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How to Run Windows* on Mac* (Intel-based)

There was a time when computer users could be lumped into two separate camps - Windows* PC users, and Mac OS X* PC users. In fact, one of the most iconic advertising campaigns in history revolved around this age-old question of "Being Mac or a PC." Fortunately, thanks to impressive software design, virtualization techniques, and dynamic Intel hardware, you no longer have to choose. You can install and run Microsoft Windows* on a Mac and have the best of both worlds at your fingertips.

There are two primary techniques for getting Windows XP*, Windows Vista*, or Windows 7* to run on a Mac, and your preferred method will depend on what you want from your system. One method involves using Apple's Boot Camp* and Boot Camp Assistant* to run Windows* natively on a Mac computer. The other involves using virtualization software to run Windows in a "virtual machine" side-by-side with your Apple OS X* applications. The current providers of virtualization software are VMware Fusion* or Parallels* Desktop for Mac.

Running Windows on a Mac - Big Decisions

You will need to ask yourself a few questions before you decide which method you want to use to run Windows* on your Mac.

How much do you want to spend?

How integrated do you want your Windows and Mac operating systems?

What software will you run, and how much performance do you expect from your Windows 7* computer?

What software will you run, and how much performance do you expect from your Apple OS X computer?

Running Windows on a Mac with virtualization software will cost more because you have an additional piece of software to buy, and you will not have the full power of your computer to work with. All of your system resources including RAM, processor, and graphics card will be shared between operating systems. This is a much more convenient method however, because you are able to run your Windows applications with your Mac applications, media files can be easily shared back and forth, and the installation is much simpler. If you are a casual user looking for the convenience of dual operating systems, this is your option.

Running Windows on a Mac - What do You Need?

Requirements for installing Windows on a Mac using the Boot Camp, Dual Boot Method:

* An Intel-based Mac

* A Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard* or v10.6 Snow Leopard* installation disc

* Boot Camp Assistant*, which is installed in /Applications/Utilities/

* A USB keyboard and mouse, or a built-in keyboard and trackpad.

* At least 10 GB of free space on the disk you're installing on (for Windows and Windows-based applications)

* An authentic, 32-bit Version of Microsoft Windows*. 32-bit Microsoft Windows XP*, 32-bit Microsoft Windows Vista*, and 32-bit Microsoft Windows 7* are fully supported at this time. On MacBook Pro computers, you can use the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows.

Requirements for installing Windows on a Mac using the Virtualization Method:

* An Intel-based Mac.

* Minimum 1GB of RAM (2GB RAM recommended).

* 500MB free disk space for Parallels* Desktop for Mac and at least 5GB for each virtual machine.

* 700MB free disk space for VMware Fusion* and at least 5GB for each virtual machine.

* Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later; Mac OS X 10.6 or later

* An authentic, 32-bit Version of Microsoft Windows. 32-bit Microsoft Windows XP, 32-bit Microsoft Windows Vista and 32-bit Microsoft Windows 7 are fully supported at this time. On MacBook Pro computers, you can use the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows.

Running Windows on a Mac - Dual Boot Through Apple's Boot Camp

Running Boot Camp* is the best way to have a full-featured Windows* installation on your Apple Mac Computer. The Boot Camp Assistant* can be found by navigating Finder -> Applications -> Utilities -> Boot Camp Assistant, and it consists of four primary pieces:

1) The Boot Camp Assistant, which will create a Windows Partition on your hard drive,

2) Boot Camp Preference Pane, which allows you to control which OS you boot your computer in

3) The Boot Camp Drivers, which will allow Windows to take advantage of your Apple Mac Hardware

4) Boot Camp Windows Control Applet, which will allow you to control some Windows settings from your Mac OS X* partition.

By using Boot Camp, your Windows installation will have access to your full system resources. While running Windows, you will be running at native speed with all of your RAM, Graphics Processor, and Processing power. Games and other software will run at full speed, and your data will not be shared with your OS X installation. Programs that do not work in a virtual environment will run fine with Boot Camp.

When you launch the Boot Camp Assistant, the program will find your hard drives, and let you choose one to partition. Partitioning your drive will effectively set aside some hard drive space, format it, and reserve it for your Windows installation. If you happen to have multiple hard drives in your Mac, you can dedicate an entire drive to your Windows installation if you choose.

After partitioning your hard drive, you will be prompted to install your authentic, Windows installation media. At this point, the Windows installation process takes over. Choose a partition to install onto and begin the installation. You should follow the prompts, and then your machine will automatically reboot into Windows.

At this time, you will be prompted to insert your Mac OS X disk so that your Windows Operating System can load the device drivers necessary for your Mac Hardware. After driver installation is complete, your Apple computer is officially a dual-boot computer capable of running Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows. To choose what operating system you boot into at start up, press the Option Key while you boot. If you wish to permanently set an OS to boot from, use the Boot Camp Preference Pane.

Total cost for this method will vary depending on your OS choice, but Windows 7 begins at $119, and Boot Camp is free with Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6. You should set aside 1-2 hours to this project.

Running Windows on a Mac - Running a Virtual Machine

Running Microsoft Windows* in a virtual machine is very convenient and simple. Essentially, you are running Microsoft Windows inside of a Mac OS X* window. Your data can be transferred easily and fluidly between operating systems, you can be working on a Windows task and an OS X task simultaneously, and you do not have to reboot between operating systems.

By using a virtual machine, your Windows installation will have to share access to your system resources. While running Windows, you will be splitting your RAM, Graphics Processor, and CPU between two operating systems. This can significantly slow both Windows and OS X down. Some games will not work well, and some software does not run in a virtual environment. Fortunately, most current Mac Computers have plenty of RAM and a fast, Intel processor that can easily handle a virtual machine.

The installation methods for both VMware Fusion* or Parallels* Desktop for Mac are the same. Choose and purchase your preferred virtualization software, and install it like you would any other Mac OS X program. Launch the software and choose to create a new virtual machine. You will need to specify which operating system you wish to install, the size of your virtual hard drive, and the amount of system resources to dedicate to it. Keep in mind, that while the Windows installation will be on a virtual machine, it will use real hard drive space and RAM.

After you create your virtual machine, you will be asked for your authentic Windows installation media, and the installation process will begin. During this process, device drivers and the operating system will install. The virtual machine will eventually reboot and you will be able to run Microsoft Windows on your Mac. The virtualization software will install some specific drivers and tools to help bridge between the native operating system and the virtual machine.

Because the machine is virtual, it will share your network connection, USB Ports, media drives, and other devices with OS X. For many devices such as a flash drive or CD ROM, when the device is inserted, you will have to specify whether Windows or Mac should connect to it, and which OS will own the device. Most files can also be easily moved between the two operating systems.

Total cost for this method will vary depending on your OS choice, but Windows 7* begins at $119, and the virtualization software will cost an additional $80. You should set aside 1-2 hours to this project.