Installing ArcGIS on a Mac

Welcome Mac owners!  Esri's ArcGIS Desktop 10.4x requires Windows Operating System (10, 8 or 7).


You're ready to then install ArcGIS. Please read our ArcGIS Installation instructions.

Other Recommendations for working with ArcGIS
Small USB Mouse with a wheel and a right-click button. ArcGIS uses a graphical user interface, a design space, and includes many functions/menu's using the right-click. We highly recommend this item.

Office Production applications
LibreOffice (free and open-source) or MS Office 2010 or later. GIS often use spreadsheets and databases to store information and data. You will want an office application to view this type of GIS data.


Windows OS can be installed two different ways: A) Separate Boot Disc; OR, B) Virtualization. You can read more about the differences in the next section but we recommend option A which uses a free utility called Boot Camp.

The general process goes like this:

  1. Make sure your Mac OS is up-to-date for the latest version of Boot Camp.
  2. Back-up your stuff with Time-Machine/other backup software.
  3. Download Boot Camp Support Software (Mac model dependent - see section below). These files will be installed after Windows is installed.
  4. Run Boot Camp and partition your drive (we recommend at least 50gb (100gb if you have the space).
  5. Insert Windows OS DVD (required if your model has an optical drive) OR use USB/Utility Manager to mount Windows OS .iso as a drive.
  6. Run Boot Camp to install Windows.
  7. Install Boot Camp Support Software on Windows OS.

Parallels, VMware or other virtualization software can be used but only Boot Camp is covered in the Step-By-Step Instructions to Install Windows 7 on a Mac. As always: Proceed at your own risk.


In order to install Windows on your Mac you can choose to create a separate partition by using either Boot Camp or install a virtualization software (Parallels, VM Fusion, VirtualBox). There are a few key differences between Boot Camp and virtualization software that could determine your choice.

While virtualization software enables Windows to run on top of Mac OS (in other words, a window in Mac OS), which is convenient, it also means both Windows and Mac are using hardware resources to do their job, so there is potential for performance loss. Choosing Boot Camp will mean having to boot into Windows (or reboot Mac in order to access Windows). While this may be inconvenient it does allow for the greatest performance for both Windows and Mac. Being that ArcGIS Desktop can be a process hog on the cpu and graphics card we recommend using Boot Camp. However, this does not mean you can't or shouldn't use virtualization software to install Windows and ArcGIS. It can be done. We just want you to have the best possible experience with ArcGIS Desktop.

The Step-By-Step instructions to install Windows on a Mac will only detail using Boot Camp 5.0. However, you can still use the instructions to install Windows and ArcGIS Desktop if you already have a virtualization software or want to use one.

If you require using Boot Camp 3.1 the steps are basically the same but we can also suggest this decent tutorial that is specific to 3.1.

Boot Camp Support Software for Windows OS by Mac Model

Apple provides a table listing Mac version and its compatibility with Boot Camp. Visit the link below and scroll down to the section for your Mac Model to see what version of Boot Camp your Mac model supports (if at all) as well as to download the Support Software files.

Please note, that while Boot Camp 5 is the latest version this does not mean your Mac model supports version 5, you may need to download the Boot Camp Software Support files for version 4.

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

Then, see the next section below on purchasing the correct version of Windows OS for your Mac.


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.  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 10.4x 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.

Windows 8.1

In Windows 8 there is only the System Builder/OEM version that you can purchase. Mac users can only use the 64-bit version of Windows 8.

Microsoft Windows 8 64-bit DVD or .iso file (An .iso file is a disk image instead of a physical CD or DVD).  Purchase the System Builder/ OEM version from Amazon or Newegg for Windows 8.

Windows 7

In Windows 7 you can purchase the Full Retail copy which is more expensive but does not register hardware configuration, therefore, you can install on mutliple machines or replace/upgrade hardware with different brands. OEM (aka System Builder) is considerably less expensive but will register hardware configuration which means installation on a single-machine; no hardware upgrades allowed and faulty hardware must be replaced with original hardware.

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32/64-bit DVD or .iso file* (An .iso file is a disk image instead of a physical CD or DVD).  You can purchase either a Full Retail copy or OEM version from Amazon (OEM) or Newegg (Retail | OEM).