After one relatively major false-start, I’m now running Windows XP on my MacBook Pro. I’ve set up a dual-boot configuration using Apple’s Boot Camp, and it’s working great… In fact, I’m writing this from post from Win/Firefox right now.
Why would I want to do this? Mainly because I have some work-related software that is PC-only, and I don’t have a PC at home. It’s also nice for accessing the occasional website that requires Win/IE (there are still some out there). And finally, it’s great for web development, as I can now check what things look like from both the Mac and PC sides.
For those that are interested, I’ve thrown together a few notes on the installation process…
Step zero: Backup everything on your drive. I didn’t have any problems with losing data, but you never know. Especially when you’re re-partitioning the drive, as you’ll have to do pretty much right off the bat. Also make sure that your system software is updated, and that you have the newest firmware. Don’t just guess… Fire up the Software Update panel and check to be sure.
Next, download and install the Boot Camp software. When you first run it, you will be given the opportunity to burn a CD of drivers that allows XP to interface with your Mac hardware (it makes the graphics hardware play well with Windows, re-maps some keys, etc.). Next up, you’ll be asked to partition your hard drive. Fortunately, this can be done ‘on the fly, ‘ so there’s no need to re-format the drive before you can do this.
Partition size: I have a 100 GB hard drive in my MacBook Pro, with a little over 50 GB free space. Thus, I set up a 20 GB XP partition, leaving a bit over 30 GB free space on my main partition.
That brings us to installation. Apple says that you have to use an XP install disc that already has Service Pack 2 (SP2) on it, and they’re not kidding. I inadvertently used a base install disc without SP2 and ended up having to completely re-do the process. Yes, you can still boot into XP if you install without the Service Pack, but you won’t be able to load the Mac drivers from the disc that Boot Camp created for you. Thus, Windows is barely functional, and you can’t update to SP2 at that point.
What if you have an XP disc without SP2? Simple (sort of). Just download SP2 on a PC (hopefully you have one around) and ‘slipstream’ SP2 into the installer, then re-burn a CD. Instructions can be found here. This is a bit tedious, but pretty easy to do. The main problem is that only certain CD burning packages can successfully produce a bootable XP install disc. This is true even if they claim to make bootable discs. Use one of the software packages/versions listed in the slipstreaming instructions or it won’t work.
Since I had already gone through the installation process once with the wrong version of XP, I ended up having to re-launch Boot Camp (from the Mac side), remove the XP partition, re-create it, and then re-install XP. Time consuming, but not particularly challenging. I tried to just re-format the partition that I had, but I couldn’t make it work (the XP CD refused to boot).
Next up: disk formatting… When you start the install process, you’ll be asked to format the partition that you want to use. First off, be really careful in choosing the partition — you don’t want to overwrite you Mac partition and lose everything. The proper partition to choose should be C:, but double-check the partition size before moving forward.
Once you’re ready to format your partition, you need to decide on FAT vs. NTFS. Being PC-ignorant, I turned to Google for the answer. As it turns out, NTFS has some advantages over FAT, but you can read/write on a FAT partition from the Mac side. So as long as your XP partition is less than 32 GB (this is the limit for FAT) then you should choose FAT (this will actually end up being FAT32 since your partition will be larger than 2 GB, but you needn’t worry about that).
After the formatting is done and the XP installer has done its thing, you’ll need to re-boot (into Windows) and then run the installer on the driver disc that Boot Camp made for you.
And that’s about it… Once you’re up and running you’ll probably want to tweak little settings like screen resolution, but there’s nothing more that really has to be done.
The entire process would’ve taken me about an hour (maybe a tad more) if I hadn’t had the initial problems with my XP install disc.
In terms of performance, I’m really happy. XP screams along on my setup, and I have yet to run into any glitches.
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to respond as best I can.