How to Run Windows on Mac, Step 1: Pick Your Windows Version


Using Windows on a Mac can be very useful. Let’s face it: having the two most popular operating systems on one machine seems like a dream. However, even though the technology is there, there can be issues if it isn’t done right. There are many forums about such problems; most are normally traced back to the same source.

This problematic commonality is that they either didn’t have the right Windows version orthe wrong transitional program to run Windows. You, however, are smart because you are seeking help to get going the right way, help which you have found.

How to Run Windows on Mac, Step 1: Pick Your Windows Version 1

What are Your Reasons for Using Windows on a Mac?

When running Windows on a Mac, it is good to examine the reason for wanting or needing to do so. Why you use Windows on Mac is as important as how you use Windows on Mac. For instance, you could need to use certain programs that only work on Windows, such as games. And when it comes to game playing, you will want to be sure that you choose the right version of Windows and the software that runs it.

Don’t worry, though; I have researched for you. Now, you don’t have to spend time searching through endless information, which means you’re that much closer to being able to do what you want to do: Run Windows on Mac. So sit back, get comfy, and read away!

This is step 1. Be sure to look for step 2 as soon as you’re done!

How You Can Choose the Right Windows Edition to Run on Your Mac

When you are going to be running Windows on Mac, your first decision will be to choose which Windows version you’ll be using. This is an important decision because you wouldn’t want to go to purchase one and then find out later that it’s either A) not compatible with the program you’ll be using to help run Windows, e.g., Boot Camp, or B) it isn’t the best for the programs you’ll be running, meaning it may be glitchy or not run some programs at all.

A Few Clues to Help You Choose:

Some of the decisions will be out of your hands, as it may simply be a matter of which version is compatible with the software you’ll be using with it. You’ll choose which software you want to run with it in the next step of “How to Run Windows on Mac”. The part you do have a say on is determined by what you will be doing on Windows. You can also compare the different versions of Windows in a side-by-side checklist on the Microsoft website.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you decide which Windows version to get:

Am I going to be using Windows to play games a lot?

Will my chosen version be compatible with the program I choose to boot Windows on Mac?

Windows Vista: Which Windows version is best for games has long been argued amongst Microsoft enthusiasts. On one side, you may find all signs pointing to XP, while on another, to Windows 7. What they all do agree on is that Vista is not in the gaming game. Even worse, Vista is not a good non-game alternative when running Windows on Mac. Vista is not a well-liked version, and it has its reasons. If you decide to use Vista, you should go with the 64-bit if it’s an option with whichever program you use with it.

Compatibility: Vista is compatible with the virtual programs you use with Mac and Boot Camp if it is before the 4.0 version. The only problem you use is the 32-bit vs. 64-bit, so check with Apple’s support page if you think you may use Boot Camp.

What works with Vista: Another good thing to be sure of is that your programs will work with Vista. You can do so by clicking the link or going to

Windows XP: This version of Windows has long been touted by Windows users as the best for playing games and the best of the Windows versions ever. It was considered the best until Windows 7 came out, when it became pretty much a tie.

If you can find a copy of XP, it is still a great option for running Windows on Mac. Using the 64-bit version is recommended if you’re playing games. However, it takes up more of your Mac’s resources, so you may need to tweak some things or upgrade your RAM.

Compatibility: This version of Windows is compatible with every program you will use to run Windows on your Mac, except the newest version of Boot Camp (4.0) that comes installed on the Lion. Some have found ways around this, so when we have all the right tips and tricks for doing this, we will be sure to update our series, so check back soon.

XP Program Compatibility Wizard: As far as being compatible with the rest of your programs, it depends on how old they are. If they’re newer, like Vista or 7, you can try to make them work by running the Program Compatibility Wizard at

Windows 7: This is the newest version of Windows (although eight is coming out any day now). Using Windows 7 or XP to run Windows on your Mac will work fine. As far as games go, though, some say one or the other will do better. But, in most reviews, they are virtually tied in this area, with seven coming out a bit ahead. So, either will be good for gaming. Windows 7 will be the only way you can go if you are using Lion OS X with Boot Camp 4 or have upgraded to Boot Camp 4. There are some ways to try to get around that, which you can read about here.

Compatibility: Windows 7 is supported by all programs you may choose to run your Windows with.

Windows 7 Comparisons: This is a comparison checklist that you can view at Microsoft to help you decide which version of Windows 7 will be the best for you. What works with Windows 7 can be checked at, where you can also run the Program Compatibility Wizard to make an older program work with this Windows version.

* Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate: These are the most recommended versions of Windows to use when running Windows on Mac, and you will be able to run whatever you want, including games. Pro or Ultimate are more expensive, but some say they are worth it.

* Windows 64 Bit: Windows versions come with the ability to get them in 32-bit or 64-bit. The more bits, the better the performance; however, more bits come with a bit of cost. The cost isn’t so much to your pocketbook as to your Mac because you will need to dedicate more space and memory to run it. You will need to check Apple’s support page to see a list of which Macs work with 64-bit Windows and Boot Camp.

To some extent, this can be done by tweaking some settings, like adding more room to your partition. You could also try using a Mac cleaner to clean up some hard drive space on your Mac, which will help your CPU and RAM usage. You’d be surprised how often this can save you from needing additional storage, RAM, or CPU upgrades. However, an upgrade to your RAM may still be needed eventually.

Final Note on Your Windows Choice:

Let’s sum up a bit of what you just learned so you have a quick reference:

Best, Worst, and In Between Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate 64-bit is the best, Vista is the least loved and liked, and XP sits right in the middle.

A No-Go? Windows XP may be a non-choice for you if you’re using Boot Camp 4.0, but there may be a trick or two that we can share soon to get you around that issue. Check back later.

Got Money? If money is not an issue or one you can at least live with, then go with Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate. If you’re using 64-bit, remember that you may need to upgrade your RAM. Depending on where you shop, they cost about $100-$240.

Don’t Got Money? If money is an issue, you may not find it for free, but you can still get Windows XP or Vista for pretty low prices. Choose the Professional or Ultimate series to get the best performance. Windows XP Pro or Ultimate can be found from $50-$75, and Vista Pro or Ultimate from about $75-$115.

Software Conflict: It doesn’t all come down to Windows. Depending on the virtualization software you use, some programs may not work on your version of Windows. Check with whichever program you use to determine what programs will run and which will not.


You’re not done yet. You’re doing well, though, and in just two more steps, you will be running Windows on your Mac. Now, you should look for step 2, where you will choose which program you want to run your Windows version on your Mac.

Kimberly Carver is a Mac Specialist and overall technology lover. You can find more help running Windows on Mac by visiting, where you see easy-to-follow directions for running Windows on your Mac with BootCamp. Remember to read Steps 2 and 3 of this How to Run Windows on Mac on Ezine. There will also be more Mac how-to and just tips and ideas articles, but if you have a question about your Mac and would like more help, feel free to ask; maybe I can get a piece up for you to help.