True: For most Apple fans, Macs are the best computers on the market in part thanks to macOS. But that does not mean that there are those who need to use Windows from time to time, or even those who prefer it to the Apple system.
Thanks to virtualization programs, in addition to Apple’s Boot Camp, you can run Microsoft’s operating system on Macs with an Intel chip without any problem. You can read our tutorial on how to install Windows on Mac for more information.
In this article, we’ll explore the various options available to you to run Windows 10 on a Mac without spending a penny.
As you know, Microsoft has already announced the next version, Windows 11, so you may be interested to know if it will be possible to run Windows 11 on a Mac for free.
Is your Mac compatible with Windows 10?
This is not a trivial question. Although most Macs with Intel processors can run Windows 10, Macs that use Apple’s new M1 chips can only run the ARM version of Windows.
The new version of Parallels 16.5 that arrived in April 2021 theoretically makes it possible to run Windows on a Mac with M1, but it is not easy to get a copy of the ARM version of Windows.
And, since most Windows programs won’t work on it, we’d advise you to wait a bit longer. You may be interested in reading Windows 10 on M1 Macs: Everything You Can and Can’t Do.
Here’s the official list of Macs that can run Windows 10:
- MacBook (2015 or later)
- MacBook Air (2012 or later)
- MacBook Pro (2012 or later)
- Mac mini (2012 or later)
- iMac (2012 or later)
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro (2013 or later)
As we have said before, there is a new version of Windows 11 on the way. The ability to run Windows 11 on a Mac will depend on more than just having an Intel processor.
You will also need a special TPM security chip, which Macs don’t have. Virtualization software may find a way around this requirement in the future, but we don’t think Windows 11 will make it to the Mac for now.
Will Windows be able to run on M1 Macs?
Mac with M1 only supports ARM version of Windows due to architecture. There is an ARM version of Windows that can be run on M1 Macs using Parallels.
However, this is not a version that you can buy: you can download it for free if you sign up for the Microsoft Insider program.
But even so, there are other complications, as Windows apps still cannot run natively on ARM and only some work using a program that translates them (similar to Rosetta).
That said, CrossOver (which allows you to run Windows apps on a Mac without using Windows) has already brought several Windows apps to M1 Macs.
Another alternative is to emulate Windows x86 on a Mac with M1 with an open source emulator and the Qemu virtualizer, although you will find that the performance leaves something to be desired.
Microsoft continues to develop an ARM compatible version, so this situation is likely to change in the future. And when it does, hopefully it will do so with positive results, as Windows on ARM appears to run faster on a Mac running M1 than it does on a Surface Pro X.
It seems that there will be an ARM version of Windows 11, but it is unknown if it will be able to run on Macs with the M1 chip, as it is conceivable that a TPM security chip will also be needed.
Windows on a Mac: The Best Free Options
Surely the easiest way to use Windows on a Mac is by using a virtual machine. This type of software lets you run Windows, Linux, and earlier versions of macOS in one app, eliminating the need to restart your Mac to switch operating systems.
So, as long as you have a Mac without M1 with at least macOS 10.15 (Catalina) installed, you can use the excellent VMware Fusion Player for free. It is for non-commercial use, so you will have to pay for VMware Fusion 12 or higher if you want to use the app professionally.
Another option is to bet on the software VirtualBox. It’s also free and powerful, but it can be a bit intimidating at first if you’re not used to running a virtual machine.
An alternative is not to run Windows, but to use CrossOver. East software allows you to run Windows apps without needing Windows. You will save yourself installing Windows, but CrossOver is not free ($ 39.95).
How to get Windows 10 for free
Obviously, you will also need a copy of Windows 10. It is somewhat complicated, as Windows is not a software gratuitous. Buy a copy directly from Microsoft It costs € 145 for the Home version and € 259 for the Pro version. But there is a solution.
If you don’t mind getting a few notifications or not being able to change some settings, you can download a copy of Windows 10 for free from Microsoft. Follow the steps below:
1. Go to the Windows 10 disk image download page (ISO file) and select the version of Windows you want to use. We recommend the 64-bit Home package, but check that it is compatible with your system.
2. Now for the important part: when installing Windows (either through a virtual machine or Boot Camp), click on the option ‘I do not have a product key’ when you reach the ‘Activate Windows’ section during the installation of Windows 10.
3. Now you should be able to complete the Windows 10 installation without issue and continue using the software free of charge.
Microsoft could change this at any time, but as of this writing it can.