While Macs are obviously the best computers for most Apple fans, they can also be an excellent option for those who prefer to use Windows 10 (as long as you don't have an M1 Mac).

Thanks to virtual machine software, not to mention Apple's own Boot Camp solution, you can run Microsoft's operating system on all Intel-powered Macs without issue. Read: How to install Windows on Mac.

In this article we are going to examine some ways in which you can run Windows 10 on a Mac without paying a penny.

Can my Mac run Windows 10?

This is a valid question because, while most Intel-powered Macs can run Windows 10, Macs that use Apple's M1 Chips cannot currently run Windows. Read: Will Windows run on Apple Silicon M1 Macs?

Here's the official list of Macs that run Windows 10:

  • MacBook introduced in 2015 or later
  • MacBook Air introduced in 2012 or later
  • MacBook Pro introduced in 2012 or later
  • Mac mini introduced in 2012 or later
  • iMac introduced in 2012 or later
  • iMac Pro (all models)
  • Mac Pro introduced in 2013 or later

Will M1 Macs run Windows?

At the time of writing, it's not possible to run Windows on Apple's new M1-powered Macs. However, Microsoft is working on an ARM compatible version of the operating system, so it is possible that it will be possible to run an ARM version of Windows on M1 Macs at some point in the future. 

Virtual machine software could come to the rescue sooner: both Parallels and VMware have publicly stated that their current versions don't support M1 Macs, but they are working on solutions for the future (those solutions may or may not hang on the availability of Microsoft's ARM version of Windows).

That's not to say that Windows will not run on an M1 Mac: A group of developers have already managed to virtualise Microsoft's OS though, with the surprising result that the Apple M1 runs Windows on ARM faster than Surface Pro X, so it may not be that long of a wait.

In addition, Crossover (which lets you run Windows apps on a Mac without Windows) has already bought a number of Windows apps to the M1 Mac. Read: CrossOver 20 brings Windows apps to M1 Macs.

Windows on a Mac: Best free options

Perhaps the easiest way to get Windows up and running on your Mac is to use virtual machine software. This allows you to run Windows, Linux or older version of macOS in a special application, which has the added benefit of meaning you don't have to reboot your Mac when switching between operating systems.

So long as you have a non-M1 Mac that's running at least macOS 10.15 (Catalina) then you can use the excellent VMware Fusion Player for free. This package is for non-commercial use, meaning you'll need to pay for the full VMware Fusion 12 Player or higher if you intend to use the app professionally. We were impressed when we tested it recently, as you can see from our VMware Fusion 12 review.

Another option is to go with the Virtual Box software. It's also free, powerful, but can be a little intimidating if you're not up to speed with how virtual machine software works.

An alternative is not to run Windows at all, but to instead use Crossover. Crossover lets you run Windows apps without needing Windows. You'll save the price of Windows installation, but Crossover isn't free (it starts at £32). Read more about CrossOver here: How to run Windows apps on Mac without Windows.

We also have a round up of the best VM apps for Mac.

How to get Windows 10 for free

Obviously, you'll also need a copy of Windows 10. This is the tricky part, as Windows is not free software. Buying a copy directly from Microsoft will cost you £119/US$139/AU$225 for the Home version or more if you want the Pro package. But there is a way to get around this.

If you're willing to put up with a few notifications and not being able to change many of your preferences, then you can download a copy of Windows 10 from Microsoft for free. Follow these steps to get Windows for free:

  1. Visit the Microsoft Windows 10 Disc Image (ISO File) page and select the version of Windows you want to use. We recommend the 64-bit Home package but check which one your system is capable of running.
  2. Now, the important part: when you install Windows (either via the VM software or Boot Camp) click the 'I don't have a product key option' when you reach the Activate Windows page during the Windows 10 installation.

    How to install Windows on Mac for Free: Product Key

  3. You should now be able to complete the Windows 10 installation without issue and continue to use the software for free.

Microsoft could change this at some point, so be aware that you're living in its good graces for the time being, but it does mean that at the time of writing you can use Windows 10 on your Mac for free.

How to run Windows 10 on Mac for Free: Running Windows

To see a more detailed breakdown of how to use Boot Camp or VM software, read how to install Windows on a Mac. We also have a round up of the Best VM software for Mac.