Home Article How to install Windows 10 on your Intel Mac using Boot Camp. Windows on mac

How to install Windows 10 on your Intel Mac using Boot Camp. Windows on mac

Windows 10 on a Mac Pro 2013

The Mac Pro 2013 is the most powerful machine I have at home. Equipped with a 6-core Intel Xeon E5-1650 v2 @ 3.5GHz, 32GB of RAM, dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics cards, and a 512GB SSD, it’s not a fast machine by today’s standards—but it’s still pretty decent. I love the hardware looks, its small form factor and its quietness, plus it is still fast enough for my needs; I have no good reasons to replace it. Except… I have slowly drifted away from macOS towards Windows and this has put the machine’s future at risk.

Last summer I realized that I was primarily using Windows on a less-powerful Dell OptiPlex 9020 and only occasionally used the Mac Pro for my personal projects—and even when I did, I used the Mac Pro mostly via VSCode’s remote SSH extension. I didn’t like having the machine sit unused, so I decided it was time to fix the situation by installing Windows 10 on a separate partition. That happened over 8 months ago and my experience so far has been positive. I have had to fight various issues like random reboots and poor graphics drivers though.

But then… I recently started running out of disk space on the Windows partition. It turns out that games like Black Mesa, which I just bought during the Xmas sale, require lots of space, duh. And this situation was starting to become problematic. It was time to repartition the drive and, noticing how I had not touched macOS at all for months… it was time to do the unthinkable: to kiss goodbye to macOS altogether.

So, this past weekend, and armed with a ton of patience, I decided to wipe the internal SSD drive and install Windows 10 from scratch. Given that the process is tricky, I have written down the various steps that are required to reach a fully-functional system. Some of these steps are only necessary if you want to wipe the drive and go for a Windows-only system, which is what I wanted to do, but you can proceed with a Boot Camp-supported installation as well.

Here is what we’ll go through:

Preparing for a clean install

To prepare the internal SSD for a clean installation of Windows 10, you should take some precautionary steps before wiping the drive. These include having the necessary drivers at hand, and ensuring we have a way back to macOS in case something goes wrong.

Preserving BootCamp drivers

Before removing macOS, get a copy of the Boot Camp drivers that will be necessary to set up Windows. In researching how to do this post-facto for this post, it seems like you can download these directly from Apple, but why risk it.

Open Boot Camp Assistant and select the Download Windows Support Software option from the Actions menu. Before closing the assistant, search for an image named WindowsSupport.dmg somewhere under /Library :

My notes say that the file is under /Library/Application Support/Bootcamp but the location might vary. Find that file, open it to mount the disk image, and then copy and save its full contents in a safe place for future use.

Preserving macOS

While macOS is not necessary for the Mac Pro 2013 to operate, it is still required for some operations: namely for firmware upgrades, which are only distributed via macOS. Because of this, losing this OS seems like a risky proposition: (security) firmware upgrades, albeit rare for this 9-year old machine, could still be required.

Fortunately, macOS can be installed on a USB drive and booted from it, so that’s an option to keep a usable copy without consuming any space on the internal drive. Do that installation now.

It is also good to verify that macOS’s Internet Recovery features work fine by booting the machine while pressing CommandAltR. This is the ultimate fallback option in case of total internal SSD failure, so make sure that this works.

Wiping the drive

The scary step. Boot into macOS’ Internet Recovery, open the Terminal from the Utilities menu, and do something like this. DATA LOSS IS GUARANTEED.

I was a bit concerned about losing the EFI boot partition with this step. I knew reinstalling macOS would restore the partition just fine based on previous experience, but I wasn’t sure if Windows would work on Apple’s hardware if Windows itself was the one creating the partition. As it turns out, Windows works just fine and, in the end, this decision turned out to be the correct one as we will see in the section that talks about rEFInd.

Installing drivers

If you are installing Windows via the Boot Camp assistant, then all Apple-specific drivers will be automatically installed for you. But in this case here, where we have performed a clean Windows install, it is up to us to install those drivers. And install them we must, because otherwise a lot of hardware does not work.

This is easy. Right after finishing the first boot, open up the files you previously extracted from the WindowsSupport.dng image. If you poke through the files you will notice that there are a ton of drivers that don’t apply to this machine; it was slightly tempting to skip them but, in the end, I didn’t want to risk forgetting anything so I just went with the default installer. Run the top-level setup.exe and allow the whole thing to install.

After doing this, Windows 10 should be ready to use. Mostly. You will be limited by ancient drivers and you will experience some brokenness.

Fixing issues

Once you reach this point, I’ll assume that you have completed a Windows installation via the Boot Camp assistant or via the clean installation instructions above. In either case, you will face the same set problems that need manual intervention.

Fixing virtualization

The first problem that we encounter is that virtualization does not work. This may or may not matter to you, but if you want to use WSL 2 at all, it does matter. See this:

Sad. Why wouldn’t virtualization work when this CPU definitely has virtualization features?

As it turns out, there is a bug(?) in Apple’s firmware that’s at fault. Fortunately, it is possible to side-step the problem by using the rEFInd boot manager. Poking through its configuration file, we find the following setting:

… which we will want to leverage. So it’s time to install rEFInd.

If you are dual-booting macOS and Windows, you should perform the rEFInd installation from macOS, which in turn means having to boot into the recovery image to side-step SIP. I tried to get the installation to work from Windows but couldn’t, which is possibly due to Apple’s own EFI partition not playing well with what Windows’ tooling expects.

If you are installing Windows on its own, following the instructions to install rEFInd from Windows will work just fine. For reference, here is what bcdedit said before configuring rEFInd:

And here is what bcdedit says after configuring rEFInd:

Once rEFInd is installed, open the refind.conf file in the EFI partition, look for the enable_and_lock_vmx line, enable it, and set it to true.

If Windows is going to be your only system on this machine, you may also want to set timeout to.1 so that rEFInd does not even show up at boot time.

With these fixes in place, virtualization works like a charm:

And, as a result, WSL 2 can be used without issues. Or can it?

Fixing spontaneous reboots

A very interesting annoying problem I faced were random hard reboots that left zero debugging traces behind. In the end, and by pure coincidence, I discovered what was causing the problem.

You see, I have two accounts on this machine: a personal account where I run WSL and an AAD-enrolled account where I do work stuff. If I started WSL on the personal account and then logged into the AAD-enrolled account without logging out of the personal account, the machine would spontaneously reboot after exactly 10 minutes. It took me a long time to notice that this sequence of events was deterministic, but once I figured that out, I could start hypothesizing what the problems could be.

At first I suspected virtualization issues so I downgraded my WSL installation to WSL 1, but the problems remained. Then I suspected driver problems but I didn’t know what to do about those without any other information to support this theory. There were zero events left in the Event viewer about the reboot and it was impossible to make the machine enter the kernel debugger when the problem arose. And then I noticed these optional updates under Windows Update:

I imagined that these could be beneficial and might fix this problem… but knowing how picky Apple hardware can be and how Boot Camp ships with its own ancient drivers, I had avoided installing those. Unfortunately, the random reboots were quite a problem, so at some point, YOLO-style during a work day, I selected all of these optional updates and applied them.

And you know what? Problem solved.

Fixing modern games

The next problem came from the graphical drivers that ship with Boot Camp. Those drivers work fine but they are ancient. In particular, they lack Vulkan support. I am not a big gamer but wanted to try a couple of new games (like… a port of Quake II to Vulkan) and these were failing. So I wanted to see if I could get more modern drivers.

As it turns out, the official Radeon drivers from AMD work well—but they require some trickery to install. The file I downloaded is called unified_r5_20.45.40.10_whql_210630a-370106C.zip in case you want to double-check what you got. Save it in a safe place along with your copy of WindowsSupport.dmg because you never know when these working drivers may disappear from the vendors’ site.

Whenever you launch the installer, you are greeted with this error:

Yikes. The installer itself cannot launch because it requires some OpenGL features that the existing ancient driver doesn’t support.

The trick here is to go into the Device manager, look for the FirePro card, right-click on it, and ask to install drivers by hand. Then pick the folder where you unpacked the downloaded drivers and let it do its job to upgrade them:

After the drivers are updated, we can proceed to do the full-blown AMD Radeon installation just fine:

I suspect none of this extra support software crap is necessary, but at least the installer was useful to prune the old AMD Catalyst drivers, which were not removable from Add or remove programs, by selecting the Factory reset option.

Other topics

That’s about it! If you have followed all steps above, you should have a Windows 10-powered, rock-solid, Mac Pro 2013 workstation at your disposal:

There are a few more miscellaneous issues to talk about though.

Missing TPM

Apple hardware does not have a TPM chip—though modern models have the Secure Enclave, or T2 chip, which is “about the same but not really”.

The lack of TPM isn’t particularly a problem unless you want to run Windows 11, but it is slightly annoying. The main drawback is the inability to use the full-blown Windows Hello features, which are a very convenient and secure way to perform authentication, or the inability to use BitLocker without a USB flash drive to hold the boot keys.

x7 availability

Even after all the extra driver upgrades, the Boot Camp support software leaves some traces behind—like its own control panel. I was pondering if I could remove it, but then I found that it includes support for one important setting: the ability to tell the machine to automatically restart on power failure:

If you are going to want to access the machine remotely, like I want to do, then toggling this setting is important. Don’t forget to go into Windows’ native Power sleep settings to prevent the machine from going to sleep as well.

Screen glitches no more

One of the reasons I had also stopped using the Mac Pro before this whole ordeal was that I experienced some annoying glitches on my Dell UltraSharp 27 monitor (4k @ 60Hz via DisplayPort). Pretty much at random, I would notice what looked like electromagnetic interference on the top-right of the screen, and it was very distracting. I tried replacing cables to no avail. Given that I could not see this happening with the work-issued Mac Pro (exact same model) that I had at home “thanks to” the pandemic, I concluded that my precious Mac had hardware issues at these higher resolutions.

But, somehow, I have never noticed this glitch when running Windows on this Mac and, in fact, I had even forgotten about it. Until last week when I booted into macOS to prepare for the full reinstall described here and saw the problem happen immediately. Maybe this is not a hardware problem after all, or maybe the Windows drivers are doing something to side-step it (like favoring the other GPU as primary?). Don’t know; don’t care.

What about Windows 11?

Yes, what about it? I did try to get it to run using all the registry hacks you can find on the Internet, using Rufus to patch an installation ISO, and what have you… but none have worked. So, for now, Windows 10 it is. Windows 11 is fine from what I have seen on my Surface devices, but it’s really not that different.

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I guess that by 2025, when support for Windows 10 drops, it’ll really be time to upgrade the hardware. I wonder if at that point Apple itself will still support this old machine—which had been a fear of mine as well.

To conclude, here is what my setup currently looks like:

How to install Windows 10 on your Intel Mac using Boot Camp

There’s an easy way to do this if you’re on an Intel Mac.

If you want to install Windows on your Intel-based Mac, then Boot Camp is the best way to do it. Whether it’s for a great gaming experience or you just want to try out how Windows 10 feels on Apple’s svelte hardware, here’s how to get everything set up.

It’s worth noting that some of the newer Macs from late 2020 onwards have Apple silicon processors, which will no longer support Boot Camp. In this case, virtualization software like Parallels will be necessary to install Windows 10 instead.

In this guide we’ll walk you through the steps you’ll need to follow to install Windows 10 on your older Mac.

What you’ll need before you install Windows 10 on your Mac

Before starting anything else, be sure you have a Mac that supports Windows 10. Straight from Apple, these are the compatible models:

  • MacBook Pro (2012 and later)
  • MacBook Air (2012 and later)
  • MacBook (2015 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017)
  • iMac (2012 and later)
  • Mac mini (2012 and later)
  • Mac mini Server (Late 2012)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013)

If you own an iMac with 3TB or more, check out this Apple Support document for more information on installing Windows 10 on your machine through Boot Camp.

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Once you’ve confirmed that you have a Mac that can run Windows 10, you’ll need to make sure you have at least 64GB of free space on your hard drive for the Windows installation. During the installation process, you can set the Windows partition to whatever size you want, as long as the drive has enough storage.

Finally, update your Mac’s OS to ensure there are no compatibility problems. You’ll also want to perform a backup of your Mac in the (rare) case that something goes wrong.

How to download the Windows 10 ISO file

To start, we need to grab a Windows 10 ISO file from the Microsoft website. You can download it straight to your internal hard drive.

  • Navigate to the Microsoft Windows 10 ISO download page.
  • Click the dropdown menu below Select edition.
  • Click Windows 10 (multi-edition ISO) in the Windows 10 section. You can download the Creators Update through Windows once it is installed.
  • Click Confirm.
  • Click the dropdown menu below Select the product language.
  • Click your language of choice.
  • Click Confirm.
  • Click 64-bit Download.
  • Click Save. The ISO file will now be downloaded.

Once the file has finished downloading, continue on to the next set of steps.

How to install Windows 10 with Boot Camp

Once you’ve downloaded a Windows 10 ISO, you can complete the following steps.

  • Launch Boot Camp Assistant from the Utilities folder in Applications.
  • Click Continue. Boot Camp should automatically locate the ISO file on your system.
  • Click and drag the slider in the partition section. It will be set to 48GB by default, but you can add as much storage as you want within the limits of the drive.
  • Click Install. Windows support software will now be downloaded.
  • Type your password.
  • Click OK. Your Mac will restart and you will see the Windows 10 setup screen.
  • Choose your language.
  • Click Install Now.
  • Type your product key or click I don’t have a key. You can enter it after the installation.
  • Click either Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Pro based on your preference.
  • Click Next.
  • Click Custom: Install Windows Only.
  • Click Drive 0 Partition X: BOOTCAMP. Do not choose anything else.
  • Click Next. Windows 10 will now be installed. Your Mac will restart several times during the process.
  • Click Use Express Settings or Customize Your Installation when the Windows 10 setup screen appears. In this case, we use express settings, as all can be changed after the installation.
  • Type a username. You can also add a password.
  • Click Next.
  • Choose to use or not to use Cortana.

Windows 10 will now boot fully, and you’ll be able to use Windows normally.

How to install Boot Camp software on your Windows 10 partition

When Windows 10 loads for the first time on your Mac, a Boot Camp software installer will automatically pop up.

  • Click Install.
  • Click I accept the terms in the license agreement.
  • Click Install.
  • Click Finish when the installation is complete.

This is an important process, as it installs a bunch of drivers and software that will help make your Windows 10 experience as good as possible on your Mac.

How to return to macOS from Windows 10

One of the best parts of Boot Camp is how easy it is to switch back and forth between operating systems.

  • Click the Show hidden icons button in the Windows 10 taskbar.
  • Click the Boot Camp button.
  • Click Restart in OS X.

Your Mac will now restart, and you’ll be brought right back to macOS. To get back to Windows 10, and indeed another way to switch from Windows 10 to macOS, is to restart your Mac and hold down the Option key on your keyboard until a boot menu appears. From here, you can choose which OS to load.

Updating Windows 10 and more

Now that you have Windows 10 installed on your Mac, you can update it to the Creators Update.

The easiest way to do so is to use Windows Update.

  • Click the Start button.
  • Click the Settings button. It looks like a gear.
  • Click Update security.
  • Click Check for updates.

The Creators Update should begin downloading and will install. Follow the steps on screen, and you’ll be up to date in no time.

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Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Mobile Nations. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

Microsoft Is Now Totally Happy About You Running Windows on Your Mac

Charlie Sorrel has been writing about technology, and its effects on society and the planet, for 13 years.

How to install Windows 10 in Boot Camp on unsupported Macs

Jerri L. Ledford has been writing, editing, and fact-checking tech stories since 1994. Her work has appeared in Computerworld, PC Magazine, Information Today, and many others.

How To: Install Windows on ANY Apple Mac using Bootcamp

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  • Microsoft now approves of virtualizing Windows on a Mac.
  • You can now run Windows officially on a virtual machine.
  • Switch between Windows and Mac without restarting your Mac.

Microsoft has officially blessed Windows on Apple Silicon Macs, making the Mac maybe the best PC you can buy.

When Macs used Intel chips, Apple’s Bootcamp let you easily install Windows—and its ever-requisite drivers—on a Mac so you could shut it down and reboot into Windows. With Apple Silicon, Apple ditched Bootcamp, and, thanks to a clause in Microsoft’s small print, left Windows users in limbo. Now, that has changed, and while you can’t turn your Mac into a PC, you can get more than close enough.

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“Virtualization is a useful tool that allows you to run multiple operating systems on a single physical machine simultaneously. It has several advantages over using BootCamp on an Intel Mac,” technology writer Shahnawaz Sadique told Lifewire via email.

Parallels, a Virtual Machine App

There’s more than one way to run Windows on a Mac. One is to use desktop virtualization, which creates a virtual PC computer inside an app on your Mac, onto which you install Windows, just like it was an actual PC computer.

Previously, Microsoft wouldn’t let you activate a Windows license in a virtual machine, as these instances are called. It was possible to work around it by using prerelease versions of Windows, but that wasn’t officially supported.

Now, Microsoft has blessed Parallels Desktop, a virtual machine app, allowing officially-licensed versions of Windows to run inside it. This means that anyone with an M1 or M2 Mac can now buy a Windows license, install Windows on their Mac, and do office stuff, play games, or experience their Windows antivirus software slowing down their beautiful new MacBook, for example.

Virtualization vs Emulation

You may be familiar with emulation. This is when one computer runs a software version of another computer, so you can run that second computer’s programs on the first. This is commonly used for emulating game consoles. You might emulate a SNES console on your PC, for example, and then load the original game software to play it.

This can have a performance hit. Your computer is running software that is running more software, and this slows things down. That’s fine for old game consoles, which can be easily recreated in modern, fast computers, but when it comes to emulating an entire PC operating system, that’s a trickier task.

The alternative is desktop virtualization. Think of it as kind of punching a hole in the host machine’s operating system (in this case, a Mac), and letting Windows run on the underlying hardware, just as if you had installed it directly. The virtualization player (Parallels Desktop) translates between the two, letting you drag files from the Mac’s Finder into PC apps, for example.

“Virtualization also allows for multiple Windows installations to be run on a Mac, whereas BootCamp only allows for a single installation,” cybersecurity expert Harmandeep Singh told Lifewire via email.

The host Mac is still running two operating systems simultaneously, but both are running on hardware. The catch here is that the virtualized operating system has to be compatible with the hardware. When Macs and PCs both ran on Intel chips, that was easy. Now, you have to make sure to use an ARM-compatible version of Windows, so it can run on the ARM-based Apple Silicon.

Why Run Windows on a Mac?

There are several advantages to using Windows on a Mac. If your job requires that you use a Windows-only app, you can run it in a window on your Mac. You can also play Windows games and drag and drop files between the Mac and Windows instances.

It won’t be quite the same as booting your Mac into Windows, as you used to be able to do with Intel and Bootcamp (this was great for PC gamers who preferred Macs for everything else), but it’s good enough.

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Also, if you’ve been following the progress of Apple’s M1 and M2 MacBooks, you’ll know that they are not only extremely powerful but that they keep running at full speed even when on battery power, unlike some high-end PC laptops. This means that you can play games at full-tilt on battery power. The downside is that those games might not be as fast on the Mac, to begin with, thanks to the lack of dedicated, beefed-up graphics hardware.

Virtualization, then, is about convenience, with a few tradeoffs in performance. For many folks, this will be a perfect compromise—Windows, in a window, when you need it, and not there when you don’t.

The Pros and Cons of Using Boot Camp to Run Windows on a Mac

While Boot Camp makes it easy to install Windows on your Intel Mac, it’s not without flaws. So, make an informed decision before you do so.

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Do you still prefer to use Windows programs and play PC games on your Mac? Thankfully, you don’t have to buy a new computer. You can run Windows on your Mac without even deleting macOS.

There are many reasons someone would want to run Windows on a Mac. Some users may want to test programs on different operating systems, whereas others like to play games that only run on Windows.

Mac’s built-in Boot Camp Assistant is what makes the process easy, but should you use it? Learn the pros and cons to decide for yourself.

What Is Boot Camp Assistant?

Boot Camp Assistant is one of the ways to run Windows on your Mac. Boot Camp Assistant is a tool that’s built into every Intel-based Mac. Apple introduced it alongside Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard in 2007.

Initially, it only supported Windows XP and Windows Vista, but the release of Boot Camp 5.0 also brought Windows 7 support. Later versions of Boot Camp allowed the installation of Windows 7, 8, and above on Intel Macs.

Unfortunately, Boot Camp Assistant isn’t available on Apple silicon Macs, so if you have an M1 or M2 Mac, your only option is to use virtualization software such as Parallels Desktop to run Windows. Even then, you’d only be able to run ARM-based Windows, so you’ll be restricted in terms of what programs you can run.

You can find Boot Camp Assistant either in Applications Utilities or the Launchpad on your Mac.

Here’s a list of Intel Macs that support Boot Camp:

  • MacBook 2015 or later
  • MacBook Air 2012 or later
  • MacBook Pro 2012 or later
  • Mac mini 2012 or later
  • iMac 2012 or later
  • All models of iMac Pro
  • Mac Pro 2013 or later

First and foremost, you must have at least 64 GB of free storage to install Windows on your Mac. Apple recommends 128GB of free storage space to get the best experience. While there’s little chance of anything going wrong during the installation process, you should still back up important files before you begin.

Boot Camp Assistant doesn’t let you run Windows and macOS simultaneously, unlike virtual machine apps like Parallels or VMWare. Instead, it creates a partition for the second OS.

Installing Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp is extremely simple. All you need to do is download an ISO file of Windows and choose how much space you want to allocate to the partition created for the second OS. You won’t be able to change the partition size after the installation is complete.

When you run Boot Camp, it’ll automatically detect the ISO file. After that, follow the on-screen instructions to finish the installation process.

The Pros of Using Boot Camp to Run Windows

Boot Camp is undoubtedly the best way to play Windows games on a Mac because it performs better than any virtualization software. Since the different operating systems don’t run simultaneously, all of your Mac’s hardware resources are allocated to Windows applications.

Here are some other advantages of installing Windows with Boot Camp:

Boot Camp Is Free and Built Into Macs

Macs that support Boot Camp Assistant come pre-installed with the dual-boot utility. The only thing you have to download is a Windows ISO file.

Boot Camp is completely free and doesn’t require a subscription like most virtualization programs. Plus, since it’s an Apple program and not a third-party one, you don’t have to worry about it being unsafe.

Boot Camp Is Fast

Unlike virtualization programs which tend to be sluggish, Boot Camp delivers far more stable performance. This is because Boot Camp installs Windows on a separate partition which uses less memory.

A virtualization program runs two operating systems simultaneously (you can minimize Windows while using macOS), but with Boot Camp, you can only use one operating system at a time. This also makes Boot Camp the better option for playing games and using resource-intensive applications.

The Cons of Using Boot Camp to Run Windows

The fact that Boot Camp is free and built into Macs alone may convince some people to use it over a virtual machine app, but just like everything, it has its disadvantages.

You Can’t Use Two Operating Systems at the Same Time

Boot Camp doesn’t allow you to run two operating systems at the same time. To switch between the different operating systems, you have to reset your Mac and choose which OS you want to run on the startup screen. This is perhaps the biggest disadvantage of Boot Camp Assistant.

No Interoperability

Since you’re not using the two operating systems simultaneously, there’s no way to transfer files from one OS to another.

This lack of interoperability means any file you save on Windows will not show up in macOS; likewise, you won’t be able to access any of your macOS files on Windows.

You can still easily share files between Mac and Windows using a USB or a Cloud service.

Boot Camp Takes Up A Lot of Space You must create a partition to install a second OS on your Mac. As mentioned above, the partition size should be at least 64 GB, though Apple recommends 128 GB.

Regardless of how much space you choose to allocate, it’s clear that you have to give up a huge chunk of your hard drive if you want to get the best performance while using Windows.



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