My girlfriend just bought a Macbook Pro, and she wants to to dual boot OSX with Windows. Specifically, she would like to use Windows 8. What I already know is the following:

  • Windows 8 discs are only meant for upgrading from previous versions of Windows
  • Windows 8 discs can be used to do a clean install, but (officially) only if there's already a legit version of Windows on the hard disk
  • I've read somewhere of a disc being used to install Windows 8 on a fresh, out-of-the-box hard drive, and it all went well until the activation phase, where it said that the disc could only be used for upgrades

The logical conclusion would be that in my circumstance, the only option is to buy a full (non-upgrade) retail copy of Windows 7, install that using boot camp, then load up Windows 7, insert the Windows 8 upgrade disc and do the 7->8 upgrade.

However, I've read quite a few blog posts of people installing Windows 8 using bootcamp (e.g., Ars Technica, which leads me to believe that it might be possible to do so without installing Win7 first. The problem is that I'm not sure if these people were using preview versions, which obviously won't have the license issues down the track. Can anyone provide a definitive answer as to how to put Win8 on a Mac?

  • Your only legal option to install Windows 8 on a machine without a valid license of a previous Windows product is to purchase the Windows 8 System Builder OEM license. The only other way to purchase Windows 8 requires a previous version of Windows. While one can install a clean installation of Windows 8 Pro with the Upgrade product, it still requires the previous installation, to be 100% legal. – Ramhound Nov 9 '12 at 13:14

Windows 8 discs are only meant for upgrading from previous versions of Windows

That is not true. Some Windows 8 SKU's are upgrade-only, but others are full OEM or Retail versions that can be installed on a PC without any other version of Windows present.

For example, here is a System Builder version that can be installed on any machine:

  • Yeah, I think this is going to be the best option for a getting Windows 8 onto a Mac that isn't already boot-camping Win7. – Cam Jackson Nov 9 '12 at 2:32
  • @CamJackson - This is the only legal option. – Ramhound Nov 9 '12 at 13:05
  • @Ramhound Well, the other legal option would be my initial idea. Buy a full version of Win7, and then pay $40 to upgrade. The accepted answer here would be the cheapest legal option. – Cam Jackson Nov 10 '12 at 12:13

You can buy Windows 8 via official app from preview version of Windows 8 (either from Boot Camp or some sort of virtualization). I bought mine from a notebook running Win8 developer preview. Then make a bootable flashdrive and use that as installation media for release version.

  • Is it legal to upgrade from a beta to the final release? – pratnala Nov 8 '12 at 10:51
  • You can't update, you must do a clean install. For legal issues, I really don't know. – eiennohito Nov 8 '12 at 10:53
  • So I can download and burn the consumer preview, use that with bootcamp to install Win8, purchase the update from within the Win8 preview, and install as normal from there? And you're sure that it will activate properly, even though it's an "upgrade" from a preview version instead of a proper, bought copy of Windows? – Cam Jackson Nov 8 '12 at 13:25
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    @eiennohito - If the author buys an Upgrade license they would have to install a legal installation of a previous version of Windows before he would be able to do a clean install of Windows 8. The solution of course is to purchase a System Builder OEM license. This answer has some really bad advice, in addition to that bad advice, its advice that cannot be even used since the previews releases are not being offered by Microsoft anymore. – Ramhound Nov 8 '12 at 15:05
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    @PratyushNalam - Yes, provided you have Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP installed already. Otherwise again, YOU NEED THE SYSTEM BUILD OEM LICENSE. – Ramhound Nov 9 '12 at 0:48

There are sometimes special offers where you can get a dedicated upgrade-only disc for a reduced price. I experienced this when I bought a laptop with Windows Vista (ugh...) just before the release of Windows 7. In that case, the store had a deal where I paid almost nothing for the upgrade.

In your case, as far as I have understood, you don't have a pre-installed Windows OS, and thus, such an offer would be useless. You don't need to get Windows 7 in order to upgrade to Windows 8, (unless you have some money to waste). Instead, you can simply buy and install Windows 8 out of the box. Just to be safe, make sure the package doesn't have "upgrade" written all over it. This buddy here, for example should allow you to install Windows 8 Pro from scratch. It also allows you to upgrade from an older version.

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    The product you linked to requires a valid Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 license on the computer. The System Builder OEM license is twice that price, the product you linked to is the Windows 8 UPGRADE SKU. – Ramhound Nov 9 '12 at 0:47
  • Really? Wow, no wonder people are confused then... :-S I mean, seriously? It just says "Windows 8 Pro", and in the description, it doesn't mention a previous compatible version being a requirement, although they are pretty eager to explain your options. Are you sure it's an upgrade-only? – phaz Nov 9 '12 at 7:01
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    It actually does list you must have a previous Windows license. I will quote the requirements on the very page you linked to. "To install Windows 8 Pro upgrade, customers must be running Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, or Windows 7." The product is also called Windows 8 Pro Upgrade its always good to read the full description of the product. – Ramhound Nov 9 '12 at 13:01
  • True, but it could still be clear that the product is only an upgrade. The way I read it is, (In order) To install Windows 8 Pro upgrade, and so on.. But yeah, I admit I was mistaken. I think though, that MS needs to be more explicit that this certain product is only for upgrade. Especially since it seems to be the only Windows 8 product on the site. – phaz Nov 9 '12 at 18:29

What you can buy is an upgrade. Specifically, you will get an .exe file that you can use (in Windows) to generate an iso file with which you can install Windows in Parallels on the Mac. You won't be able to activate it since your product key is only an upgrade key but you will have the option on the activation screen to buy a new key.

You'll have to ask Microsoft why they don't just sell a version you can install and activate from the outset. But expect to have to buy Windows twice.

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