How Boot Camp Works in OS X Yosemite

By Mark L. Chambers

Boot Camp is a software bridge that enables Mac users to run Windows software on their Macs. In years past, you may have heard that a Mac computer couldn’t run Windows out of the box (without expensive hardware or software), and that Mac software was off-limits to PCs . . . and you’d have heard correctly, at least for all but the recent history of the Macintosh computer.

The incompatibility was a result of Apple using a series of Motorola processors (CPUs) that didn’t speak the same language as the Intel CPUs used in PCs. Consider a person speaking Korean trying to read a book in Arabic, and you get the general idea.

Then Apple began using Intel processors in Macs, and the ground rules changed. Apple hardware was suddenly compatible with Windows. All that was needed was a bridge to help keep both operating systems separate on the same hard drive — and Apple developed Boot Camp. Of course, that bridge works only in one direction because you still can’t run Macintosh software on a PC. (Go figure.)

Boot Camp accomplishes this magic by creating a separate Windows partition on your Mac’s hard drive. The partition holds all your Windows data, including the OS, your program files, and the documents you create while running Windows. Consider this partition as completely separate from your OS X data even though both partitions exist on the same physical hard drive.

Think of it this way: When you reboot your Mac using Boot Camp, it’s similar to changing the station on an FM radio. The hardware is the same, but you switch to a different station (Windows instead of OS X), and you’re listening to different music (country instead of rock). How’s that for a comparison, Dr. Science?

Naturally, you need free space on your Mac’s hard drive to install Boot Camp. Apple recommends having 10GB of free space, but bump that up to 40GB. A new Boot Camp installation in Yosemite requires Windows 7 or Windows 8 — note that some newer Mac models support only Windows 8.

When your Mac is running Windows, it’s just as susceptible to virus and spyware attacks as any other Windows PC. Make sure to invest in quality antivirus and antispyware protection for your Windows side!