how to get Windows 7 running on your Mac. And since Windows 8 Developer Preview was just released a few weeks ago, it made sense to include this as well to spare you the early adopter pains I had.

Running Windows on a Mac, part 1: Lion vs. Win7 performance shootout
Running Windows on a Mac, part 2): The good, the bad and the ugly

This guide helps you to...
- Create a Windows partition
- Download the necessary Boot Camp drivers
- Install Windows 7/8 from a DVD
- Install Windows 7/8 from a USB thumb drive and install rEFIt to boot from USB
- Deal with serious driver issues on Windows 8 Developer Preview
- Configure Windows and Boot Camp 4.0 properly
- Update the most common Mac drivers
- Enable AHCI
- Backup Mac OS X + Windows partition with one tool

Step 1: Setting up your Boot Camp partition

The first step requires you to shrink the Mac OS X volume and create a separate NTFS partition for Windows. I'll describe these steps using Lion, though the procedure in Snow Leopard doesn't differ a lot (except for the fact that Windows XP and Vista won't work in Lion -- yeah, Apple ditched "legacy" support entirely with Boot Camp 4 and Lion).

So how does this work? First, start Mac OS X Lion and head over to Go/Utilities/Boot Camp Assistant. On a Mac with an optical drive, the first dialogue box gives you the option to download the "Windows support software" (i.e. Boot Camp 4.0, which includes all the necessary Windows drivers):

Macs without the Superdrive give you the additional choice of creating a bootable USB thumb drive from an ISO.

If you want to (or can) install Windows using your Setup-DVD, just pop it in and hit "Continue".

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