March 17, 2012, 7:35 AM — Many people switching from Windows PCs to the Mac worry that they must leave the Windows world--and the files they've created in it--completely behind. And for those who need to run application not found on the Mac or who just can't bear doing without a favorite Windows-only game or two, this is a legitimate concern. Thankfully, you can have the best of both worlds as today's Macs can run Windows natively using Apple's Boot Camp technology. This technology creates a separate partition on your Intel Mac's hard drive where you can then install a copy of Microsoft Windows. In order to use Boot Camp, you must restart your Mac from this partition. When you do, Windows runs almost exactly as it would on a PC.
Of course, Boot Camp isn't the only way to run Windows on your Mac. Using applications such as Parallels Desktop ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) and VMware Fusion ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ) you can run the Mac OS and Windows side-by-side. But Boot Camp is free and offers better performance than these virtualization applications.
Follow along to learn how to set up Boot Camp. You'll need an Intel Mac, a licensed copy of Windows 7, and either a blank CD or an external drive such as a USB flash drive.
Step 1: Check your software and hardware
Boot Camp works only with Intel Macs. If you have a Mac with a PowerPC processor, you're out of luck. Under Lion, Boot Camp supports Windows 7 only. If you're unsure which kind of processor your Mac has and the operating system it's running, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu. The processor entry should include the word "Intel" and the OS version should be 10.7 or higher.
If you wish to run the 32-bit version of Windows 7 you'll need at least 16GB of free storage space. To install the 64-bit version of Windows 7 you need at least 20GB of free storage on that startup drive. You must also have a Windows installer disc or disc image as well as the serial number to go with it.
Step 2: Back up your data
Because Boot Camp creates a partition--and could possibly move some of your data in the process--it's a good idea to have a complete backup of your startup drive. Should something go wrong, you don't risk losing any of your data. If you don't currently have another backup strategy in place, take a look at Time Machine, which is bundled with OS X.