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My MacBook Pro is back from repair, and the first thing I do? Install Windows XP Pro.

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Hi everyone, this is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at askleo.info.

Several weeks ago I mentioned that I had purchased a MacBook Pro. Unfortunately it suffered from a couple of problems - the worst being an unusable trackpad. I ended up taking it to the local Apple store for repair.

I was disappointed at the fact that it needed repair right out of the box. But my experience with the Apple 'Genius' and the repair process was smooth and efficient. No hoops to jump through, and I was kept up-to-date on the status of my repair by email begining the day I dropped it off.

So my trackpad works and the machine's running cooler. It's time to start playing.

The first thing I did on getting it back? I installed Windows.

Now, I know that many Mac purists will consider that "pollution" of their beloved hardware, but now that I've been playing with it for a bit, I see it as a huge strategic play for the Mac.

For what it's worth, I'm not using Apple's "BootCamp". The thought of having to reboot to switch between operating systems just didn't do it for me. Especially when I heard of a virtual machine solution.

I've been very impressed with Parallels Workstation for the Mac. Using it, I'm able to run a complete Virtual Machine in a window under Mac OSX. That Virtual Machine, when run, starts with a virtual BIOS that attempts to boot from a virtual hard disk - or from the system's CD-ROM. The theoretical bottom line is that it allows you to install and setup pretty much any operating system - from MS-DOS to Linux.

So I grabbed an XP Pro install CD and installed Windows. Now, Windows is running in a window on my Mac. And, so far, with installs of Office, encryption software, the Hamachi VPN software, and more random tools and utilities, I've not stumbled into anything that didn't just work. I've even been able to use remote desktop on another computer to remotely access the Windows virtual machine on my Mac.

So why put Windows on a Mac? For the very reason that so many PC users are reluctant to try a Mac in the first place: they have an investment in their Windows-based software and solutions. With Windows in a window on a Mac, PC users might just be able to preserve their investment as they, like I, dip their toes in the Mac pond. Now that I have both Windows and Max OSX in front of me, I can safely start playing.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 10232 in the go to article number box. Leave a comment, I read them all.

This is a presentation of askleo.info, a free on-line technical question and answer service. Hundreds of questions and answers are online and ready to help solve your computer problems.

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Article C2643 - May 4, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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9 Comments
Greg Bulmash
May 4, 2006 9:52 PM

Worth noting is that a virtual machine is not "emulation" like the old SoftWindows or VirtualPC for the Mac, which both ran agonizingly slow. That was because, in those products, the Windows Intel instructions needed to be translated to Mororola/IBM instructions before they could be passed to the processor.

With virtualization, because you're running an Intel-based operating system on an Intel-based machine, the instructions don't need to be translated. They just get passed straight through. This speeds things up immensely. In general, most applications will seem to run as fast as they do when running them on your Windows box.

3D games, MP3 encoding, and video encoding will show a noticeable slowdown. But there are lots of good free or inexpensive apps for encoding sound and video on the Mac, and hardcore gamers will want more beef than the Macs can offer right now anyway.

I had a Mac from 1987-1993, then moved to the PC platform because I just got more processing bang for my buck. But late 2006, early 2007, when it's time to upgrade my aging Intel box, I'm moving back to Mac. I can't wait to see the PowerMac replacements (figuring they'll unveil them in August at WWDC).

Deep Blue
May 5, 2006 2:09 AM

The way I see it, the longer you allow yourself to keep Windows around as a crutch, the longer you're going to rely on it. Cut Windows out of your life, and find replacements for the programs you _think_ you need Windows for (there's always a replacement app, or set of apps).

For me personally, no application in the world is important enough for me to go through what Windows users go through on a daily basis. Anti-virus scanning, spyware, reboots, etc. No thanks - I'll find an alternative or go without it..

Ken
May 5, 2006 6:41 AM

Just curious what sort of performance hit you take by running Windows in a virtual machine, rather than on "bare metal". How does the speed compare to a comparably-equiped "native" Windows box?

Tom
May 5, 2006 12:31 PM

> The way I see it, the longer you allow yourself to
> keep Windows around as a crutch, the longer you're
> going to rely on it. Cut Windows out of your life,
> and find replacements for the programs you _think_
> you need Windows for (there's always a replacement
> app, or set of apps).

Ah, but were it so.

I agree with you that dumping Windows ASAP is a good goal. However, I've had the very unfortunate experience of working at a company that uses Microsoft NetMeeting for everything. Even when everyone is in the same room!

My only solution was to run VirtualPC. I hated it -- but fortunately it was the *only* application I *had* to use Windows for. Everything else --- apache, perl, emacs, X11, cvs --- EVERYTHING I did on my PowerBook. With glee.

Sam77
May 6, 2006 12:20 PM

Deep Blue says:

>The way I see it, the longer you allow yourself
>to keep Windows around as a crutch, the longer
>you're going to rely on it. Cut Windows out of
>your life, and find replacements for the
>programs you _think_ you need Windows for.


I apologize if this sounds insulting, but I don't know how else to say this:
This "All or nothing" attitude is the same that has literally crippled the growth & expansion of Apple Computers for decades. Geeks & Techies with lots of time, money and interest might think nothing of making this "leap of faith" -- a solid, monitary commitment to an unknown, based on what other people say.

Leo is Dead Right-On! People NEED that 'crutch,' that "safety net" in making a major transition like this. If the Mac is anywhere near as good as you claim, then the "crutch" will be thrown away, end of story. It really IS that simple.

Apple's recent recognition of this showed more wisdom than coming up with the Ipod.

Leo: I'm excited to read of your experimenting and am eager to hear more of how the programs run, and what, if any, advantages, disadvantages & tricks you come up with.

Mike
May 10, 2006 12:19 PM

No viruses on Macs? Ha-ha... you just wait my friend. Viruses will start to pop up out of the woodwork if Macs ever start to dominate PCs.

Jason Dick
May 12, 2006 3:44 PM

Leo,
I liked your Podcast on "My Mac is Back, and running Windows." As a PC user during the day at work and Mac user at night I am always happy to hear PC users trying out Mac's.
Jason

Doug Willard
May 13, 2006 12:06 PM

I still can't afford a mac.

Jim Hamm
September 2, 2006 4:31 PM

Hi Leo...Read with great interest your venture into MacBook Pro. I'm interested in reading your comments as you progress further. Next year I plan to do the same after Vista and Apple's new OS Leopard comes out. This way, I'll be up to date with both new OSes. You mentioned using Parallels Workstation, not Parallels Desktop. What is the difference between the two, and why did you choose the one you did? Thanks, and keep your great newsletters coming....Jim Hamm

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