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I couldn’t help it. It was right in the middle of the campaign. I’d just recruited Thane Krios and had gained Garrus’s trust. My team was coming together. Apple sent me my new Macbook Air right in the middle of my fourth playthrough of Mass Effect 2. Switching over to a new machine and writing up initial impressions kept me too busy to keep playing video games.

Mass Effect kept calling me, though. I had to finish the game. Too bad that it’s only available on Windows. That’s where Bootcamp comes in. When Apple made the switch from PowerPC to Intel processors for Macs, that opened the door to natively dual-booting Mac OS X and Windows.

I took a crack at installing a fresh copy of Windows 8 Pro on my Air. The results were easy, but there are a few things you should keep in mind when doing so.

Dual Boot Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion

Check Your Storage

Windows is a large operating system. It requires a lot of files and space in order to run properly. When you have 23 GB of storage dedicated to Microsoft’s OS on a 128 GB solid-state drive, things get crowded quickly.

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Space requirements will vary from person to person, but remember that juggling two operating systems on one hard drive is no mean feat.

Things get doubly problematic if you’re dual-booting to play PC games. Mass Effect 2 requires 15 GB of space by itself. You can see how a Windows partition eats up 40 GB.

No CD necessary

In the past, most operating systems were installed via CD. Pop in the installation disk, choose to boot from the CD in the BIOS, and you were off to the races.

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However, in this brave new Ultrabook world, the Macbook Air lacks a disc drive. This means that you have to install Windows through alternate means.

Installing Windows Using Bootcamp

The good news is that Bootcamp Assistant will handle almost every part of installing Windows. The bad news is that you’ll need a Windows 8 installation ISO file.

You can buy one from Microsoft’s website for $70. We’d recommend going the legal route if you are able; trying to install pirated copies of Windows can get messy. If you own a Windows CD you can always create your own .ISO file.

Now you’ll need to find a flash drive with 8+ GB of space. Be sure nothing’s on it because Bootcamp Assistant will wipe it clean.

After that, installing Windows is easy. Plug in your flash drive, point Bootcamp Assistant to your Windows 8 ISO, and let it run. Follow the on-screen instructions to finalize the installation.

After Installation

Once you’ve installed Windows 8 (a surprisingly easy process), you’ll need to run the driver installer in order to get internet access, media keys, and two-finger scrolling.

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Go back to your Bootcamp USB installer, go to Drivers, and run setup.exe. This will install the necessary files. After your computer reboots, Windows should be ready for use.

A Few Tips For New Users

Remember, you’re not in OS X anymore. Windows uses Ctrl for most commands (like copy and paste).

General performance won’t be as good as in OS X. Apple’s official drivers don’t give quite as much battery life in Windows. Scrolling is also bit stiffer.

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We recommend trying out BetterTouchTool for better touchpad performance in Windows. It adds gestures and more features like you’re used to in OS X.

Final Thoughts

Going back to Windows was weird. On one hand, the familiarity of a system I’ve used for years was nice. On the other, I missed all the cool features (and battery life) from Mountain Lion.

That’s OK, though. We’ve got a galaxy to save and Reapers to destroy. Time for some Mass Effect.