I'm not convinced many Windows users will buy Intel Macintoshes just so they can run blazingly fast Windows PCs.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
T e c h n o f i l e
Apple's new Macs can be Windows PCs, too
April 16, 2006
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, The Post-Standard
Apple has come up with a way to turn its latest Macintosh computers into Windows PCs.
It does this through special software called Boot Camp that lets you choose Mac or Windows when the computer starts up. You can quickly change your Windows PC back to a Mac by rebooting.
When I first heard about this, I checked the date -- the first week of April -- and wondered if Apple's public-relations people were playing an April Fool's joke on members of the press. But the accounts were true, and Apple even set up a Web page to tell everyone what it did, at www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp.
But I still found the news hard to believe. Apple makes the slickest personal computers you can buy, but they've always been non-Windows models -- a fact that has dissuaded millions of potential buyers from even considering Apple's Macintosh computers for years.
Apple's Macs run their own kind of non-Windows software. Mac fans probably wouldn't have it any other way, but in the real world, even Mac users might need a Windows PC around to do things that can't be done on a Mac. Some Internet-based real-estate listings work only on Windows, for example, and every 14-year-old knows that there are a lot more computer games for Windows than Macs. A Mac that could be turned into a Windows computer would make a lot of kids happy.
So that's what Apple did, believe it or not. But there are two catches and one big plus.
The only Macs you can turn into Windows PCs are Apple's new Intel Macs. In a matter of months, every new Macintosh will be an Intel Mac, but as of right now, in April of 2006, you'll have to ask when you buy the Mac whether it's an Intel Mac. If you already have a fairly new Mac, you can tell if it's an Intel Mac by clicking the Apple symbol at the upper left and then clicking "About This Mac." Intel Macs have the word "Intel" in the "Processor" description.
(Why only Intel Macs? Because Intel, the world's largest maker of computer chips, makes the chips Apple puts in Intel Macs, and the same chips go into PCs, too. That makes it easy for Intel Macs to become Intel Windows PCs.)
You'll need a Windows XP SP2 installation disk ($140 to $160 -- it has to be the latest, SP2 version) and you'll need Apple's Boot Camp software. Boot Camp free from www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp. (Apple is testing the software and will make it part of the next version of its Macintosh OS X operating system.) Follow the instructions that come with Boot Camp very carefully.
A big advantage to the Boot Camp method is the way Windows takes over the entire computer. Microsoft sells a PC emulator that runs Windows -- rather slowly -- inside OS X. The emulation software, called Virtual PC, doesm't yet work on Intel Macs anyway.
Installing Boot Camp, making any updates required by Apple (to make sure Boot Camp works properly with your Intel Mac) and then installing your copy of Windows XP takes a couple of hours. When you're through, your Mac will behave normally, without a sign of its hidden Windows capabilities, until you reboot. Pressing the Option key at startup gives you a choice of OS X or Windows from a simple menu. (You can also make your alternative choice while either OS X or Windows is running, then reboot the computer without the need to make a menu choice during bootup.)
Reports on Mac enthusiast Web sites and on Windows fan sites are nearly all positive. Tests seem to show that an Apple iMac with a dual-core Intel chip -- currently, the fanciest Intel Mac -- is faster running Windows than any consumer-model Windows PC from from Dell, Apple's biggest competitor.
I'm not convinced many Windows users will buy Intel Macintoshes just so they can run blazingly fast Windows PCs, but I'm sure Apple hopes some of them will be swayed by the attractions of the OS X "side" of their new computer. OS X has no spyware and only a couple of viruses, while Windows has countless spyware invaders and at least 200,000 viruses.