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The complete guide to running Windows on a Mac

How to get Windows 7 set up on your Apple computer

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Step 2: Create a bootable Windows 7/8 USB thumb drive

Whether you've got a MacBook Air/Mini (2011) or any other Mac with an optical drive, installing Windows from a USB drive is just the more comfortable option: first, the setup is done in half the time, and second, this thumb drive is also a more portable Windows Recovery Environment. It doesn't scratch and fits easily into your travel bag.

If your system gets messed up, plug it in and run the repair options. Here are a couple of ways to create a bootable key (remember, you're going to need at least a 4GB stick):

Create a bootable Windows Setup USB using Boot Camp Assistant (MacBook Air/MacBook Mini only): Launch the Boot Camp Assistant, check "Create a Windows 7 install disk" and hit "Continue".

Make sure that the proper USB drive is selected and hit "Continue". Et Voilà! The ISO gets "burned" to a bootable Flash drive. Now, read the rest of the instructions given in Step 1 above ("Setting up your Boot Camp partition").

Create a bootable Windows Setup USB using Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (All Macs): The easiest way to create a bootable Windows 7/8 Setup USB Drive is with Microsoft's own "Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool". Download it, select an ISO and the target USB drive, and you're done!

Hint: If the USB thumb drive isn't recognised by your Mac bootloader or rEFIT, try creating the installer using USB Creator, and if all fails, the manual route should definitely work.

Create a bootable Windows Setup USB using Terminal commands (All Macs): If no PC is in visible range, the USB/DVD Download Tool won't do you much good - in that case, you'll have to work your way to the command line:

1. Open a Terminal window and run "diskutil list". Determine which device node matches your USB thumb drive (e.g. this could be "/dev/disk4").

2. Unmount this disk by typing in "diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskX" (where X stands for the number of your USB drive, which in our example would be "diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk4").

3. Type in "sudo dd if=/PATH/Windows7or8.iso of=/dev/diskX bs=1m". Make sure to replace the "/PATH/Windows7or8.iso" with the correct path of your Windows 7 or 8 ISO file and, again, replace the X with the drive number.

4. Done! Once the operation is complete, run the "diskutil eject /dev/diskX" command to eject the flash drive!

Step 3: No USB boot? Install rEFIt!

Not all Macs support booting from a Windows-formatted USB thumb drive. So if you don't see an image like the one below after plugging in your Windows USB key you're going to need to equip your Mac with rEFIt, which enhances the standard EFI with a few options such as a terminal command line or our much-needed USB boot option.

And it's not as complicated as it sounds: Just head over to http://refit.sourceforge.net/ and get the 6.5 MB DMG file. Install rEFIt and restart your machine. Note: It might take a restart or two until the rEFIT option shows up, so be patient.


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