Running Windows XP on a MacBook Pro

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.

21 Responses to “Running Windows XP on a MacBook Pro”

  1. Anonymous

    hi i’m from the philippines i’m planning to buy a macbook with intel core 2 duo (2.13 or 2.26Ghz) 2Gb DDR2 800 RAM and runs on Nvidia 9400 graphic card, can windows xp sp2 or sp3 run on this macbook? some people i asked about this matter said that it’s impossible and some said it’s possible. will there be any problems or glitches? macbooks are not so popular here in the philippines because we are used to windows OS ever since. pls do help me in this matter

  2. Anonymous

    Jia H; The main problem I had in setting up my boot camp partitlion was I wasn’t installing the drivers in the new partition. After installing a full copy of Vista [not an upgrade] you must install the Mac drivers that come on your mac disk. These drivers must be installed in the Vista partition formed by boot camp. Once those drivers are installed it all worked perfectly. L8r John

  3. Anonymous

    I have tried to load a Win XP home w/ SP2 and my MacBook Pro won’t recognize the CD. I went thru the partition and bootcamp to attempt the install. I was advised by Mac support to use VMWare Fusion to switch back and forth without rebooting and VM Ware fusion won’t read the CD either. This is the 2nd CD I tried as I took the first back and exchanged it with another incase it was bad. Any help on the install? Thanx John

  4. Anonymous

    Hey there,
    my version of Windows XP Professional does not have SP2. You reccomend reburning the instal disc:
    “Use one of the software packages/versions listed in the slipstreaming instructions or it won’t work.”

    1-Where are the slipstreaming instructions?
    2-Witch CD burning packages can successfully produce a bootable XP install disc?


  5. Anonymous


    Can you please guide me that if i hve to run xp on mac pro desktop. how it performs on it.

    how the rendering and 3dstudio max works on it.
    kindly tell me which mac pro desktop shud i buy?
    hope to hear from you guys soon


  6. Anonymous

    If you have Windows XP, why do you use linux?
    Basically I dont see any advantages to using linux over windows xp, Im dual booting windows
    and ubuntu. Ubuntu is nice and all but I dont see anything that would make me prefer it
    over windows.The only thing i have been using ubuntu for is web browsing playing
    music/movies (cant play games) which I can do better/hassle free in windows.
    So what are the advantages of l using linux over xp?

  7. Anonymous

    Help! I just bought my first MacBook Pro. I’m trying to install XP Pro w/SP2 using bootcamp. I get to the point where XP install asks for the product key…I enter it (yes correctly), but I get an invalid product key message. Has anyone run into this. I’ve tried several different XP Pro w/SP2 product key with the same results.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  8. Anonymous

    I am getting a frequent request on start up for drivers in my XP partition for Built-In iSight. Have these drivers been developed? If so, where can I get them? BTW I have two 17″ MBP and I love them. I am digging the Parallels Desktop option. Would I still be able to remap my keyboard to deal with the now famous ctrl-alt-del key pattern?

  9. I’m using XP pro and haven’t had any problems (other than the fact that Windows sorta sucks). But… I have since tried out Parallels Desktop and am a huge fan. No dual booting, you can run in full screen mode, and it’s snappy (I do, however, have 2GB of RAM). Try it. They have a 15 day free trial.

  10. Anonymous

    Nickel, are you using win xp home or pro?
    I installed xp home sp2 on my new mbp 2.33GHz
    15″ and i encountered very frequent performance
    hiccups. Not sure if this is an issue with xp
    home or should i try running xp pro?

  11. Anonymous

    The latest bootcamp also give you a right click by placing two finger on the trackpad (like two finger scrolling) then click. Two finger scrolling also works.

    I highly recommend a program called input remapper as well which allows you to do CTL-ALT-DLT with fn-ctl-alt-delete.

    fn can also be used as a right click modifier.

    With support for iSIght, full sound support, DMA HD access for Mac Pro it is a great option if you need graphic performance that Parallels can not give you.

    Also, if you have an ACD display…look for WinACD as a monitor driver for Apple Cinema Displays. Lets you adjust brightness and do other things like change the behaviour of the power button…etc…etc…..

  12. Anonymous

    I love my Macbook, but haven’t yet found the need to have Windows installed. Comforting to know that’s an option, however.

    (Also, Microsoft-based two-button mice and Apple’s own invisible-two-button “Mighty Mouse” can be used with most new Macs.)

  13. Anonymous

    I highly recommend you install Parallels software and run Windows XP as a virtual machine. If you have a core duo processor and plenty of ram you can run both OS X and XP simultaneously.

    The best things is you can clone your XP Virtual installs and configure them differently (i.e. one for banking, one for games, one for work, etc).

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