Run Windows on Mac (Intel)

Q. I want to use Windows on my Intel based Mac and I’ve heard there are different ways to run windows. Which is the best method to choose?

A. It is true that you can run windows on a Intel based Mac now that Apple is using Intel processors as the main CPU. For all intents and purposes any new Macintosh is now actually a PC – similar to those made by other manufacturers and are also equally priced as well. The only real issue is that you have to purchase a separate Windows license to use both the Mac OS X operating system and Widows. I’ve tested both the Apple’s Boot Camp beta software and Parallels’ Desktop virtual machine software.

With Apple’s approach you run the Boot Camp Installer to create a NTFS partition and then install Windows on it. Apple provides all the drivers needed to work with the hardware, mice, keyboards, network cards, etc. To run Windows you have to restart the computer while holding the Option key and then choosing to start up Windows instead of the Mac OS. You cannot see the Macintosh files while you’re in Windows, but you can use the network, install Windows applications and games and experience all that Windows users deal with every day (including viruses and spyware.)While you’re booted on the Mac you can read the files on the PC side. (Your home folder is inside the “Documents and Settings” folder.) So far the computer runs Windows really well under Boot Camp, and all the Apple hardware runs without complaint. The only thing to consider is how much disk space you want to give up to run Windows. The default setting of 5GB is fine if you’re only running Windows XP and Office.

The other method I’ve worked with is Parallel’s Desktop. The difference with Parallel’s is that it runs on your Mac at the same time as the Mac OS X is running. You can even copy and paste between Windows and Mac. The difference here is that you are sharing resources, memory and disk space between the two operating systems. Parallels provides it’s own drivers to make the system work. In this case the trackpad on my lap top works the same in both operating systems which is really nice. Under Apple’s Boot Camp you can’t use “two-finger” trackpad scrolling (yet) which is handy while surfing the Internet. Parrallels is surprisingly quick and much faster than Virtual PC ever was (Microsoft Virtual PC is/was the way that Windows was run on PowerPC Macs.)

In both cases, corporate networking works as well. You can connect to file servers and printers and run Microsoft Office (including Access) in the Windows environment. With Parallels you don’t necessarily dedicate a large portion of your drive to run Windows – the hard drive is a file that you can expand as needed. The down side of Parallels is that the drivers they provide are not 100% Windows compatible and you may have issues if you need to install a large application. I had to install Microsoft Flight Simulator X on an external drive because it requires 15 gigabytes of space. However I couldn’t run the program because the Parallel’s video driver wasn’t recognized as compatible by the game. It took two hours to install (and 45 minutes to uninstall) and like many Windows experiences, that’s time I’ll never get back.

Overall, I would say that if you need to run Windows, don’t hesitate t try either approach. In both cases the Mac makes a really fast and responsive PC. The Parallel’s approach is really convenient and Boot Camp allows you to dedicate yourself to Widows if needed. When Apple releases Leopard, the next release, they will have Boot Camp built-in and true to Apple’s past it will be much better.

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