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Apple's Boot Camp: Macs Do Windows

Apple's switch to Intel CPUs for its new desktops and laptops brought up a fascinating question: Could the Intel-based Macs run Windows operating systems and software natively? The almost instant answer was yes. After OnMac.net gave a nearly $14,000 prize to the first person to prove it was possible, subsequent stories indicated that Intel-based Macs could run some Windows software even faster than comparable PCs. But Windows-on-Mac was still firmly in the experimental realm.

Then Apple unexpectedly released the beta version of Boot Camp, a dual-boot enabler specifically designed to allow users to install Windows XP on Intel-based Macs. Apple says dual-boot capability will be built into Leopard, the next major release of its OS X operating system. But how does BootCamp work today?

The short answer: amazingly well. I ran Boot Camp on a new Intel-based 20-inch iMac with a 2GHz Intel Core Duo processor, and installed Windows XP Pro almost without a hitch — so smoothly you'd hardly know Boot Camp was beta software. I then ran a full range of Windows software, from Office, Visio, and Outlook to Photoshop and graphics-intensive games. Whether OnMac's contest turned up the heat on Apple, or whether Apple planned all along to do a beta release of a dual-boot capability add-on, BootCamp shows little sign of being hastily rushed out the door.

No-Sweat Windows On Mac
The entire process of getting Windows on the Mac took about an hour from start to finish, most of which was spent on the standard Windows installation. You have to start with a single-disc copy of Windows XP SP2 Pro or Home version — no other versions will work. Apple's Boot Camp Assistant first burns a CD with all of the necessary drivers for Windows on your Mac. Creating the Windows partition itself is dirt-simple using Apple's slider system, but you have to have a buffer of 5GB free space on both the OS X and Windows sides.


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