Why would you want to run Windows on a PC and laptops that runs the Apple OS X? It's a valid question. In fact, there are many reasons. To test out programs that are Windows-only; to play games that aren't available on a Mac; to play media files that Apple doesn't support but Windows does.
To see what you're missing before deciding whether a Windows PC is for you or, finally, being able to run more than one OS on the same machine means you save space and hardware costs and can essentially take two laptops with you on the road. For more on the changes in Windows 8 and how to use them visit Windows 8 Advisor. (See also: Windows 8: the complete guide.)
Installing an additional operating system on a Mac works via a process called virtualisation. You can do it through either Boot Camp or VMware Fusion, but the easiest option is to use Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac. It costs £69 but offers full control over both desktops and lets you install more than one extra OS, assuming your Mac has the resources to do so.
An Intel Core 2 Duo processor and at least 2GB of RAM (preferably 4GB) are needed to run Windows successfully. Remember that you’ll not only need this level of hardware, but plenty of hard disk space on your Mac too. You’re in effect running two PCs off a single one. For this reason, an MacBookAir with an SSD drive is probably not a good choice for dual-booting Windows 8 and Mac OS.
Switching between desktops doesn't even involve logging in and out of your current operating system - you just switch windows. Once installed as a dual-boot OS, you'll be able to drag items from your Windows 8 PC into the Mac OS and vice versa. You'll need a separate user account besides the standard Administrator account once Windows has installed on your Mac. This option is only supported on Parallels Desktop 7 (the latest version of the software); if you’ve got an older version of Parallels, you’ll need to upgrade at at cost of £34.99.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview is free to download, but will become inactive shortly after the commercial launch of the operating system. At this stage, US and Canadian users will be able to buy and install Windows 8 from within Parallels, while UK users will need to buy a copy and either install it from a USB drive or burn the ISO file to DVD. For further detailed advice on installing Windows 8 Release Preview, read our article: How to install Windows 8.
Step 1: Install Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac and set up your account. If you’re upgrading from an earlier version of Parallels, you’ll need to quit out of Parallels Desktop and Parallels Virtual Machine and allow Desktop 7 to replace them. All your settings will be migrated to the new version, along with any operating systems you may have been running within it.
Step 2: Head to Microsoft.com and click on the Windows tab. You’ll see an option to try the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. You'll need to enter your email address and accept the terms and conditions in order to initiate the download. Verify your details by email when prompted.
Step 3: Back in Parallels, it’s worth scanning through the instructions in the Getting started PDF. When you’re ready, click on the Parallels Desktop menu bar at the top of the screen and choose File, New. Choose ‘Install Windows or another OS from DVD or image file’.
Step 4: A prompt to insert an operating system disc appears. Assuming you downloaded Windows 8 Consumer Preview to your Mac, choose the Other media option. Parallels should locate the Windows.iso file on the Mac OS X desktop. Click to install Windows. Alternatively, on the options screen, click the ‘Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview’ option. Click Continue.
Step 5: Note that the pre-filled product key may not work. If this is the case, enter the generic code code DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J that Microsoft provides for use with the Consumer Preview. Click Continue.
Step 5: Next you need to tell Parallels how you want to use Windows. It can run as a self-contained operating system or simply run specific programs with the Mac OS. We chose the former option as we want to use Windows 8 as though it were the native OS.
Step 6: Confirm your preferences on the next screen about whether Windows 8 should also be accessible by other users of this Mac and where Parallels should save the installation files. You can also adjust its default memory allocation. Windows 8 Consumer Preview will now start installing.
Step 7: Windows 8 automatically creates a user profile for you based on the details it has gleaned from the Mac. You can edit your email and user preferences once Windows 8 Consumer Preview setup is complete. This includes specifying whether or not HomeGroup sharing should be switched on. This trusted local network feature is usually restricted to Windows use, but can be used within this virtualised version of Windows on a Mac too.
Step 8: Click the View option at the top of the screen and choose ‘Enter Full Screen’ to have Windows 8 take over the whole screen. You'll now see a screen full of brightly coloured tlles. These represent apps and remain live when you click away from one to perform another task.
Step 9: Click on your user icon to access PC settings and to add other user accounts. At the bottom you'll see an option to add more users. A Microsoft or other email address is all that's required to set them up on Windows 8 on the Mac.
Step 10: To return to the Windows 8 Metro tile interface, hover your mouse at the bottom left and click the thumbnail that appears. To get back to the Mac OS, hover your mouse over the uppermost part of the screen and, when the menu bar appears, choose View, Exit Full Screen.