Apple Boot Camp: Welcome, Windows XP Recruits

But while Apple is making it possible to run Windows XP on the Mac, it will be up to users to buy and install the Microsoft OS themselves.

April 5, 2006

4 Min Read
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Apple is making it possible to run a copy of Windows XP on an Intel-based Apple Macintosh. But most home and business users will have to buy more copies of Windows XP in order to do so.

"You can't take the Windows XP disks that came with your new machine from Dell and load it on the Mac," warns Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies Inc. The Windows disks shipped by PC suppliers are backup copies in case the original loaded on the machine is corrupted in a crash. The backup copy is tied to the BIOS of an individual piece of hardware and registered to that machine with Microsoft for support purposes.

Home and small business users who want to run Windows on Mac machines will have to pay about $200 to buy a copy off store shelves and then load it under the installer supplied by Apple beta software, Boot Camp, downloadable from the Apple site. Apple isn't supporting the software, but plans to build it into the next release of the Macintosh operating system.

Bajarin calles Apple's Boot Camp offering "a win for Apple and Microsoft." It will result in more Windows XP licenses being sold, he notes. It will also give Windows users who have been eyeing a Macintosh for its ease of use and lower virus infection rate an excuse to go out and buy one. In the past that's meant owning two computers at home.

Boot Camp will work best for the sort of users who work with Windows at the office and would like to occasionally do so at home, but prefer a Mac for a home machine. If they weren't willing to buy two machines in order to get a Mac, "Apple is taking away that objection." The ability to run both operating systems on one piece of hardware will appeal to "parents who use Windows at work, but whose kids want a Macintosh at home," Bajarin notes. With Apple Boot Camp, they can buy a Macintosh and a copy of Windows XP off the shelf and have both run at home on Macintosh hardware.Businesses with a set number of seats covered by their Windows XP license would have the option of making some of those seats Macintoshes. A candidate Mac would be networked to the corporate server that manages Windows copies and would be able to accept the XP download. Otherwise, Microsoft considers a copy of Windows running on the Mac as another licensable version, for which a fee is owed, even if a technically skilled installer has found a way to load an existing copy off of disks. Although it will be hard to police all uses of Windows XP, compliance concerns will dictate that most business use of Windows on the Mac will be licensed, Bajarin predicts.

In the long run, Apple is clearly bidding to generate more Mac users through Boot Camp capabilities. Bajarin says Apple already had momentum in its favor to move from 5% of the PC market up to 9% to 10% over the next five-to-seven years. The ability to convert a Mac into a Windows machine "could accelerate that movement," he says.

The Boot Camp software partitions the hard drive into two distinct operating system segments. Without such a partition, Windows surveys the hard drive when asked to boot and won't continue if there's another operating system present. The user is instructed to delete certain files before Windows will continue to boot. Such a partition of course reduces total hard drive memory available to the Macintosh.

Apple is labeling Boot Camp as beta software because it won't provide technical support to those who choose to download and install it. Boot Camp features will be built into the 10.5 version of Mac OS X. The Boot Camp download requires an Intel-based Macintosh with a USB keyboard and mouse or a built-in keyboard and TrackPad. The Apple announcement says a user should have at least 10 gigabytes of free space on a Mac hard drive.

"Hard-core Mac users will say, 'I don't need this,' " Bajarin says. But for many potential Mac users, this will remove a barrier that might have prevented a decision to buy in the past, Bajarin says.Macintosh users who make use of Boot Camp will find that they can't toggle back and forth between the Mac operating system and Windows XP. They'll have a choice when they boot up, either Windows or Mac. Once a selection is made, the system needs to be shut down and restarted if the user wants to move to the other operating system. The Boot Camp download is available at

Microsoft offers Virtual PC, which allows Windows to run on top of the Macintosh operating system. Performance suffers, but a Mac user may move back and forth "in dual mode" between two running operating systems.

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