Installing Windows and ArcGIS on a Mac Operating System (OS)


ArcGIS Desktop is configured to run on a Windows Operating System, and does not support ArcGIS software installed directly onto the Mac Operating System (OS). However, it is possible to install Windows as a separate operating system on a Mac through the use of a non-virtualized or virtualized environment, and therefore run ArcGIS Desktop.

There are a two primary methods for running Windows on a Mac:

1.     Boot Camp - Apple’s pre-installed multi boot utility.  Users can use this non-virtualized environment on a Mac to install Windows OS and ArcGIS Desktop. Boot Camp allows users to boot the Mac into either the Windows or the Mac OS. It does not allow the operating systems to run simultaneously; you much choose one or the other.

2.     Virtual Machines using Parallels or VMware Fusion. This is third-party software which allow Windows to run simultaneously with the Mac OS. Both systems are able to be active at the same time, unlike Boot Camp.

Which option is best for me?

This really depends on the type and amount of analysis that will be performed and how you would like to interact with the Mac OS.

Parallels or VMware Fusion work better for light analysis and simple data visualization, due to the fact that there is less processing power and memory available to run ArcGIS in conjunction with the Mac OS. This has the benefit of being able to switch between the Mac OS and Windows OS in a single session, but does not allow for robust analysis due to the fact that the memory and processing resources are split between the two systems.

Bootcamp is a better choice for users who require the full processing power of ArcGIS because the user boots into only one operating system at a time. However, this means that they are not able to flip between the Mac and Windows operating systems in a single use, but they are able to utilize the full memory and processing power for intensive analysis and larger datasets. 

Pros of Parallels and VMWare Fusion

  • Users can switch between the Mac and Windows Operating Systems in a single session.
  • Files can be easily shared between Mac and Windows applications
  • Utilizes all free hard drive space
  • Does not require a permanent hard drive partition
  • Allows copy & paste between Windows and Mac OS
  • Allows users to move files between systems

Cons of Parallels and VMWare Fusion

  • Memory and CPU resources are split between operating systems, which will result in slower processing speeds than Boot Camp
  • Not ideal for large datasets or intensive analytical processes
  • Purchase required (Parallels is roughly $79.99 and VMWare Fusion is roughly $49.99)

Pros of Bootcamp

  • Free and pre-installed utility on all Macs since 2007
  • Windows and ArcGIS will run at “full speed”
  • OS has access to all hardware and memory during one single session
  • Access to partition and its files in either mode. You can copy and move files, but will not be able to directly copy and paste content saved on your Mac to your Windows.

Cons of Bootcamp

  • Requires a dedicated, semi-permanent hard drive partition
  • You must decide in advance how much hard drive memory to give Windows and ArcGIS
  • Requires user to log off one OS before booting into the other OS
  • Files not easily shared between the two OS

Purchasing a Windows License

We recommend purchasing Windows 10. However, be aware that you must check the Boot Camp Requirements by Mac Model chart to see which version of Boot Camp your Mac model supports - the Boot Camp version will determine the Windows OS version as well as denote if you can use 32-bit or 64-bit.

32-bit or 64-bit?
If choosing Windows 8, you must have a 64-bit Mac.  LINK:  How to figure out if your Mac is 32 or 64 bit

Microsoft Version options for a Mac user: As a Mac user you must purchase the "full copy" of Windows 7 or 8, NOT the "upgrade" version.  

Windows 10

ArcGIS 10.x is certified for Windows 10. System Builders and Mac users should purchase the Full Version of Windows 10. The Microsoft Store should provide you the correct version but you can also do a web search to find the full version from other resellers.

Check System Requirements

Regardless of which method you choose, you must first determine whether your computer meets the minimum requirements for installing ArcGIS Desktop. Then you must determine whether it meets the requirements for either method of running Windows OS.

To check your Mac system info, click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen and select “About this Mac”. To determine free space on your hard drive, right click on the Storage tab to view available hard drive space.

ArcGIS Desktop 10 minimum requirements

System requirements to install Windows using Boot Camp

Windows 10 minimum requirements

VMware Fusion minimum requirements

Parallels minimum requirements

Using Boot Camp on your Mac OS to Install Windows OS

***Always back-up your Mac with TimeMachine before installing Boot Camp.***

1.    Check System Requirements - Some versions of Windows require a certain processor, and more hard drive space and memory (RAM) than others. Check the documentation that came with your copy of Windows to find out what you need. Then use System Information to see what your Mac currently has.

2.    Get a Windows disk image - When you purchase Windows, it comes as a disk image file (ISO) that you download, or as an installation disc or USB flash drive. If your copy of Windows came on a DVD, you should create a disk image of it to work with Boot Camp. If your version of Windows came on a USB flash drive, you can download an ISO from Microsoft.

3.    Open Boot Camp Assistant - Boot Camp Assistant guides you through installing Windows on your Mac. Open this app from the Utilities folder in the Applications folder and follow the onscreen instructions to automatically repartition your startup disk and download related software drivers for Windows. If you're prompted during installation, connect a blank USB flash drive.

4.    Format your Windows partition - When you complete the assistant, your Mac restarts to the Windows installer. When you're asked where you want to install Windows, select the BOOTCAMP partition, then click Format.

5.     Install Windows - Follow the onscreen prompts to finish your Windows installation.

6.    Restart your computer - After Windows is installed, you can switch between OS X and Windows. Use the Startup Disk preference pane in OS X, or the Boot Camp system tray item in Windows to select your startup disk, then restart your computer. You can also hold down the Option key while restarting to view the Boot Camp selection menu, and select which OS to boot.

Using Parallels on your Mac OS to install Windows OS

1.    Check System Requirements - Some versions of Windows require a certain processor, and more hard drive space and memory (RAM) than others. Check the documentation that came with your copy of Windows to find out what you need. Then use System Information to see what your Mac currently has.

2.     Download Parallels along with Windows 

3.     Follow the prompts for installing Parallels.

4.     Once installed, open Parallels Desktop (in the Applications folder).

5.     Choose File > New. If you have a Windows installation disc, insert it into the DVD drive. If you have a USB storage with Windows, connect the storage to the Mac.

6.     Click Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file. Parallels Desktop scans for and lists installable operating systems. If you see the version of Windows you want to install, select it, click Continue and go to step 8.

7.     If the Windows installation source didn't show up automatically in Step 6, click Locate manually to browse for it manually. You can browse from the following sources:

  • DVD: If you have a Windows DVD, insert it into the DVD drive. Once Windows is detected, click Continue. If your Mac doesn't have a DVD drive, you can use an Apple SuperDrive, another Mac's DVD drive via Remote Disc, or make an image from the disc.
  • Image File: If you have a Windows image file, click Image File and drag the image to the Parallels Wizard window. Once Windows is detected, click Continue.
  • USB Drive: If you have a bootable USB installer with Windows, click USB Drive and connect the drive to the Mac. Once Windows is detected, click Continue
  • Note: Parallels Desktop may fail to detect some operating systems (for example, the latest Linux distributions). If this happens but you're sure that the operating system can be installed, click Continue, specify the OS type manually (if it's not listed, choose Other), and follow the onscreen instructions.

8.     Be sure to leave Express installation selected. (Note: If you deselect Express installation, you'll need to install Parallels Tools after the installation to allow the most seamless operation between Windows and Mac OS X.)

9.     If you are installing a recent version of Windows, select how you want to use Windows:

  • Like a Mac: Windows programs appear on the Mac desktop, just like Mac applications. Documents and media from Mac OS X and Windows are kept together on your Mac.
  • Like a PC: The Windows desktop and programs appear in a single window, separate from Mac applications. You can drag and drop objects between Windows and the Mac.

10.  If you are installing Windows 8, select how you want it to work:

  • Like Windows 8: Windows 8 boots to the Start screen and Windows 8 applications run in full screen only.
  • Like Windows 7: Windows 8 boots to the desktop, Windows 8 applications run in resizable windows, and the Start menu is available.

11.  Choose where you want to store Windows from the Location menu.  By default, Parallels Desktop stores Windows in your Documents > Parallels folder. To allow all users of your computer to have access to this installation of Windows, select Share with other users of this Mac.

12.  If you want to pre-set things like how much memory Windows uses or whether it starts automatically when you open Parallels Desktop, select Customize settings before installation. You can also adjust these settings after the operating system is installed.

13.  Click Continue. The assistant installs Windows.

14.  Once Windows is installed, you can start it up by opening a Windows program or by clicking the power button in the Parallels Virtual Machines list.

When you install Windows, Parallels Desktop creates an administrator account with a blank password. Once the installation is complete, it is recommended that you change this password.

Using VMware Fusion on your Mac OS to install Windows OS

1.    Check System Requirements - Some versions of Windows require a certain processor, and more hard drive space and memory (RAM) than others. Check the documentation that came with your copy of Windows to find out what you need. Then use System Information to see what your Mac currently has.

2.     Download VMware Fusion, along with Windows. 

3.     Follow the prompts for installing VMware Fusion. Enter your serial number. If you do not have a serial number, click Get Serial Number to go to the VMware website, where you can license VMware Fusion and get a serial number.

4.    Once installed, open VMware Fusion by going to Applications and double clicking on VMware Fusion or using Spotlight search.

5.     From the Virtual Machine Library window, click the New button or choose File > New. The New Virtual Machine Assistant launches.

6.     In the Introduction panel, click Continue.

7.     In the Operating System panel, select an operating system and version for the new virtual machine.

8.     In the Name panel, enter the name for the virtual machine in the Save as field. By default, the virtual machine will be saved in your /Documents/Virtual Machines folder. To browse for a different location, select Other from the Where field.

9.     In the Virtual Hard Disk panel, set the maximum size for the virtual hard disk. The Advanced Disk Options section provides the following choices:

  • Allocate all disk space now – This option gives somewhat better performance for your virtual machine. However, if you allocate all the disk now, you will not be able to use the VMware Tools shrink disk feature later. Allocating all disk space now is a time-consuming operation that cannot be canceled, and requires as much physical disk space as you specify for the virtual disk
  • Split disk into 2GB files – Select this option if your virtual machine will be used in a hard drive with a file system that does not support files larger than 2GB. „
  • Use an Existing Virtual Disk – Select this option to use an existing virtual disk. Enter the existing virtual disk (.vmdk) file, including the path, or click Choose to browse for the file.

10.  In the Windows Easy Install panel, select Use Easy Install.

  • Enter your Name, Password (optional) and Windows Product key. The entry in the Name field is displayed in information boxes as the name your Windows software is registered to. It is not the Windows user name. The entry in the Password field is the password for the windows administrator account only. The Product key is not provided by VMware. It is on the sticker attached to the packaging for the Windows operating system CD-ROM.
  • Select Make your home folder accessible to the virtual machine to have Windows Easy Install configure your home folder as a shared folder, so you can share files between the virtual machine and your Mac.
  • Select whether the virtual machine can Read only or Read & Write.

11.  In the Finish panel:

  • Leave the option Start virtual machine and install operating system now selected.
  • If you are installing Windows from an installation disc, put the disc in your Mac CD/DVD drive and select the option Use operating system installation disc.
  • If you are installing from a disc image file (.iso), select the option Use operating system installation disc image file, and browse to the file. To do this, go to Virtual Machine > CD/DVD (SATA) > Choose Disk or Disk Image.

12.  Click Finish. VMware Fusion installs Windows. This can take up to 45 minutes. After installing Windows, VMware Fusion installs VMware Tools, and powers on the virtual machine.

Installing ArcGIS

Once you have an operating system with Windows installed, you are able to download ArcGIS Desktop using the information in the email your GIS Education Center instructor sent to you.







ArcGIS Desktop Installation


CURRENT VERSION: ArcGIS Desktop Installation Instructions

This page describes how to prepare, download, and install ArcGIS Desktop 10.3x (and 10.4x) Student Evaluation copy. ArcGIS Desktop is now a downloadable product from the Esri website. Note: Students have access to ArcGIS 10.4.1 but the GIS Quick Start labs are currently based on 10.3.1. For the Python for ArcGIS or Vector/Raster Analysis workshops, please download 10.4.1.

***Please read the Steps below prior to installing ArcGIS Desktop 10x***

  • You must uninstall any previous version of ArcGIS Desktop.
  • If you will be installing ArcGIS on a Mac click here for more information.



Review the ArcGIS Desktop system requirements 10.3x | 10.4x and view both the Hardware & Software Requirement sections.

Not sure you have the right hardware?

System Requirements Lab is a free online service that will check your computers hardware to see if you can run ArcGIS Desktop. Check your computers ability to run ArcGIS

Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 is required for 10.3x. If you have Windows 7, 8, or 10 installed it should already be included. The installation wizard will prompt a message if it's needed. (Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 is required for 10.4x)


Download and install either 7-zip or virtual optical drive.

ArcGIS Desktop is delivered/downloaded as a .iso file from the Esri website. In order to install ArcGIS Desktop you will need a utility that can either extract files from a .iso file or read a .iso file.  A .iso file is a disk image file instead of a physical CD or DVD.

7-zip will extract the files from a .iso. This means if the ArcGIS Desktop 10.x .iso is 1gb in size you will need an additional 1gb of disk space (2gb) to store the files.

Virtual CloneDrive (available for Windows only) can be installed for users without an existing optical (CD/DVD) drive. This install will create a virtual optical drive that you can then mount the .iso to and run the .iso as if it were a DVD.


*Step 3 through 5 are designed to show the approximate process, some screenshots may differ slightly from version to version of the software*

Create Esri Global Account OR if you already have an Esri Account then Activate the authorization number provided by your instructor AND download ArcGIS Desktop. The gallery below shows a step-by-step process of creating an account, activating the authorization code and finally downloading ArcGIS Desktop. *** PLEASE DOWNLOAD VERSION 10.3x FOR GIS QUICK START WORKSHOP ***



Before you begin, you should already have installed .NET Framework 3.5 if installing 10.3x (or .NET framework 4.5 if installing 10.4x) and activated your authorization code. Installation time ~ 25-30 minutes.


After installing ArcGIS Desktop it must be authorized before the program will open. Your authorization code MUST already be activated as described in Step 3 above.



Download and install the latest Service Packs and/or Patches if necessary.

*** NOTE: there is no Service Pack for 10.4 *** But there are non-critical patches that you can choose to install.

Under Patches & Service Packs select the ArcGIS Desktop link, then choose the latest Service Pack. The file will be labeled something similar to: ArcGISDesktop10spX.msp

Not sure what Service Packs and patches you have already installed?
Download and install the PatchFinder (Windows & Unix available). This utility does not show you which service packs and patches you need - instead it shows the service packs and patches you have already installed.


CHECKS: Please verify you've done the following...

- Did you "register" the software? Did you receive an email confirming it's registered? This requires creating an Esri User Account.

- Did you "authorize" the software? This is done post-installation.

Q: When I launch ArcGIS I'm prompted with a message that declares I can't open the software (license manager/server or concurrent use error). What did I do wrong?

A: During the "authorizing" step you must select ADVANCED - SINGLE USE. Launch the ArcGIS Administrator application, click the Desktop folder, make sure Advanced (ArcInfo) Single Use is selected.

Q: I've installed ArcGIS on my desktop and now I just bought a new laptop, can I install ArcGIS on my laptop?

A: Yes. However, you must de-authorize the ArcGIS license on your desktop first, then install and authorize ArcGIS on your new laptop. The license will still have the same time-out or expiration date.

To De-authorize ArcGIS Desktop:

  1. Open up ArcGIS Administrator
  2.  In the left-hand pane, click the Support Operations folder, and then click the Deauthorize button.
  3. Check the box next to the installed items you wish to deauthorize and click next. The wizard will guide you through the deauthorization process. If you encounter any issues please contact Esri, be sure to mention you are working with a Student Evaluation copy.

Q: I've unistalled ArcGIS Desktop but I forgot to deauthorize the license. How do I deauthorize my license so I can use it on another computer?

A: Esri has a technical article on this here.

Q: During the authorization process I receive an error. It doesn't complete and I can't open ArcGIS, what do I do? OR, my computer crashes during the authorization process?

A: Call Esri and ask them to reset the license, see the Esri Support Center tab for more information.

Q: How many times can I de-authorize a single-use license?

A: Four times per year. The year begins at the first de-authorization. If you get locked out you will need to contact Esri.

SFGIS Quick Start

Dates: August 23, 30, Sept. 6, 13, 20

Time: Tuesday 1:30pm - 5:00pm

Location: CCSF Downtown Campus
88 4th Street San Francisco CA 94103
5th Floor - Room 515c




1. Register
Prospective students must first register, please fill out this form.

2. Wait for notification
Registrants will be notified by email of their enrollment status.


When will I be notified?
Registrants will be notified as early as possible. We generally like to notifiy prospective students 1 week prior to the start of class. However, we reserve the right to notify up to the day of class, though this is usually due to a student dropping the class thus opening an opportunity for the next student on the wait-list.

Do I need to have access to ArcGIS Desktop software?
It's highly preferred. The material is based on Esri's ArcGIS Desktop 10 software.  If you do not have access to ArcGIS Desktop 10.4.1 in the office you can inquire with your local or department GIS coordinator. However, that person is not required to provide you the softwarein order to complete course exercises.

We recommend students obtain a copy of the software by:
A) Purchase Getting To Know ArcGIS Desktop for ArcGIS 10. This book comes with a 60-day evaluation trial; Or,
B) Request a free 60 day trial version of ArcGIS Desktop from Esri.

• This course can not be taken for college credit and attendees are not considered City College students.



The workshop is designed for students with little or no GIS skills interested in understanding basic concepts of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and gaining skills to work with GIS on their own.  The workshop will demonstrate the fundamentals of creating maps, editing data, and performing analysis. Students will gain confidence in these fundamentals through various exercises, group work, and assignments.  Using Esri's ArcGIS Desktop 10, students will be exposed to the most powerful and widely used desktop GIS software package.

Students will learn how to use the applications to solve questions such as:
• Find all sex offenders within 2000 feet of schools
• Where is the best location to open a new store?
• Identify census tracks with high income and high home ownership
• Display the number of accidents at each intersection by direction
• Where might disease spread too?

The five week workshop will focus on the following:
• Understanding the setup of a GIS project
• Understanding GIS file formats
• spatial queries
• symbology
• Basic editing techniques
• Creating new datasets


(1) This workshop requires no previous GIS skills.

(2) Students need to possess an intermediate-level knowledge of the Windows XP operating system. This includes creating new files and folders, copy and paste, transferring data between computers using a flash drive, and other basic desktop functionality. Familiarity with creating and managing new worksheets in Excel and working with a wide range of file types (e.g. TXT, CSV, XLS) is helpful but not required.

(3) Additional skills expected: storing, copying and management of multiple data types; managing multiple windows and applications; and the discipline to save work frequently.

(4) A strong motivation to learn, explore and have fun with computer applications is essential.  This workshop will require a significant amount of independent work and relies heavily on student initiative.

(5) An openness to working with other students in the class as a shared learning experience in order to complete assignments, build contacts in the professional GIS world and to support relatively new GIS learners.