FAQ: Windows on Macs

There are some strings attached to running Microsoft's OS on a Mac--including Windows security risks, Apple says.

No, it's not an April Fools' joke.

Apple Computer on Wednesday released Boot Camp software that lets Mac users install Windows XP on their systems. But there are some strings attached, and the company has warned that running Microsoft's operating system on a Mac opens the computer up to the same attacks faced by traditional Windows PCs.

Some Mac users have shown interest in running Windows on Apple's "superior hardware," now that we use Intel processors, Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement Wednesday. "We think Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch," he added.

The software will be included in the upcoming Mac OS X 10.5, known as "Leopard." It can also be downloaded separately here. Apple will also discuss Boot Camp in August at its Worldwide Developers Conference, the company said.

Windows on a Mac--what's that all about?
Using Apple's new "Boot Camp" software, you can now install Windows XP alongside the Apple Mac OS X operating system.

How does that work?
Boot Camp creates a separate place on the hard drive, called a partition, for the Windows installation. This is done without moving any of the Mac files. Boot Camp also burns a CD with Windows drivers so the Microsoft operating system can work with the Apple hardware.

How does it run?
After installing Windows XP on the Mac, you can use the "Startup Disk" control panel in Windows or Mac OS X to set which operating system the computer should run when it boots up.

Alternately, holding down the "option" key at startup will display a menu that lets you pick an operating system.

Is this the same as a virtual machine?
No, Boot Camp allows you to run Windows XP natively. That means it runs on the Mac just as it would run on a computer from any other PC maker, such as Dell or Gateway.

What do I need?
In short, you need the latest of everything. You can only run Windows on the newest Intel-based Macs with the most recent firmware, or lower-level software, installed. It must also be loaded with Mac OS X 10.4.6, released earlier this week.

Your Mac will need a built-in keyboard or a USB keyboard, as well as a built-in track pad or USB mouse. It requires 10 gigabytes of free space on your main hard-disk drive. You also have to own or buy a CD with a full version of Windows XP Home Edition or Professional with Service Pack 2--that's the latest version of Windows.

What versions of Windows can I run on my Mac?
Windows XP with Service Pack 2. It is not possible to install an earlier version of Windows and upgrade it to XP, nor load an earlier version of XP and update it with SP2. You also cannot use Windows XP Media Center Edition.

In addition, it has to be the full version of Windows XP with SP2, not a cheaper upgrade. Amazon.com sells full XP Home Edition for $194.99, and Professional is listed at $284.99.

Will the upcoming Windows Vista work on my Mac?
Apple is sending mixed messages about that, and it declined to provide a yes or no answer on Wednesday.

Before Apple went public about Boot Camp, one of its developers said at an Intel conference that Macs probably wouldn't be able to run Vista. The obstacle, he said, was the different ways the two operating systems have of booting up.

But in its online documentation for Boot Camp, Apple hints that Vista will be supported: "Macs use an ultra-modern industry standard technology called EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) to handle booting. Sadly, Windows XP, and even the upcoming Vista, are stuck in the 1980s with old-fashioned BIOS. But with Boot Camp, the Mac can operate smoothly in both centuries."

Will Apple provide a copy of Windows XP?
No. Apple does not sell Windows, and Boot Camp does not include XP.

Will my Mac hardware work in Windows?
Not all of it. Even after installing the drivers from the CD created by Boot Camp, some devices will not function correctly with Windows. These include the Apple Remote Control, Bluetooth Apple Wireless keyboard and mouse, Apple USB Modem, MacBook Pro's sudden motion sensor, MacBook Pro's ambient light sensor, and the built-in iSight camera.

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