I need to know how to install Windows 10 on my Mac. Which is the better method of installing and running Windows on Mac: Boot Camp, or virtualisation software such as VMware?

One of the key benefits of running a Mac is that you can enjoy the unique experience of having Mac OS X (or, as of this coming autumn, macOS) and Windows on the same computer. You can run Windows 10 and Mac OS X on the same MacBook, iMac, Mac mini or Mac Pro. Read next: macOS Sierra vs Windows 10 comparison

In this article we show how to install and run Windows 10 (or Windows 8, for that matter) on a Mac. We'll cover the two main methods, Boot Camp and virtualisation (for which focus on VMware, although the process is essentially the same for other products such as Parallels) and explain the differences and pros and cons of each one.

One of the key benefits of buying and running an Apple Mac or MacBook is that you can have the best of all worlds. Ever since Apple's transition to Intel processors in 2006 the Apple Mac has been the only device on which you can run OS X and Windows, and their supporting applications. You can run Windows on any Mac bought since 2006. (You can run Windows on older Macs too, in fact, but for the sake of simplicity this piece focuses on post-Intel Apple Macs.)

Read next: macOS Sierra preview | Windows 10 review

How to install Windows on Mac: Boot Camp or virtualisation software?

There are a few ways to run Windows on a Mac, all of which will require you to purchase a Windows licence. The simplest way is to boot into Windows at startup and use your Mac as a Windows PC throughout your computing session. This is easy to do because the required feature - Boot Camp - is built into Mac OS X/macOS. It also offers the best performance because your Mac's hardware is dedicated only to running the Windows OS.

The other option is to use virtualisation software. This is marginally more complicated to do and requires a third-party application such as Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware Fusion. It means you can switch rapidly from Mac to Windows, but it does mean that your Mac's processor, memory and so on are having to run two OSes simultaneously. It can make for slower performance.

We're going to plump for the second option first. But before we look at using VMware Fusion to run Windows on a Mac, we'd better cover the important process of obtaining a Windows licence key and installation media.

Read next: How to maximise, minimise, open, close and zoom windows in Mac OS X

How to install Windows on Mac

How to install Windows on Mac: Download Windows 10 disc image

Any recent Mac should be able to run Windows 10. First back up your Mac.

However, it's a little easier to download Windows 10 on a PC thanks to the Get Windows 10 app. If you want a copy to run on your Mac it's a little more tricky though.

1. Download the Windows 10 Disc Image here. You'll have a few questions to answer.

2. Choose 64-bit download.

3. The link will be valid for 24 hours.

4. The installation file (iso) will download into your Downloads folder. This part could take a few minutes.

How to install Windows on Mac: Which Macs can run Windows 10?

Most Macs since late 2012 support Windows 10. There's a complete list here.

How to install Windows on Mac: How to get Windows 10 for free

Update, 5 August: The deadline has now passed, and Microsoft is no longer allowing free upgrades to Windows 10.

If you will be installing the operating system for the first time, you will need a Windows product key (xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx). For more information about product keys and when they are required, visit Microsoft's FAQ page.

While Windows 10 has been free for most users for a year, the upgrade deadline is looming. Up until now, you might only have to pay if your version of Windows is older than 7 or if you don't own a copy at all. In that case, a copy will cost around £99 (you can get it for less on Amazon). But if you still haven't upgraded to Windows 10 before 29 July 2016, you'll have to pay regardless of the operating system you're running. 

But what if you want to upgrade to Windows 10, but not just yet? Our sister site PC Advisor has worked out how to extract the Windows product key from an existing Windows machine, allowing you to upgrade for free at any point in the future. This is ideal if you've already got a Windows 8 bootcamp installed on your Mac. 

Here, by the way, is how to install Windows 10 on a PC.

How to install Windows on Mac: Virtualisation software - VMware, Parallels and more

We've got the necessary installation media, so we're ready to press on with setting up Windows on our Mac.

We're looking at virtualisation first. Here we show you how to use VMware Fusion to run Windows and OS X on your Mac, but the process is broadly similar for other virtualisation products such as Parallels. To help you decide which one to go for, read Best virtualisation software for Mac.

First you need to downoad VMware Fusion. VMware Fusion 8 costs £61.96 but, happily, there's a free trial.

How to install Windows on Mac: VMware Fusion 6

Once you've downloaded it the VMware Fusion disk image will be saved to your default download directory. Find it, and double click the VMware .dmg file, to mount it.

Double-click the VMware Fusion icon to launch the Installation Assistant and follow the instructions to install VMware Fusion.

Once it is installed, launch VMware Fusion on your Mac. The Virtual Machine Library window will launch, from which you can create a virtual machine. Now you can use VMware Fusion's Windows Easy Install feature to automatically install Windows and VMware Tools in your virtual machine.

From the Virtual Machine Library window, click the New button or choose File, New. The New Virtual Machine Assistant launches.

Click Continue to go through to the Operating System panel. Now you can select an operating system and version for your virtual machine. In the Name panel, enter the name for the virtual machine in the Save as field.

In the Virtual Hard Disk panel, set the maximum size for the virtual hard disk. You need to set aside enough space that your virtual machine will work well, but not impinge on the original OS X install. Go in to the Advanced Disk Options section if you want to allocate all possible disk space, or one of several other more high-end features.

In the Windows Easy Install panel, select Use Easy Install. Enter your Name, Password (optional) and the Windows Product key. The product key is the long series of letters and numbers on the Windows DVD box or sent to you via email when you downloaded Windows. 'Name' should just be the name to which your Windows software is registered, not your Windows username. 'Password' will be your Windows administrator account password.

Now you'll go to the Finish dialog. Leave selected the option 'Start virtual machine and install operating system now'. Input your Windows 8 installation media and select the option 'Use operating system installation disc' if it is on DVD, or 'Use operating system installation disc image file' if it is a USB stick. In the case of the latter you'll have to browse to the image file.

Now click Finish and put on the kettle. VMware Fusion will install Windows. This will take up to 45 minutes, and once it is done you can boot to Windows at any time by going to VMware Fusion from within OS X.

How to install Windows on Mac: VMware Fusion 6

How to install Windows on Mac: Virtual Machine

We explain how to use Oracle VirtualBox to run Windows 10 as a virtual machine, in this article: How to run Windows 10 on a Mac as a Virtual Machine

It's broadly the same as the process using Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware Fusion. Parallels Desktop for Mac 10 features improvements like 30 percent more battery life for MacBook users, 60 percent faster loading of snapshots, 50 percent faster performance from Office 2014 apps, and 48 percent speedier opening of Windows files.

How to install Windows on Mac: Boot Camp

For the full Windows 10 experience, you can use Boot Camp. You'll need a USB drive with at least 16GB of free space to add the Windows 10 installer and the necessary Boot Camp files. Apple has updated its Boot Camp tool to provide Windows 10 support for 64-bit Macs. Check for software updates to make sure OS X, your Mac firmware, and Boot Camp Assistant are up to date.

You'll also need at least 30GB of space free on your Mac to give to the Windows partition. Boot Camp will take the Windows ISO file and create a boot disk that can be used to install Windows on your Mac. See also: Make a bootable Mac OS X install drive.

1. Download the Windows 10 Disc Image. Choose 64-bit download.

2. Make sure OS X, your Mac firmware, and Boot Camp Assistant are up to date.

3. Once you have the Windows 10 ISO downloaded (see above), open the Boot Camp assistant. Tick the following boxes: Create a Windows 10 install disk; and Install Windows 10. 

4. Insert the USB drive and select the Windows 10 .iso file via the Boot Camp Assistant.

5. Boot Camp will copy the Windows 10 iso and all the Boot Camp drivers needed to run Windows to the USB stick. After some time your USB drive will become a Windows 10 boot disk.

6. The next step is crucial: you need to partition your hard drive. This means choosing how much storage to give to Windows 10, and take away from OS X. The recommended minimum is 20GB, but 30GB or more is better. Windows 10 the OS itself will take up a lot of space. Hand over as much as you can afford.

7. Once you have set the required space, click Install. Windows 10 will start to install.

8. As this is happening you will see Windows restart a few times. Things are working well if after a while you hit the 'We're getting your PC ready' screen. Don't worry if this is onscreen for a quarter of an hour or so.

9. Once the process is finished your computer will reboot. It should reboot into Windows 10 so you can see the Windows set up screen, but it isn't a problem if it reboots to OS X. Regardless, whenever you reboot, if you hold the Option/Alt key you will see a menu from which you can select which operating system to launch.

10. Next enter your product key and select your Windows Boot Camp partition to install Window on.

11. Follow the installation process. Once installed the Mac will boot into Windows 10.

12. Now you need to install the Boot Camp drivers that are on the USB stick. Locate them and run setup.exe to install them.

Now you will have Windows 10 on your Mac. Enjoy Windows 10!

How to install Windows on Mac: Windows 10 Technical Preview

How to install Windows on Mac: Update an existing Windows Boot Camp partition

You can also upgrade existing 64-bit installations of Windows 7, or 8.1 to Windows 10. You need at least 10GB of free space on your Windows partition. If you have Windows 8.0 you will need to update to Windows 8.1 before upgrading to Windows 10.

Read next: What to do if your Mac doesn't finish installing an update

How to install Windows on Mac: Can I run Mac OS X (or macOS) on a Windows PC?

What about the opposite scenario? Is it possible to run Mac OS X on a PC?

In a word: no. It is one of those ironies that although Microsoft is famed for its aggressive commercial practices, Apple is responsible for this particular impasse. Although you can run Windows on any X86 computer, Apple makes its own OS X software available only on Mac software. Overtly the reasoning is laudable: OS X is designed to run on Apple's own hardware, and the experience wouldn't be as good on any old computer. This is one reason why you will never run an underpowered Mac.

But it is also fair to say that Apple creates software in order to sell hardware. The excellence of OS X is a killer app when it comes to selling Macs, and it doesn't want to share. So if you want to experience the best of all worlds, you need to run Windows on your Mac.

How to install Windows on Mac: How to run Windows games on Mac

We cover various games you can play on a Mac if you run Windows in separate articles:

How to install Windows on Mac: Poll - Will you run Win 10 on your Mac?

Read: Mac or PC? Reasons why Macs are better than PCs | How to manage Macs on a Windows network | El Capitan versus Windows 10 | How Windows 10 is even more like OS X | Yosemite versus Windows 10