If you’re ready to start turning your app idea into a reality but you’re running a Windows PC, iOS development can be difficult. Building apps for iOS requires the use of Apple’s Xcode integrated development environment (IDE).
Unfortunately there is no version of Xcode for Windows. It’s a Mac only application.
The good news is you don’t have to run out and buy a Mac just to run Xcode.
There are a few ways to get Xcode to run on Windows. Sure, none of them are perfect and the best experience with Xcode will always be on a Mac, but if you’re on a budget and just want to get started using your current hardware, owning a PC isn’t going to get in the way of you building an iOS app.
Keep reading to learn about the different options available to you for iOS development on Windows and how each one works.
Options For Running Xcode on Windows
There are 3 main ways to make this happen. Let’s take a look at each of them individually.
1. Installing OS X on a Virtual Machine
Note: Before we dig into this in more detail it’s important to note that installing OS X on a non-Apple branded computer may be in violation of the Apple license agreement for OS X. I’m not a lawyer and don’t pretend to be one, so please make sure you take a look at the agreement and understand the conditions before you install OS X.
If you’ve got a reasonably powerful Windows computer, you might want to consider running a Virtual Machine with a Mac OS X installation.
This means you run a simulator on your Windows PC that lets you install the Mac operating system. You can then run Xcode in that virtual environment.
The reason I say you need a reasonably powerful computer is because you are basically running OS X and Xcode inside of Windows, which is quite a demanding process.
The first thing you need to do is choose which Virtual Machine (VM) software you are going to use.
There are lots of options out there, but if you’re looking for a free, open source solution you could try the popular VirtualBox.
The basic steps you’ll need to take to start developing iOS apps on Windows using this method are:
1. Install VirtualBox on your Windows PC
2. Purchase OS X from the Apple App Store
3. Create a new Virtual Machine inside VirtualBox
4. Install OS X on your new Virtual Machine
Check out this video from Tech Reviews that will walk you through these steps and show you how to install OS X on VirtualBox:
5. Download and install Xcode on your new OS X machine
The final step is to install Xcode on your new OS X setup. All you need to do is open the Mac App Store, search for Xcode and install it.
Once you’ve got Xcode installed you’re all set to start building your brand new iOS app from your Windows PC!
A ‘Hackintosh’ is similar to a Virtual Machine, except instead of running Mac OS X inside a Virtual Machine in Windows, you install OS X on it’s own partition or hard drive and boot directly into it.
This helps overcome the performance issues that you might run into with a Virtual Machine.
The downside is that it can be a bit more difficult to set up a ‘hackintosh’ system, and there is a good chance there will be some bugs and it won’t run quite as well as OS X on an actual Mac.
If you’re interested in getting set up with Xcode on Windows using a ‘Hackintosh’, check out this great walkthrough video:
3. Rent a Mac with Macincloud
Not comfortable running Virtual Machines or building your own ‘hackintosh’ setup?
There is one more way to get Xcode for Windows users.
It’s a service called ‘macincloud’.
Basically you rent a Mac that you access remotely via your computer or mobile device.
In this case you would use your Windows computer to connect to the Apple OS X machine that you rent from macincloud via the internet. You then have complete control over the Mac, allowing you to run Xcode and start building iOS apps.
The main benefit of using this method is that you don’t have to mess around trying to get OS X working in an environment that it’s not intended to run on.
The main downside to using ‘macincloud’ is that it can be a bit slow simply because you’re relying on your internet connection the whole time. It’s just not going to be as fast as if you were running Xcode on your own computer.
I should also mention that the service isn’t free. There is a cost associated with using it (although it’s relatively cheap).
You’ve Got Xcode Running on Windows, What’s Next?
The next step is to start building your app!
Taking your app from an idea to an actual product isn’t an easy process, but it’s well worth it. The best piece of advice I can give you is to start small. Build a ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP) as quickly as possible and get it out into the store.
If you’re just getting started with iOS development you might even want to think about taking a course to get your feet wet. A low-cost video course like this one that helps you learn by actually building 15 different apps is a good option. Quick note – if you do decide to take that course I will receive a commission at absolutely no extra cost to you.
Those are the 3 most common methods that people use to run Xcode on Windows.
To sum them up:
A Virtual Machine – Requires a reasonably powerful PC and lets you run OS X from a simulator inside Windows. Fairly easy to set up and get started with.
A ‘Hackintosh’ system – Basically a fresh OS X install on a separate hard drive or partition to your Windows install. A bit more complex to set up than a Virtual Machine but generally the performance will be better because you aren’t running Windows and OS X at the same time.
Renting a Mac in the cloud – You can rent remote access to a Mac OS X system using a service like macincloud. This is the easiest option but has a cost associated with it and it can be slow because you’re running everything over the internet.
Any of those will get you up and running developing iOS apps on Windows, it’s just a case of choosing the one that suits you best.