Windows Apps on Apple Machines:

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One of the things we tend to get a lot of questions about is from business/office users who are considering buying a MacBook or a MacBook Pro is just how easy or difficult it’s going to be to set up Windows on a Mac.

Apple's MacBook range is a popular choice for students and business users.

Apple's MacBook range is a popular choice for students and business users.

While Apple’s latest OS, Snow Leopard, does boast support for Microsoft Exchange, there are plenty of other reasons for Mac owners to want to have a working Windows install. For business users there is a practically limitless number of applications that you’ll want to have a Windows install handy for. While you could opt to run those in a VM, anything that’s going to be performance dependent would do better in a BootCamped Windows install.

Of course, for those who’ve opted to pick up a Mac and want to get some gaming done, there are options like Crossover Games, but they tend to be significantly less efficient than BootCamping it as well. From pretty much any angle where performance is involved you’ll find that people recommend you to go with BootCamp over a virtual machine, sensibly enough.

Boot Camp:

When BootCamp was first offered as a free download, Mac users desperate for some Windows action flocked to it. There were significant worries that BootCamp would be made a for-pay application with the launch of further OS updates, but fortunately that’s not been the case.

BootCamp is relatively easy to use, but it can certainly stand a bit of a walkthrough for the uninitiated, if only to point out that it’s not nearly as difficult as many imagine it might be, nor as risky. Essentially, when you open the Boot Camp Assistant you’ll be presented with a window that looks something like this:

The Boot Camp Assistant is fairly self-explanatory.

The Boot Camp Assistant is fairly self-explanatory.

The Boot Camp Assistant should help you through the whole process in a very simple, step-by-step process. It’s easy and while it (very reasonably) warns you that you should do a backup before you partition your drive to install Windows, I have done it a couple of times in circumstances where a backup wasn’t possible. It’s not something we can advise, but I feel fairly happy to say that it can be done, in a pinch.

If you decide to proceed (in the presence of a backup or otherwise), then you’ll be led to the option page for “Create a new partition” or “Run the Windows installer.” While it might seem obvious, if you don’t have a spare partition lying around for Windows to sit on then you should make it its own partition.

Choices will depend on how your drive is already set up.

Choices will depend on how your drive is already set up.

From there you’ll be presented with a nice simple screen that invites you to set up how your drive will be partitioned. It should look something like this:

Depending on how your drive is set up, the partition options should look something like this.

Depending on how your drive is set up, the partition options should look something like this.

Sorry for the inaccuracy here, for those of you following this as a guide, there’ll be a slider to allow you to determine the sizing of the new partition. I happen to have already partitioned my drive six ways from Sunday, so Boot Camp isn’t really giving me any more opportunities to wreak further havoc on it.

From there, it’ll prompt you to drop in a Windows disc (or more accurately, slide in a Windows disc). The install will start while you’re still in Mac OS X, then you’ll be prompted to restart, where it finishes the install process.

Windows:

The Windows install process, for those of you who either haven’t done it before or are so solidly Mac bound that you’ve not encountered it before, walks you through the whole process without too much difficulty. All you’ll have to do is drop in your name, the computer’s name and the serial for your copy of Windows.

Windows 7's installer is nice and easy, it'll walk you through the process fairly easily.

Windows 7's installer is nice and easy, it'll walk you through the process fairly easily.

I’ve used the Windows 7 installer picture, because of the fact that most of the copies of Windows floating around at the moment seem to be the Windows 7 RTM… though it’s a touch legally dubious to still have copies of it floating around now.

Still, with Windows 7 launching tomorrow it seems like the obvious choice for anyone putting together their Boot Camp OS.

I should probably point out that while I’ve seen people manage to install Linux through Boot Camp, it’s not really recommended. It’s one of those things that kind of subverts the whole process, and since the biggest reason for Boot Camping a machine is to get compatibility with Windows applications and services.

Virtualisation:

For those who don’t want to get bogged down in partitioning their drive, there are other options available. Each of them is going to cost you a bit more than Boot Camp, whose only real entry price is the cost of a Windows install, but they’re still options, and for some tasks they’re preferable.

VMWare Fusion will set you back a pretty penny, but its virtualisation is excellent. It’ll let you run Linux a fair sight easier than Boot Camp and allows you to maximise a Virtual Machine to fill the entire display, which works excellently in conjunction with Mac OS’s Spaces, meaning you can have a Linux VM running in one space and Mac OS or Windows in your others. Sure, it’ll take a lot of resources, but it’s an enviable setup.

VMWare will let you run just about anything, though Android seems to disagree with it a little.

VMWare will let you run just about anything, though Android seems to disagree with it a little.

VMWare will also let you run your Boot Camped Windows Parition as a VM, which can be particularly useful for those who have set up a Boot Camp partition but don’t want to spend the time restarting for one reason or another.

Similarly Parallels Desktop will allow you to run a Windows VM in a window on your Mac OS desktop. If you’ve got it set up to run in Coherency Mode (which isn’t very difficult) then you’ll have a Windows taskbar underneath your dock, allowing you to run Windows applications without needing to ever leave Mac OS, though in my experience it’s a bit of a resource hog.

Parallels might look a little cluttered, but it's an elegant arrangement :)

Parallels might look a little cluttered, but it's an elegant arrangement 🙂

Gaming:

For gaming it really is recommended to just roll with the Boot Camp and get used to dealing with your restart times, but for those who enjoy their games on Steam there is another option.

Crossover was initially released to install and run individual Windows applications on a Mac desktop without all the fiddling around with a VM. Similarly, Crossover Games aims to do the same for those who want to get a bit of gaming done from Mac OS.

Crossover Games is a very elegant virtualisation platform for people who like their Steam games :)

Crossover Games is a very elegant virtualisation platform for people who like their Steam games 🙂

Crossover Games makes the fairly simple but entirely positive move of making Steam games its priority, so you can run the Steam client and download games directly to wherever your individual bottles are stored.

I’ve been using Crossover Games for about two years now; it’s excellent for games like Counter-Strike Source, Half-Life 2 and its various episodes, and Team Fortress, but I don’t rely on it to play Left 4 Dead, or any other games that aren’t quite as popular. It’s solid for what it does, but you’ll likely find yourself restarting from time to time anyway, if only for the performance bump.

Closing:

Alright folks, that’s all we really have time for today. I hope this has been as useful to you guys as it would have been to me two years ago when I first started playing around with using a Mac as my main machine and still needed to get some things done for which Mac OS applications just didn’t exist.

Aside from all of the usual stuff, I thought I’d say that I’ve been using a MacBook Pro as a gaming PC for about a year now very smoothly indeed. It’s performing most elegantly in that respect 🙂

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4 Responses to “Windows Apps on Apple Machines:”

  1. intars Says:

    thank you for simple and plain instructions. i just wonder what kind of games are you playing on you marcbook? like, can it handle crysis or something like that?

    • komplettie Says:

      At the moment I mostly play source engine stuff, it’ll do Team Fortress 2 at high-mid spec, though I’d say a newer MacBook Pro with a second graphics card would allow it to be pushed up into high. I’ve also only got 2GB of RAM in there, so I’m sure that’d bump the performance a touch.

      Apart from that, I play a little Rainbow Six Vegas 2, which runs with most things maxed but the anti-aliasing dropped down to x8 🙂

  2. Jon Parshall Says:

    Thanks for the inclusion of CrossOver in your review–it’s very much appreciated.

    Best Wishes,

    -jon parshall-
    COO
    http://www.codeweavers.com
    “Your Mac/Windows Solution”

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