The times, they are a changin’

After decades of priding itself on being different, Apple has now released software technology that lets you boot into Windows XP natively on one of its Intel-based Macs. It’s the almost devilish naughtiness of this move that makes Apple such a fascinating company to watch – just when you thought you knew which way it was going to jump, it turns around and does exactly the opposite. The other day, I was chatting with Nik Rawlinson, the editor of PC Pro’s sister magazine MacUser, and he asked me whether I’d try putting Windows onto an Intel Mac. My response was no, I wouldn’t, because it all seemed far too hacky to me at the moment.

The times, they are a changin'

Only a few weeks ago, a competition had been run that was won by a group which did manage to get XP to boot cleanly on a new Intel Mac, but they had to jump through many hoops to get it to work. That wasn’t for me, I said, and nor did it fit nicely with the “it just works” Mac ethos. “Aha,” said Mr Rawlinson, “but Apple has just announced Boot Camp – an official tool to let you run XP on your Intel Mac.” I rocked back, “Boot Camp? I’ve never heard of it.” “No,” he said, “that’s because it was only announced 20 minutes ago.” Ah, the dangers of sitting in a news office.

Of course, that left me with no other honourable option. For months now I’d been manfully attempting to sidestep the inevitable – my lovely G4-based PowerBook has done sterling service for several years and I really didn’t need to mess around with it. But suddenly, there was this vision floating in front of my eyes – I could get a new MacBook Pro, with twin processors no less, and be able to boot either OS X or Windows XP on it at will. Any shred of self-control immediately went out of the window. A short stroll from the office took me to the Apple Store on Regent Street, where I bought an ultimate-spec machine: 2.16GHz dual core, with the 7,200rpm hard disk option (all the better for video editing, I told myself) and a useful RAM upgrade from the standard 1GB to 2GB.

Once I arrived back at my own office, I booted up this beast and started on the download and installation of the Boot Camp code. Installation could hardly have been easier, as you simply run Apple’s application, which does two things for you. First, it burns a driver CD containing all the Windows drivers for the Apple hardware in the MacBook Pro, right down to supporting the CD/DVD Eject key on the keyboard. Then it repartitions your hard disk to create a new partition for Windows (and, naturally, it does this seamlessly and doesn’t interfere with the data already on the hard disk). So I decided to shrink my 100GB hard disk to a 90GB one, leaving 10GB free for Windows. Once this was done – and it took only a minute or so – the machine shut down and tried to boot from the Windows boot CD that I’d just inserted in the drive.

Unfortunately, things went a little awry at this point. I was using an MSDN developer disc, a DVD volume containing multiple operating system installations, and this presents you with a front-end text menu from which to choose the version to boot. Although the MacBook Pro showed me the menu, it wouldn’t accept any input to choose an option. I was obviously going to need a genuine Windows XP Professional SP 2 CD, and not having one to hand I went to and downloaded the appropriate ISO image (everything is there if you have the necessary MSDN subscription). After a quick CD burn, the MacBook Pro started to boot Windows in the normal way and, once that was finished, I popped in the driver CD I’d made earlier and then ran the install facility to update the machine with all Apple’s Windows drivers. Finally, I sat down to watch the paint-dryingly fascinating spectacle of nearly an hour’s worth of OS patches from Microsoft for XP SP 2.

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