The Real Cost of Running Windows on Your Mac

Running Windows on your Mac can unlock a world of new software, but the cost and setup can be overwhelming. This guide will simplify the process and help you make an informed decision.

The cost to install Windows 10 or 11 on a Mac varies, depending on the software and hardware requirements, but generally ranges from $100 to $200. This includes the price of a Windows software license, which can cost between $99 to $199.

We’ll explore different methods of running Windows on your Mac, discuss potential performance implications, and help you choose the right approach for your needs. 

Read on to understand the costs and benefits of installing Windows on your Mac.

Running Windows 11 on m1 MacBook air using VMware Technical Preview

Why Run Windows on a Mac?

There are several reasons why you might want to run Windows on your Mac. 

Some users need access to Windows-specific software for work or school, while others might want to play games that are only available for Windows. 

Additionally, running Windows can be beneficial for developers and IT professionals who need to test applications or manage multiple environments

By installing Windows on your Mac, you can enjoy the best of both worlds without having to invest in a separate Windows computer, maximizing the value and versatility of your device.

Comparing Virtual Machines and Boot Camp

There are two main methods to run Windows on a Mac: using virtual machine software like Parallels or VMware Fusion, or using Apple’s built-in Boot Camp Assistant. Both methods have their pros and cons, and the costs involved may vary depending on your needs and preferences.

Virtual Machines (Parallels and VMware Fusion):

  • Run Windows and macOS simultaneously
  • Easy to switch between operating systems
  • Better for users who need occasional access to Windows programs
  • Parallels Desktop: $79.99 for a standard license, $99.99 per year for Pro or Business edition
  • VMware Fusion: $149.99 for a standard license, $199.99 per year for Pro edition

Boot Camp Assistant:

  • Requires rebooting to switch between operating systems
  • Provides better performance for gaming or resource-intensive applications
  • Free with macOS, but may require additional storage or partitioning
  • Requires a valid Windows license (see next section for pricing)

When considering the costs, it’s important to factor in the convenience and performance you need. Virtual machines offer more flexibility, but may come with a higher price tag and slightly lower performance. 

Boot Camp, on the other hand, is free but requires more commitment to switch between operating systems and demands additional storage space for the Windows partition.

With the release of Apple’s M1 and M2 chips, running Windows 11 on Mac has some limitations and unique options. Windows 365, a cloud-based service, allows you to stream your full Windows 11 experience on M1 and M2 Macs. 

Alternatively, Parallels Desktop 18 offers an authorized solution for running Arm versions of Windows 11 Pro and Windows 11 Enterprise on M1 and M2 Macs. 

Keep in mind that the Arm version of Windows 11 has some limitations regarding hardware, games, and apps compatibility. Additionally, nested virtualization-dependent experiences, such as Windows Subsystem for Android and Windows Subsystem for Linux, are not supported on M1 and M2 Macs.

Windows 11 running on early 2015 macbook air

The Cost of Windows Software Licenses

To install Windows on your Mac, you’ll need a valid Windows software license. Microsoft offers various editions of Windows 10 and Windows 11 with different features and pricing options. Here’s a breakdown of the costs for some of the most popular editions:

Windows 10:

Windows 11:

Note that these prices are for standalone licenses purchased directly from Microsoft. You can also find discounted licenses from authorized retailers or take advantage of special offers, such as student discounts or volume licensing for businesses, like the GCC High License.


If you plan to install Windows 11, you’ll need to acquire a separate license for Windows 11 Pro. If you want to upgrade to Windows 11 Enterprise, this can be done through a volume licensing agreement.

In summary, the cost of a Windows license will depend on the edition you choose and where you purchase it. Be sure to consider your specific needs and the compatibility of your Mac before making a decision.

Hardware Upgrades and Compatibility Concerns

Before installing Windows on your Mac, ensure that your hardware is compatible with the Windows version you intend to use. 

For Windows 11, your Mac must meet certain system requirements, such as TPM 2.0 support. However, if your Mac doesn’t meet these requirements, you can still opt for Windows 10. 

Also, check if your Mac’s hardware components, like graphics cards and peripherals, are supported in Windows. This will help you avoid potential issues that could hamper your Windows experience on your Mac.

Performance Considerations and Trade-Offs

Running Windows on a Mac may have some impact on your system’s performance. With virtual machines like Parallels or VMware Fusion, you’ll be sharing your Mac’s resources (CPU, RAM, and storage) between macOS and the virtual Windows environment. 

For optimal performance, allocate enough resources to both operating systems, and consider upgrading your RAM and storage if needed, as detailed in our cost breakdown of building a MacBook Pro.

On the other hand, Boot Camp allows Windows to run natively on your Mac’s hardware, which generally results in better performance. However, you’ll need to reboot your Mac each time you switch between macOS and Windows, which can be inconvenient. 

Additionally, running Windows may consume more battery life compared to macOS due to differences in power management and optimization.

Ultimately, you’ll need to weigh the trade-offs between convenience and performance when choosing between a virtual machine and Boot Camp for running Windows on your Mac. Consider your specific use case and the resources available on your Mac to make the best decision for your needs.

Here’s a step-by-step video on how to install windows on a Mac:


Can I run Windows and macOS simultaneously on my Mac?

Yes, you can use virtual machine software like Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion to run Windows alongside macOS.

Are there any free alternatives to using Boot Camp or Parallels?

Yes, there are free virtualization software options like VirtualBox and QEMU that you can use to run Windows on your Mac.

Will running Windows on my Mac affect my computer’s performance?

Running Windows on your Mac can impact performance, particularly if you’re running it in a virtual machine. However, this can depend on various factors, such as the specs of your Mac and how much resources you allocate to Windows.

How much disk space is needed to install Windows on a Mac?

To install Windows on a Mac, you need at least 64GB of free space for a basic installation. However, it’s recommended to have more space if you plan on storing files or installing additional applications.

  • Alex

    Alex is the founder and driving force behind the blog you're reading. As a lifelong spender with a keen eye for making informed financial decisions, he's dedicated to analyzing the economy and digging deep into online data for valuable insights. With a passion for sharing financial wisdom, he equips readers with practical advice and useful tips for a better financial future. In his free time, Alex enjoys the outdoors and a good book.