How to Get Windows 8.1 on a Macbook
If you need to run Windows 8.1 on a Macbook, there are a few ways to do it: you can use Mac’s BootCamp Assistant or download and use a virtual machine like Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion or VirtualBox. Unfortunately, installing Windows 8 via BootCamp will probably not work if your Macbook is newer than 2016. In that case virtualization software should still work if you have a Windows 8.1 license key. In this article we describe pros and cons of each method so that you can decide for yourself which one to use.
Option 1: Download Windows 8.1 on a Mac With BootCamp
Boot Camp comes with your Macbook for free, and it allows you to install Windows alongside macOS, so you can choose which of them to boot on startup. Mac’s Boot Camp Assistant will help you install Windows, partition the startup drive and install necessary drivers.
If you install Windows via Boot Camp, Windows will have all of your Macbook’s resources and can run programs with the maximum possible performance. That’s why dual-booting is ideal for running resource-intensive programs like video-editing software or high-end games.
On the other hand, only one operating system will be able to run at the same time, so you will have to reboot between them depending on which apps you need to run at the moment. Another possible drawback is fact that Windows and macOS use different file systems, and you will not be able to open Mac files on Windows or vice versa unless you install specific third-party drives for it. That is not a problem when using virtual machines.
Option 2: Run Windows 8.1 on a Macbook Without BootCamp, Using a Virtual Machine
Virtual machines allow you to install and open Windows 8.1 in a window on your Mac desktop. Windows will “think” it’s running on a real computer, when it is running inside an app. With virtual machines you run both macOS and Windows at the same time, which is handy if you want to open a single Windows program alongside your Mac applications. However, when you run a virtual machine, your computer’s resources are split between the two operating systems, so everything may run slower than usual.
Install Windows 8.1 on a Mac With Parallels Desktop
Parallels Desktop is very intuitive and easy-to-use for regular computer users. The app will configure everything for you, even download Windows 8.1 or utilize the one you already downloaded via Boot Camp. You can open Windows in a separate window (including a full screen mode), or you can turn on Coherence mode. In Coherence mode the virtual machine will run in the background, while Windows programs can run alongside your Mac apps. You can even put Windows programs on your macOS desktop or pin them to Dock. Parallels Desktop allows you to copy and paste or drag and drop between Windows and macOS without any problems.
Parallels Desktop prices start at $79.99, however there is a free trial period available.
Get Windows 8.1 on a Mac With VMware Fusion
VMware Fusion is another popular virtualization software for Macbooks. It is close to Parallels in terms of functionality and pricing, but VMware’s Fusion supports a larger number of operating systems than Parallels. On the other hand, Parallels is easier for beginners, and runs a little smoother. Otherwise, these two programs are approximately on the same level.
VMware Fusion offers a free trial period to its users, same as Parallels, so you may try both for free and decide which one you like better, before committing.
Install Windows 8.1 a Mac Via VirtualBox
If you don’t plan to spend extra money on virtualization software, there’s always VirtualBox by Oracle. VirtualBox is a pretty decent free alternative to paid software if not slower, less polished and missing some handy functions. If you need to run some resource intensive Windows programs, VirtualBox might not be the best choice for you. VirtualBox also requires more technical knowledge than, for example, Parallels, as users need to tune some settings themselves when installing it. However, if you are a power user already or don’t mind doing a little more work, and you are not going to run latest Windows games or video-editing software, VirtualBox is a good (and free!) alternative.