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When you have an intention to write iOS apps on a Windows 10 or 11 machine, you should remember that the only platform that is compatible with the iOS SDK is macOS. This means the main developer tool for macOS, Xcode, can be used only with this operating system.
Below you’ll find a brief tutorial on what you need for iOS development on Windows 10 or Windows 11 and how to make Xcode work on Windows. To achieve your goal, you will need a Windows computer, a copy of macOS, an Apple ID, a dedicated software tool for redirecting iOS devices to a virtual environment (e.g. USB Network Gate), and a stable connection to the Internet.
Three different options can be used for iOS app development on Windows. You can run Xcode on a virtual machine, rent a macOS cloud instance, or use dedicated third-party tools. We’ll take a look at each method later in this article.
As is mentioned before, the major software tool that can help you build an iOS app is Xcode, an integrated development environment (IDE) for macOS. It allows creating applications not only for iPhone and iPad but also for Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. Among other things, Xcode offers an interface builder, a code editor, an asset management toolkit, and simulators of iOS devices. It gives you the ability to test the application that you are developing with no need to leave Xcode.
Xcode provides graphical tools for analyzing application performance, including those for diagnosing CPU usage and utilization of drives (HDD, SDD) and more.
If you are looking for different solutions, you can explore the best alternatives to Xcode.
Using a virtualization platform provides users with the full functionality of Xcode on your Windows machine. You can use the best iOS development tool on your PC under VMWare or Virtual Box. Virtualization lets you install macOS in a partition on your Windows computer strictly for developing iOS applications.
VirtualBox is a free and open source virtualization solution from Oracle. This very popular virtualization tool is supported by Windows 10 and 11. All you need is a copy of the Mac operating system available on your computer and you can download Virtual Box to start developing iPhone and iPad apps.
VMWare offers more functionality than VirtualBox which may appeal to some developers. This powerful tool is a commercial product that requires users to obtain a license.
So, let's imagine that you decided to use VirtualBox. What you should do next is make sure that the Windows computer on which you are going to install it is:
Step 1: When you are ready, install VirtualBox on your PC.
After the installation procedure is complete, start the app and select to install Mac OS X Server (x64). Allocate at least 2GB of RAM (4GB+ is recommended) and 30GB+ of hard disk space to your VM.
Step 2: VirtualBox will make all required OS configurations automatically. You should only go to the Settings menu and change the following:
Step 3: Then, install macOS and boot your VM.
It’s important to remember: when configuring macOS, you should enter a valid Apple ID. This Apple account will be needed for Xcode download later.
At the final stage of macOS configurations, select the desired resolution and settings in the System Preferences. Once done, installing XCode is simple:
Note: There might be a need to provide your Apple ID (if you didn’t enter it when configuring the macOS virtual machine) or re-enter it (if you did so).
Another method that can be used to develop iOS applications from a Windows machine is to rent a virtual cloud instance running macOS. You can avoid the expense of an Apple computer, but this technique does require a stable and fast Internet connection to access the virtual machine effectively. Virtual machines running the Mac operating system are available from multiple sources including MacStadium, MacInCloud, and XcodeClub. You can rent a Mac by the hour for some quick work or save some money by seeking a more long term arrangement with your provider.
At MacInCloud, customers can rent a variety of different Mac machines in the cloud that can be used to develop iOS applications. All of the rented devices have Xcode and other SDKs installed to make it easy for a developer to get started quickly. Costs vary according to the features you choose and subscriptions can be canceled at any time. This allows you to test drive MacInCloud without making a major investment. It’s a great way to get the functionality of a Mac without the expense of purchasing an Apple computer.
MacStadium may be the easiest way to develop iOS apps on a Windows machine. This method provides access to Apple devices through a Windows Remote Desktop connection. You can develop and test apps on remote devices without any complicated setup or configuration.
Step 1: Sign in to the remote machine using a VNC client or the native Windows RDP option.
Step 2: Enter the IP address of the rented Mac in the connectivity tool.
Step 3: Log in to the virtual machine with your user credentials.
Step 4: You will now be at the Mac login screen where you will again be prompted to enter your password to gain access to the desktop.
You can also develop iOS apps on your Windows machine using third-party alternatives to Xcode. Developers willing to use tools besides Xcode have many choices when developing for the Apple mobile operating system. Based on the survey, 38 percent of software developers used React Native.
Here are some excellent third-party iOS development tools
Building your own “Hackintosh” - a PC that is customized to run macOS. If you are a tech-savvy Mac supporter, you can create a separate physical computer running macOS. You can find all the necessary information on how to run Mac OS X on an unsupported computer at Hackintosh.com.
Xamarin is an open-source mobile app platform that gives you a way to develop cross-platform apps that can be deployed natively to iOS using C#. Xamarin is a versatile framework that has been available for years. Microsoft developers have used this .NET compatible tool for cross-platform development on Windows systems. Users targeting multiple OS platforms should consider the flexibility of Xamarin over the Apple-centric Xcode.
After showing you how you can use a virtual machine or cloud instance to replicate a Mac, we’ll tell you about another challenge you may face. The issue that is common for many virtualization apps is the inability to connect to USB devices attached to the host computer. Although some VMs offer USB passthrough functionality, the problem still persists when it comes to particular USB device types.
If your VirtualBox app does not recognize an iPhone that you want to use for app testing, you can resort to the help of a dedicated software tool called USB Network Gate.
USB Network Gate is a simple yet powerful software application designed to forward USB devices to a virtual environment. It allows redirecting any iOS device to VirtualBox, VMware, Hyper-V, XenDesktop, and many other virtualization programs.
With this solution, you will be able to connect your iPhone or iPad to a macOS virtual machine and make the device visible to Xcode and all other apps running on your Mac.
A big advantage of this software is that it works not only with virtual machines but also with cloud infrastructures. If you decide to rent a Mac in the Cloud, you will have no problem redirecting iOS devices from your Windows PC to the cloud desktop.