If you’ve ever tried to build an iOS app on a Windows computer, you might have encountered the same problem that many app developers face: you can’t run x-code on Windows. Apple has limited the integrated development environment dedicated only to the Mac. operating system.
That’s not to say you can’t build an app targeting the Apple App Store on Windows. Here are the best ways to develop iOS apps on a Windows 10 or 11 computer.
How to develop iOS applications on a Windows computer?
Unlike Android, you need a Macbook or Apple computer to develop apps for Apple devices. This is because Xcode only works on Mac OS, which is the main IDE for iOS app development.
You have three main approaches to building iOS apps on a Microsoft Windows PC. You can install Xcode on a virtual machine, rent a Mac from the cloud, or use cross-platform development tools like Xamarin or Flutter.
The advantage of going with VirtualBox or VMWare is that it gives you all the functionality of Xcode on your PC without having to switch to another iOS development tool. You can install Mac OS X alongside your standard operating system and use it only to develop iPhone applications.
Renting a Mac from the cloud works the same way, replacing the need for Apple hardware with installing Mac OS X in the cloud. However, it requires a good internet connection to work properly as you need to use and compile Xcode on the rented Mac.
Instead of going through all those hoops to get Xcode working on your Windows or Linux PC, you can ditch it altogether and opt for different developer tools. Frameworks like Xamarin or Flutter let you build mobile apps that run on both iOS and Android with the same code base. Although the programming language used is different, it offers greater flexibility in creating applications for iOS devices.
1. Virtual box
If you want to download Xcode and install it on your PC, the easiest route is virtualization. This allows you to create a virtual environment capable of running a different operating system (eg Mac OS X) without Apple hardware.
Oracle Virtual Box is the most popular virtualization option that works on both Windows 10 and 11. Since it’s free and open source, you can download it and get started right away, although you’ll also need a copy of Mac OS X.
For those looking for a more powerful virtual machine solution, VMWare is a great alternative. Unlike VirtualBox, it’s a proprietary tool, but it offers a more robust framework.
Although VMWare Workstation is primarily used for enterprise-grade virtualization, you can also use it to install and run Mac OS X on your computer. Again, you will need an operating system image file to continue.
It used to be impossible to run Apple’s operating system on your usual computer hardware, since the brand used a completely different processor architecture. But since Apple has also made the transition to Intel processors, it has become technically possible to install Mac OS X on the hard drive of an ordinary PC.
However, to be clear, creating a Hackintosh (as it’s often called) isn’t exactly easy to pull off. Apple tries to prevent people from simply installing their operating system on whatever hardware they want, so you’ll have to overcome these blocks to get it to work. However, once you have it figured out, you can download and install Xcode on your hard drive and become an Apple Developer without buying a Macbook.
4. Mac Stadium
Some people may find installing Mac OS X on their computer, whether in a virtual machine or on real hardware, somewhat tricky and complicated. It definitely requires some technical knowledge to operate.
A more convenient option is to rent a Mac. Services like Mac Stadium let you access Apple devices over a Remote Desktop connection, where you can build and test apps without having to configure anything yourself. This is probably the best way to develop iOS apps on Windows computer without any hassle.
As the name suggests, MacInCloud offers a cloud-based rental service through which you can access and use a variety of Mac devices from any computer. Rented Macs come with Xcode installed (along with many other SDKs), so you don’t have to worry about which version of Xcode to install.
The pricing system varies depending on the features you request, but it will always be cheaper than having to buy a Mac outright. Even better, you can unsubscribe at any time, giving you the freedom to test out this method before committing to it.
One thing that’s often overlooked in the quest to enable iOS app development on Windows is that you don’t have to limit yourself to Xcode. There are many cross-platform development tools that can be used to create apps for Android and iOS.
Xamarin is probably the best known of these frameworks because it has been around for a long time. Compatible with .NET languages, Xamarin has been used by many Microsoft developers to build cross-platform applications on Windows. If you intend to target multiple platforms, you can save time by going with a flexible framework like Xamarin instead of Xcode.
Cross-platform development tools are often criticized for not being designed for all screen sizes, resulting in below-average results for devices like the iPad. Flutter is the perfect answer to this problem.
Launched just a few years ago by Google, Flutter aims to be a true cross-platform app development framework, optimized for all platforms and screen sizes. It focuses on building responsive user interfaces, using natively compiled code that runs as fast as an Xcode application.
8. React Native
Software development has come a long way. Frameworks that were previously only suitable for web applications have been reinvented to implement native applications, providing an easier path to cross-platform development.
What’s the best way to run Xcode and develop iOS apps on Windows 10 and 11?
On the other hand, if you’re willing to delve into some technical aspects to secure a long-term solution, virtualization might be the solution for you. You can install Mac OS X along with your normal operating system and easily download Xcode on it.
Another way is to switch to another development tool instead of using Objective-C or Swift code. Frameworks like Flutter, React Native, or Xamarin allow you to target multiple platforms with the same code base, which can save you a lot of development time if that’s something you plan to do.
I am Bhumi Shah, a highly skilled digital marketer with over 11 years of experience in digital marketing and content writing in the tech industry.