It’s a first. The new Macs with Intel inside could run Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, all on the same hardware platform.
Think of the possibilities. No more excuses about games, or applications that only run on Windows. A Mac that will dual boot into Windows is a dream come true for many computer users.
Windows users in the office could run a Mac for most taskts, and simply boot into Windows when the company’s specialized application required Windows. Mac users would be able to get all the games that run only on Windows.
It’s as if Mac could become the playground for everything good about computers and computing. Mac OS X, Windows XP or Vista, all flavors of Linux.
How easy is it to get Windows on a new Mac? Painfully difficult, not for the faint of heart, though I suspect it will get easier, possibly soon.
The basic problem with installing, booting, and running Windows XP or the upcoming Windows Vista on the new Macs has to do with two things called EFI and BIOS.
To keep it brief and non-technical, BIOS is the startup mechanism used by most PCs running Windows XP, and Linux, and is the choice for Windows Vista.
EFI is a newer and not-compatible startup mechanism pushed by Intel and used on the new Macs with Intel Inside. EFI provides additional security, stability, and faster boot times.
Microsoft has announced that the first version of Windows Vista, due later this year, won’t run EFI.
Vista will stick with the older BIOS method. For now.
In short, buying Windows XP or Vista and installing it on your new Mac mini, iMac, or future Macs with Intel chips won’t be easy, though that may change.
A web site called Windows XP on Mac set up a contest and collected donations for a prize. The contest? Get Windows booting on a new Intel Mac. The prize? Over $13,000.
The intent of the contest was to devise a straightforward, non-tricky method to get Windows XP to install and boot, in typical dual-boot fashion, on a new Mac with an Intel chip.
Though the Intel Macs only began shipping two months ago, it seemed like ages before a bonafide solution to running Windows on a new Mac surfaced. In between were fake photos, and failed attempts.
As of this week, there’s an announced winner (eager to collect the $13,000 or so, we’re sure), and an official method to install and boot up Windows XP on your new iMac or Mac mini.
Life should be so easy. Installing Windows XP on a new Mac with Intel Inside remains less than easy, probably out of reach for the average Mac user. Why?
The answer has to do with the contest rules, and the method of installation devised by the contest winners.
To the former, the rules probably didn’t go far enough. For the latter, they simply took advantage of the shortcoming in the rules.
The loophole in the rules? They didn’t specify a traditional method of using a dual-boot mechanism, though the winning solution is innovative, it’s also difficult for the average Mac or Windows user, yet it works.
The solution creates a CD with a modified version of Windows XP Pro, which can then be used to setup, install, and boot on an Intel-based Mac.
What you need to create this special CD, is a copy of Windows XP Pro SP2, a PC, an application called Nero Burning ROM, a special file which eventually does all the work, and the instructions.
I’ve set up many dual boot systems on PCs running Windows and various Linux flavors. It’s much easier because most Linux distros will boot automatically from a CD or DVD, and the installation process is somewhat painless point and click, which preserves your Windows install, and adds Linux.
The result is a typical dual-boot startup menu when you turn on the PC. Selections include options to start the PC in Windows or Linux. This was a requirement of the Windows XP on Mac contest.
The implications of running Windows on a Mac are enormous. For some. Business users who are allowed to purchase a new Mac will get the benefits of both worlds (and the headaches of support on both).
The Mac also becomes the first machine which will support and boot all three major operating systems; Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
It’s possible there’s a legal issue with modifying the Windows XP boot CD so it will work on a Mac, though I doubt the Microsoft legal goons will care so long as you purchased said Windows with real money, the only language understood in Redmond.
For now, the process of setting up your Mac to boot Windows is cumbersome for most of us. It will get easier. That’s when the fun begins. The only thing that would be better would be running Windows in a window inside Mac OS X. That would be fun.