How to download Windows for free and run it on your Apple Mac

Download Windows for free and run it on your Apple Mac

No matter how hard Mac users try to give up Windows, it still draws us back. If you need to use Windows on your Mac it will cost a lot of money for a license. Or you can download a copy for free!

Free copies of Windows for Apple Mac users? Surely not, but it is true!

Microsoft provides test versions of Windows so that developers can try their software and websites with any version of Windows released from 7 through 8.1 to 10.

These test versions run for 90 days, after which they stop working. However, you can simply reinstall it and get another 90 days, and another. It is a minor inconvenience having to reinstall Windows, but you can get a lot of use out of it in those 90 days, and it is only required three times a year.

Select your version of Windows

Go to the Microsoft website and select a virtual machine. There are several versions of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

Download Windows for free and run it on your Apple Mac

Select a platform

In the platform list on the right are applications that support virtual machines. If you have Parallels Desktop then download the Parallels (Mac) platform, otherwise select VirtualBox.

Click the Download button and the virtual machine will download. It can be up to 3.5GB, so it it will take some time. The speed depends on your internet connection.

Select the platform and download the virtual machine

Unzip it

The virtual machine is in a zip archive. When I double clicked this to unzip it, macOS made a mess of it. I had to right click it and select Open With, Unarchive.app. It then saved the .ova file to disk. This is what VirtualBox needs.

Unarchive the zip file and extract the .ova virtual machine file

Get VirtualBox

If you don’t already have VirtualBox, go to virtualbox.org and download it. Also download the extensions too.

Download VirtualBox, a free app for running a guest operating system

Install VirtualBox

Double click the .dmg file that was downloaded and then double click VirtualBox.pkg to install it. (Notice the uninstaller utility - drag it to the Applications folder. You might need it one day.)

Install VirtualBox so you can run Windows on your Apple Mac

Install the extensions

Run VirtualBox and go to the Preferences. Select the Extensions tab, click the button on the right and select the Extensions pack you downloaded. The extensions are drivers that make Windows run better in VirtualBox.

Install the extensions pack in VirtualBox, it improves the way virtual machines work

Import the virtual machine

Go to the VirtualBox File menu and select the Import option. Select the .ova virtual machine extracted from the .zip download.

Import the virtual machine into VirtualBox

Start Windows

After importing the virtual machine, there is a Windows entry in VirtualBox. Before starting it, select it and customise the settings.

Give it at least 1024 MB of memory, preferably more, and increase the CPU cores to two.

Windows running in a window on the Apple Mac desktop

Windows should now be running in a virtual machine in a window on the Mac’s desktop. The first time it runs, it is quite slow as it does maintenance tasks. It settles down after a while and it runs quite quickly in the virtual machine.

 

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