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Windows XP Advice for Intel Mac Owners

Avoid washing out of BootCamp with these pointers By Kevin Schmitt

So you're the owner of one of those shiny new Intel Macs that seems to be getting all the press these days. And since Apple has so thoughtfully released BootCamp, you may be more than a little curious about what's going on over on the Windows side of the fence. As Windows-on-a-Mac can be a strange (and possibly dangerous) new world, here are a few tips to help you navigate the waters.

Before you begin...

Apple's BootCamp solution is really elegant and easy (but what else would you expect?), so I'm not going to go over the process of actually using the BootCamp assistant to make your Mac Windows-ready. What I will do, however, is provide something of a pre-flight checklist to go over before you start the BootCamp process. A couple of questions to ask yourself:

Do I really want/need to install Windows natively on my Mac? You may not need to "go there," as the kids say these days, because your specific Windows needs may be met through virtualization (via Parallels, the only solution available at the time of this writing) rather than natively booting XP. Let's go through two scenarios that are applicable to creative types:

For one, let's say you're a Web designer who likes to hand-code. Photoshop works fine for you under Rosetta (which it does for smaller resolution images), and programs like your text editor (BBEdit/TextWrangler/TextMate/SubEthaEdit/Whatever), CSS editor (e.g., CSSEdit), and browser (Safari/Firefox/Camino/Opera) are already Universal. Heck, even your WYSIWYG editor (GoLive, Dreamweaver, etc.) works fine running in Rosetta. Therefore, you may only need Windows to test out sites in Internet Explorer. In this case, virtualization may make more sense, since booting back and forth would be a hassle.

On the other hand, you may need to spend significant amounts of time in Windows, as graphics-heavy (or even graphics-medium) programs like After Effects, Flash or LightWave don't do so well under either Rosetta or virtualization, so you'd have to boot into Windows and run natively if you're dependent on any program like that. If this is the case for you, then the BootCamp route is probably the best solution.

Is my hard drive ready? If you've already partitioned your hard drive, you're out of luck?BootCamp requires you to start with a single partition. If you can't do without your extra partitions, then BootCamp won't be an option for you. Hopefully that will change over time, but for now, it is what it is.

How much room do I need on my hard drive for Windows? By default, the BootCamp assistant will offer to create a 5 GB partition for Windows. For many, that will be just fine. However, a good rule of thumb would be to partition your drive in relation to how much you expect to use Windows. For example, if you expect to use Windows half the time, give Windows 50% of your drive. If you are going against Apple's warnings about the beta and time-limited nature of BootCamp and plan to run Windows all the time, give Windows most of your drive. I'd leave 10-20 GB of room for Mac OS X in any event, but generally, the percentage rule should at least provide a good starting point.

Something that should be mentioned at this point is the issue of disk formatting. Depending on the size of the partition you've made for Windows, during the XP setup process you'll be asked if you want to format your Windows disk as FAT32 or NTFS. If your Windows partition is greater than 32 GB, you'll only get the NTFS option, as the FAT32 spec doesn't support drives greater than 32 GB or individual files greater than 4 GB. However, NTFS isn't an automatic no-brainer in this situation, as NTFS-formatted drives appear as read-only in OS X (OS X can read from and write to FAT32-formatted drives). So choose wisely depending on the specific needs of your individual setup.

Have I updated my firmware? You'll get reminded about any firmware update your Mac may need when you run BootCamp assistant, so just consider this a warning that this step may be necessary before you take the Windows plunge. Speaking of which...

When in Windows...

So now that you've gone through the BootCamp assistant, installed Windows, and added the Apple-specific drivers from the CD the BootCamp assistant had you burn, you're ready to rock. Now what? Here are just a few helpful hints to make your Windows-on-Mac experience all it can be.

Ensure stability. It's quite disconcerting when you inevitably get your first "Blue Screen of Death" (hereafter, BSOD) but there are ways to eliminate its dreaded appearance. First, know what works with your system and what doesn't. Apple's driver package takes care of a lot, but it doesn't address everything (most notably the integrated iSight camera on some Mac models and the Apple Remote). Once you're clear on what can be used, it's a good idea to take a trip to the Device Manager and disable anything that isn't recognized. The easiest way to do that is to right-click on the My Computer icon on the Desktop (fig. 1), select Manage, and then select the Device Manager from the left-hand side of the Computer Management panel. Any items that Windows XP doesn't recognize will be marked with a yellow "!" icon, and those are the items you want to get rid of (so to speak). Right-click on any of these items and choose Disable from the context menu (fig. 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

Just taking this step will bring you a long way towards complete stability, but there's one specific item that can make the difference between utter frustration and as much bliss as one can muster considering that one is running Windows in the first place: the iSight. Let me explain: Intel Macs with built-in iSight cameras (MacBook Pro, iMac) can be inherently unstable until Apple provides support for the cameras. I had a horrendous initial experience?the system was pretty much unusable running Windows because of the pervasive BSODs. Apparently, the iSight camera was the culprit, as programs would attempt to access the sound drivers, which conflicted with the camera, and boom?everything goes kaput. After researching the issue a bit, it seems others were having similar problems. The solution is that when you boot from Mac OS X into Windows, you need to shut down the machine instead of simply restarting it?that way, the camera doesn't get initialized after a cold start and never has a chance to turn on under Windows. Since I've started booting that way, I haven't seen a single BSOD (knock wood).

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Related Keywords:mac os x, windows xp, bootcamp

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