How Apple Boot Camp Works

By: Stephanie Crawford

Preparing to Set Up Boot Camp

The Boot Camp Assistant utility in Mac OS X steps you through the process of setting up Boot Camp.
The Boot Camp Assistant utility in Mac OS X steps you through the process of setting up Boot Camp.
Screencap by Stephanie Crawford for HowStuffWorks

When you set up Boot Camp, you'll be stepping through a wizard known as the Boot Camp Assistant. After set up is complete, you can use the Boot Camp Assistant again to remove or reinstall Windows. To open the Boot Camp Assistant, click on your Finder, select Applications from the left, scroll down and select Utilities, and then double-click Boot Camp Assistant.

Before you continue, make sure you have the following. We'll take a closer look at each of these before going on, including what to do if you don't have one:


  • The install disc or ISO for a supported version of Windows
  • A copy of the Boot Camp Install and Setup Guide
  • A blank CD, DVD, or MS-DOS-formatted storage device such as a USB drive or SD card

If you don't have a Windows install disc, you can download an ISO of Windows and burn that to a disc. You'll need to use this disc in the Mac's CD/DVD drive during your Boot Camp setup. Be sure to use this information when you're selecting which version of Windows to use:

  • Boot Camp for Mac OS X Lion (10.7) supports Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate editions, 32-bit or 64-bit.
  • Boot Camp for Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) supports Windows XP Home or Professional with Service Pack 2, Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business or Ultimate, and Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate. Support for 64-bit versions is limited: no 64-bit versions of Windows XP, and 64-bit versions of Vista and 7 only on MacBook Pro models from 2008 or later and iMac and MacBook models from late 2009 and later.

The Boot Camp Installation and Setup Guide is available from the "Introduction" page of the Boot Camp Assistant. There, click "Print Installation & Setup Guide." If you don't want to print it, you can save it as a file by clicking "OK" on the first print dialog, then "Save as PDF" from the PDF menu of the second print dialog.

When you click "Continue" on the "Introduction" screen, you'll have three options available. Assuming you've already obtained the Windows install disc, you can keep the first option unchecked and the last option checked. The middle option is to download the latest Windows support software. This includes all the drivers necessary for Windows to work on your Mac hardware. Keep this option checked, and follow the instructions in the screens that follow to download those and save them to an external storage device (like a USB drive) or blank disc. At the time of this writing, the total download size for the WindowsSupport download saved to an external drive was just under 675 MB.

Now let's take a closer look at the next step in Boot Camp Assistant: partitioning.