This post was originally published on 01/30/18 and updated on 01/29/23.
What is Xcode?
Xcode is an IDE (integrated development environment) for iOS app development. That means you can create applications for macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Xcode is a macOS application so it is not possible to install Xcode on a Windows system. Xcode is available for download on both the Apple Developer Portal and the macOS App Store.creating iphone apps on windows
Should you install macOS on a Windows PC?
In theory, it’s possible to install macOS on a non-Apple machine, both natively and virtually. Then, Xcode could be installed. However, you shouldn’t do that! It’s not working very well and it’s deemed illegal by Apple’s licensing terms, so you must not go this route. And don’t be fooled: Many sources on the internet promises you that this was a good idea - it is not.
Renting a Mac in the cloud
A Mac is a great computer but it’s also quite expensive – that’s probably the main reason many developers wish that there were Xcode for Windows. An alternative for buying a Mac is renting a Mac in the cloud. Several providers offer that service, for example, this one. In this particular case, Xcode is already installed, so you can start immediately. That’s a good way at the beginning. But you cannot deploy the app directly to iOS devices, so in the end, it’s still advisable to buy a Mac someday though.
Non-native ways for developing iOS apps
Many people who wish to install Xcode on a Windows machine want to develop iOS applications. There are options to develop iOS apps without using Xcode directly, like Microsoft MAUI and Flutter. You can develop the app once and use the code for both Android and iOS. Depending on the use case, that can be a good way. However, without a Mac, you can't build and test the app on an iOS device.
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Alternatives for learning Swift
If you just want to learn iOS development, but you don't have a Mac yet, then there are good alternatives. In this case, you can start by learning Swift. This is the programming language to choose for developing iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS applications.
Swift is open source and there are several ways for writing Swift code on a non-Mac machine. First, there is the Swift Playgrounds app for the iPad. You can use it to write Swift code and also learn how to do it. Additionally, it's even possible to create apps with it. However, you don't have as many possibilities as with Xcode. So it's good for learning but in most cases, not enough for building a real-world application.
Since Swift is open source, it's possible to run Swift on Windows. For example, you can use Visual Studio Code. It's not possible to write an iOS app this way though. There are also options on Linux. As with Swift playgrounds, that’s a good way for starting.
If you want to learn more about Swift, take a look at the Swift category on my blog. There are also a lot of other good tutorials out there. For example, you can take a look here. Swift is a very good programming language and when you are new to programming, it’s a good choice for starting.
Buying a cheaper Mac
If you decide to buy a Mac, you don’t have to buy the newest machine. At the time of this writing, the newest Xcode version 14.2 runs on all Macs with at least macOS 12.5. There are nice refurbished devices in the Apple Store, but used devices are also a good alternative. This is a good way to build iOS apps.
Unfortunately, there is no Xcode for Windows. And there are no ways to install macOS on a Windows machine. Renting a macOS machine in the cloud is an alternative, but you cannot deploy apps to a device. If it’s just about learning Swift, there are alternatives like the Swift Playgrounds Apps for the iPad or running Swift code on Windows or Linux. But if you want to build iOS apps, you should buy a Mac. And on Mac you can build iOS and Android apps.