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What is Boot Camp on Windows?

If you’ve traveled back and forth between the two worlds of Windows and Mac, you might have come across the term Boot Camp, which is a utility app that comes pre-installed on Apple’s MacBook series.

Boot Camp was developed to solve one big problem that plagued Mac OS users before 2006, which is natively running programs specifically developed for the traditional hardware set on Windows PCs. In the wake of this, Apple, in collaboration with Microsoft, developed Boot Camp to not only allow Macs to run Windows, but also to enable them dual-boot it alongside the in-house Mac OS.

Windows-boot-camp

If you’ve ever wondered how Boot Camp works and how you can harness it to run Windows OS on your MacBook, you’re at the right place. By the end of this article, you’ll have imbibed the nitty-gritty of Boot Camp and how to use it alongside Windows on your computer.

Got some minutes? Read on below.

Boot Camp: The Backdrop and Challenges

Before the advent of Boot Camp, tech-savvy users of Mac OS and Windows were able to create a workaround for running both OS on a single device, one which was achieved via virtualization or emulation of either operating system. But even this presented lots of limitations over time and, as such, wasn’t feasible.

The big question many users have asked over the years is if it’s possible to run Mac OS on a Windows PC natively like it’s possible to run Windows on a Macintosh device. The answer is “No”. You cannot run Mac OS on Windows natively, but there are ways to side-load it onto your Windows PC, which itself is a complex process that may prove rather too arduous for casual users.

Coming back to Boot Camp, the program’s feasibility came to light when Apple ushered in the idea of infusing Intel processors into their MacBook models, the first of which came in January 2006. The Intel-based Macintosh served as a blueprint with which Apple finally transitioned to making their own chipset that can efficiently run Windows.

As to what version of Windows Macintosh devices can run, iterations of Windows before Windows 11 are mostly supported. You can run Windows 10 downwards by updating to the relevant version of Boot Camp. However, with Windows 11, it’s a whole different ball game.

To install Windows 11 on a Mac device, you’ll need Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0, which is a crucial Windows 11 requirement embedded into the motherboard of a computer and is mostly found on Intel Macs. Unfortunately, only a few devices have this TPM inside them, some of which are:

  • Mac Pro (2019)
  • iMac Pro (2017)
  • Mac Mini (2018)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016, Four Thunderbolts 3 Ports)
  • MacBook (Retina, 12 inches, 2017)
  • MacBook Air (13 inches, 2017)

On paper, the highlighted Mac computers should be able to run Windows 11 because they have TPM inside them.

On the other hand, Macs running on Apple’s latest crazily powerful M1 chips don’t have a TPM embedded inside them, so they cannot run Windows 11 using Boot Camp. However, like virtually everything else in the PC world, there are a few workarounds for running Windows 11 on an M1 Mac, one of which is Parallel, a premium service that allows you to run Windows 11 on your PC, albeit not being supported officially.

How Does Boot Camp Dual-boot Windows onto Your PC?

With the basics of Boot Camp and its limitations out of the way, you’ll find it handy to understand how the program loads Windows onto your MacBook.

For starters, Boot Camp achieves most of its function via a process termed partitioning. This is how your computer knows which address of your hard disk to read and when to read it.

Traditionally, when your Mac boots up, the partition table will tell which parts of the hard disk need to be read to boot up the operating system, with your available storage being recognized as one partition.

However, to have two operating systems on your PC, Boot Camp will establish a separate partition on your hard disk, after which it will read either partition depending on which operating system you want to boot into.

This begs the question, how does your Mac detect which partition to read? It’s pretty much an automated process, but it still needs bits of your input. You have two options when choosing between the Windows and Mac partitions, which are:

  • Using the Alt key when you get a splash screen amid boot-up and selecting your preferred partition
  • Using Boot Camp utility to input switch to the other partition

How to Use Boot Camp to Install Windows

Now that you understand how Boot Camp works, let’s delve right into how to install and use it for Windows installation on your Mac.

Before attempting installation, you need  the following:

  • A 16GB or higher MS-DOS-formatted USB drive
  • Windows installation ISO file from Microsoft’s official Windows depository
  • An up-to-date version of Mac OS
  • A 64-bit variant of the Windows ISO file you’re downloading
  • A minimum of 64GB of free storage on your hard disk – with a preference for double the storage to enable Windows Services to run smoothly

By default, Boot Camp Assistant is pre-installed on your Mac, thus all you have to do to access it is:

  • Click on Finder
  • Click on Applications on the left pane
  • Navigate to and click on Utilities
  • Click on Boot Camp Assistant from the plethora of apps

Before using Boot Camp, ensure to check your Secure Boot Setting. You need to set it to Full Security to enable Windows to install seamlessly. Learn how to check your Security Boot Setting

With that out of the way, you’re only a few steps away from installing Windows on your Mac with Boot Camp. Follow the guide below

  • Open the Boot Camp Assistant
  • You’ll be asked to insert a USB drive. Plug the required one into your Mac to allow a bootable drive for the installation
  • Next, you’ll be asked to set the size of the Windows partition. Ensure to set at least 64GB as recommended or, even better, 128GB upwards
  • Once the partition is complete, your Mac will reboot into the Windows Installer
  • Follow the prompts to continue the installation

Your Mac will automatically boot with Windows operating system once the installation is complete. To switch between Mac and Windows, reboot your PC and hold the Alt button to switch between the two operating systems.

Final Notes

The debate about which is better between Mac OS and Windows is a never-ending one, as fans of either operating system will never succumb to the other. I like to see Boot Camp as a brilliant program that helps lay this lifelong rivalry to rest. Frankly speaking, I’m a Windows user, but Mac OS is beginning to grow on me.

Who knows what your perception of either operating system might be when you get to use them simultaneously for some time? There’s only one way to find out.

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