Knowledgebase: Software
Laptop Program: Boot Camp: How to Run Windows on my Mac
Updated: 17 March 2015 10:11 AM

What is Boot Camp?

Boot Camp is a process that is supported by Apple to enable you to run the Windows Operating System on your Intel-based Mac.

Why would I want this? I'm happy just using Mac OS X.

You may need Windows to run certain software that has not been made to run on Mac OS X. It is not necessary for all students at OCAD U.

However, certain academic programs may require you to use software such as the Autodesk suite of software, or Rhino, which have only been written to run on Windows.

Some students do not require Windows for their program-specific software, but desire the ability to run non-University software that is Windows only.

I've just got Boot Camp installed, but I don't know how to start Windows.

To run Windows on a Mac, the computer must be powered on in a special way:

  1. Press the power button and then hold the option key.
  2. Keep holding until you see a row of icons pop up.
  3. Select the icon labeled Windows with either the arrow keys and pressing Return, or by clicking the arrow underneath the icon with the mouse/trackpad.

To get back to Mac OS X, restart your computer from within Windows. Your Mac should boot to Mac OS X by default, but does not have to: It is possible to change which OS is booted to by default.

What academic programs require the use of Windows software?

  • Environmental Design
  • Industrial Design
  • Integrated Media
  • Digital Futures
  • Digital Painting & Expanded Animation

I'm in a program on the list above, but I never use my Windows software. Do I really need Boot Camp?

We recommend you have Boot Camp for the software that is taught in your program. There are exceptional cases where students have downloaded free or educational versions of their required software that will work on Mac OS X.

The full complement of Laptop Program software for Windows is however, unavailable for Mac OS X. It is ultimately your choice as to whether you need Boot Camp, but please consider this recommendation.

Does Windows run slower on a Mac? Is this some kind of emulator?

No. When using Boot Camp to run Windows, your Mac is not running Mac OS X at the same time. It is booting directly to an operating system that is separate from Mac OS X, and under regular conditions will feel just like using a Windows PC.

There are occasionally small differences to the way your Mac will function under Windows but none of these impact performance.

Are there any disadvantages to Boot Camping my Mac?

The installation of a separate operating system requires a space called a 'partition' on your storage disk (HDD or SSD) to be set aside *exclusively* for the use of Windows. The minimum size for this partition that we can set you up with is 100 Gigabytes. That's a fair chunk of your Mac's storage capacity.

Because Mac OS X and Windows use different ways of storing data or 'file systems', there are some basic rules to the way each operating system can interact with the other: Mac OS X can also only see or 'read' the data in your Windows partition, but cannot change or 'write' to it. Windows cannot read or write to your Mac OS X partition without the use of third-party software like MacDrive.

When bringing in your Mac to be imaged at the Laptop Help Desk, if you require Boot Camp your imaging process will take longer. This is because we are effectively doubling the amount of data that is being transferred onto your disk.

As such, we do not recommend installing Boot Camp unless it is required for your program.

I use Time Machine to back up my data. Does this work for Windows as well?

No! Any data that you want to back up from your Windows partition MUST be done separately. Since Mac OS X and Windows use different file systems, Time Machine cannot back up Windows files.

Since any external drive/disk that is used for Time Machine is set up with or 'formatted' with Mac OS X's file system, this makes it impossible for Windows to understand and use the disk as a backup space. If you need to back up Windows files as well as use Time Machine, it is possible to partition the space on your external drive into two separate file systems that can be used by each OS. This can be a sensitive procedure that if not done correctly can result in loss of data. If you are unsure about how to perform this procedure, DON'T. Seek assistance from the Laptop Help Desk.

What version of Windows do you provide?

We will be exploring Windows 8 support over the Summer of 2014. Currently we support Windows 7 64-bit on Mac OS X Bootcamp partitions and for the Lenovo W530. We are not yet supporting Windows 8 due to significant negative feedback.

Do you support Virtualization instead of Boot Camp?

No. You're welcome to run virtualization software: we just don't support it.

VMWare Fusion, Parallels Desktop and VirtualBox allow you to run Windows (and other operating systems) inside a Mac OS X window while you are running Mac OS X. There are advantages and disadvantages to running virtualization software. We do not support virtualization due to the fact some of our graphics intensive software can behave unexpectedly under virtualization.

I still have other questions about Boot Camp!

You can find more information about Boot Camp from Apple, or are welcome to call or visit the Laptop Help Desk with your questions.


Glossary of Technical Terms:

 If you are unsure about some of the terminology you have just read, here is a reference:

Operating System: (OS for short) the software environment that you use when you close a window, run a program, copy a file--the OS is the most important piece of software on your computer. You need it to run programs. If your OS is too old, you may not be able to run the latest software.

Mac OS X: Apple's Operating System that ships with all their computers.

Windows: An Operating System made by Microsoft.

HDD: Hard Drive Disk. The most common storage device in use in computers to this date. Uses a series of fast-spinning, high-storage-density magnetic disks inside a protective enclosure. Because of the moving parts and the fragility of said disks, it is easy for a physical shock(treat your laptop gently!) to damage the integrity of data on this type of disk.

SSD: Solid State Disk. The new standard for storage devices in personal computing. Uses a series of computer chips. Significantly faster than an HDD. Already in use in smartphones and tablets everywhere, this technology is becoming very popular in laptops especially. This technology has no moving parts, therefore it is less susceptible to physical shocks--however DO NOT take this as an excuse to treat your computer roughly in any way.

Partition: A section of an HDD or SSD that has been separated from the rest of the disk for an alternative purpose. In a typical Boot Camp scenario, Mac OS X and Windows live on two distinctly separate parts of your hard drive or SSD: Imagine that your hard drive (or SSD) is a house. When you partition it, you build a wall down the middle, and now you have half as much space on each side.

File System: a language or system an OS uses to store and understand the data on a storage disk. Different Operating Systems often use different File Systems.

Format: The process of erasing a drive or partition and setting up a new file system.