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Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Install Windows 8 on a Mac

With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview out in the world, I'm seeing a lot of excitement from Mac users who are suddenly regretting their expensive side-trip to the Apple side of the computing fence. Have no fear, unhappy Mac users. Windows 8 will work on your computer too.


As with previous versions of Windows, you can install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on your Mac in three basic forms: Virtualized, using a solution like Parallels Desktop, in a dual-boot configuration using Apple's Boot Camp utility, or as the sole OS, replacing Mac OS X once and for all.


I'd like to recommend the latter approach, but you're better off using Boot Camp for two reasons. First, Windows 8 isn't complete and it's not possible for me to test this configuration on every modern Mac, so you mileage may vary. And second--and more important--there are some things you can only do on a Mac using Mac OS X, including updating the firmware, so it's a good idea to keep at least a small OS X partition on there.


Before you get started, make sure you have a bootable Windows 8 Setup DVD. Depending on which kind of Mac you have, you may need a 32-bit version.


Using Boot Camp to install Windows 8


After ensuring that OS X is up to date with all of the pending software updates and rebooting as necessary, you can find the Boot Camp Assistant utility in Applications, Utilities. (Or, just use the handy keyboard shortcut COMMAND + SPACE to bring up OS X's version of Start Menu Search and type "boot c" then ENTER.)


There's no need to belabor the point: Boot Camp Assistant is a very simple, wizard-based application that walks you through the process of getting the drivers you need, partitioning your Mac to accommodate both OSes, and then install Windows. It's pretty straightforward process, and be sure to download the drivers you'll need later and burn them to disc.


But the big sticking point, I suppose, will come when you need to decide how much room to give OS X and how much for Windows.




I recommending giving as much to Windows as possible, of course, but if you actually use OS X for something--I'm sure it's creative, whatever it is--choose accordingly. Then click Install and off you go, assuming of course that you thought to put the Windows 8 Setup media in the optical drive.


Windows 8 Setup will run through the familiar, monotonous process of installing the new OS. Make sure you choose Custom at the install type screen and then choose the right partition, of course, and  not the one on which OS X is installed. This screen will be a bit messy, but the correct partition is named BOOTCAMP. You'll have to format it using the Advanced options before Setup will proceed.


After a few reboots and bongs from the Mac speaker, you'll get to step through the Out of Box Experience, where you pick a background color and machine name, connect to a network, choose Express settings (or not), and then sign-in to the PC. And then you'll be presented with the Windows 8 Start screen.


Post-install tasks


You're not done, of course. A quick check of Device Manager reveals that, yes, you will still need to install Apple's somewhat lousy Boot Camp drivers in order to complete the installation. So you should insert the driver disc you created as part of the Boot Camp Assistant now and let it do it's thing and then reboot.


And that's pretty much it, though I notice on my own late 2010 Macbook Air that there are still a few missing pieces in Device Manager. It's not perfect.


As always, the Windows-on-Mac thing isn't ideal, but then nothing has changed since the last time I wrote about this since Windows 8 isn't out yet and isn't officially supported by Apple. But you should check out my previous articles on this topic for more information if you're curious:


MacBook Air + Windows 7, Part One: The Best Of Both Worlds?

MacBook Air + Windows 7, Part Two: An Imperfect Storm


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