Can I run Windows 8 on my Mac with VMWare Fusion?

I want to start exploring the new Microsoft Windows 8 developer preview that was released but I don’t want to overwrite the OS on my Win7 laptop. Instead, I was wondering if I could successfully install Windows 8 DP on my MacBook Pro using the latest version of VMWare Fusion (v 4.0)? Possible?

Dave’s Answer:

It’s not only possible, it actually works surprisingly well and I have to say, wow, Windows 8 looks completely different to previous versions of Windows that I’m used to, and I’ve been running Windows since it was Windows 3.1, and on and on…

Now is Windows 8 ready for prime time, ready for people to install on their main production computers? Definitely not. In fact, that’s why it’s labeled a “developer’s preview”, along with the fact that we have no idea how stable and reliable the code base is at this point. For all you know, it could crash and corrupt the disk at the most random and unfortunate moment. If you’re not ready for the adventure, definitely stick with a production operating system like the quite stable Windows 7 from Microsoft.

I’ll also warn you that you really need to have VMWare Fusion 4.0 or later, an upgrade just released and tuned for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. I’m running Lion on my MacBook Pro, and as you’ll see, it worked just fine…

To get started, install the latest version of VMWare Fusion. Software well worth having on your Mac anyway, in my opinion. Then download the install image for Windows 8 developer preview. Got them both?

Let’s Go!

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 1

I first tried to install Win8 with the 64-bit version of the OS but failed, so here you’ll want to pick 32-bit (x86) for your own installation. Perhaps down the road the 64-bit version will work, but for now, stick with 32 and you’ll be able to proceed.

Once the Win8 “.iso” disk image has downloaded, launch your new version of VMWare Fusion. If you already have a virtual machine running an OS of some sort already installed, you’ll see it appear in the Virtual Machine Library, like I do:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 3

If not, well, it’ll look mostly the same, just the middle part will be blank.

To proceed, click on “Create New” on the lower left corner, and…

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 4

Since there’s no actual install DVD for Win8, click on “Continue without disc”…

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 5

What you downloaded from Microsoft was a disc image, so select that and it’ll pop up a file selection window. Pick the image (it’ll be named “WindowsDeveloperPreview-32bit-English.iso” or similar) and you’ll be right back where you were, but now it shows the image name:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 6

Looks good so far. Click on “Continue” and you’ll get to pick what set of default configuration settings you need:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 7

As you can see, I picked “Windows 7“, plain and straightforward. Another click on “Continue” and here’s the summary of my settings:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 8

Looks okay, but the problem is that there’s not enough RAM. To fix it, I’ll click on “Customize Settings”, which — rather surprisingly — produces a little window asking you to name the virtual machine:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 9

It makes sense if you think about it, it’s just a bit surprising (to me, at least) where it shows up. Anyway, give it a good, mnemonic name. Or call it “Borg” or whatever. Click “Save” and you’ll be able to tweak the RAM allocated to the virtual machine:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 10

See that icon on the top right, “Processors and Memory”? Click on it. Now you can move the slider to allocate as much memory as you’d like, up to the full RAM of your device:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 11

I’m going to pick 2GB — 2048MB — but if you have a lot of memory, you can’t do wrong by giving it even more RAM to work with.

Set it as you desire, click “Save” on the top left, then click the play button on the top left of the virtual machine window:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 12

Ready? Awaayyyyyy we go:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 13

Very cool, eh? To proceed, just click on “Next”.

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 14

Take your time, read every line of the license terms in detail. Check with your attorney. Call your Dad. Or, um, do what the rest of us do and accept the terms without even reading the license 🙂

Either way, once you proceed, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to upgrade or do a clean install:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 15

We’re starting from scratch, so you definitely want “Custom (advanced)” so you can install a new copy of Win 8. Nice.

Next up, time to ensure that it’s going to install on the correct drive (which is pretty straightforward when there’s only one choice and it’s virtual):

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 16

Still, make sure it’s correct, then click on “Next” on the lower right (not shown) to proceed.

Now Windows 8 developer preview will start its real install and it’ll take a while:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 17

Some time passes. Alright, a fair amount of time passes, but eventually you see this cool display:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 18

Heck, even the typeface looks good!

A bit later you’ll get to a few screens where you’ll have to enter some info, starting with the most basic of personalization:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 19

You can name the virtual PC anything you want, of course. I called mine “win8dp” in a burst of extraordinary creativity.

There’s a bit more to set up before you’re ready to run Win8:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 20

Then you can connect with your Windows Live account…

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 21

I couldn’t get this step to work — it didn’t like my WinLive account — so I ended up clicking on the “skip this step” link that’s hidden near the bottom of the page. I can always reinstall or fix it later, right?

Finally, I’m really, really close:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 22

Another minute or two and we’ve got Windows 8 developer preview running live and with good performance in VMWare Fusion:

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 23

As my son would say, this is sick!

And ya gotta admit, this is quite a bit different than any previous version of Microsoft Windows, isn’t it? Oh, see the bottom? It’s a scrollbar. Move it to the side and there’s more!

windows 8 vmware fusion mac 24

So that’s it. You’re running Windows 8 within the virtual world of Fusion. Not too bad at all, and quite interesting to see what direction Microsoft’s going with its system.


Categorized as Mac

By Dave Taylor

Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is internationally known as an expert on both business and technology issues. Holder of an MSEd and MBA, author of twenty books and founder of four startups, he also runs a strategic marketing company and consults with firms seeking the best approach to working with weblogs and social networks. Dave is an award-winning speaker and frequent guest on radio and podcast programs.