- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2006

Having spent the better part of an entire evening on what should have been a one-hour process, I can report that Windows XP will run on an Intel-powered Mac, in my case a new-just-out-of-the-box Mac Mini. The Mini is a nice little computer, with an 80-gigabyte hard disk drive and 1 gigabyte of RAM, as well as an Intel Core Duo processor.

The installation process was delayed in part because I had to update both the operating system on the Mac Mini and its “firmware,” the software embedded in the computer’s hardware. I then had one hiccup with the Windows installation — a mistyped character when entering the Windows product key — and had to go to lengths to undo the damage.

Once there, I set the Mini’s hard disk “partition” to handle Windows, followed instructions, and I was off and running. Following those installation instructions carefully, I was able to bring the various Mac drivers over to Windows, thus making it possible to use the Mini’s built-in AirPort 802.11g wireless antenna and the separate Bluetooth one.

What all this means is that Apple is right when they say you should print out the installation instructions that come with Boot Camp, and follow those instructions carefully. With Boot Camp, reading the instructions is not an option.

The reward for such reading is a relatively smooth operation. Windows runs quite nicely on the Mac Mini used for this test, in no small measure, I’d guess, because of that 1 gigabyte of RAM.

It might be tempting to max out the Mac Mini’s RAM at 2 gigabytes, which adds $300 to the $799 base price of the top-level Mini if you’re going to depend on it to run Windows a lot; the more random access memory, the better.

Time didn’t allow the loading of a lot of applications, but I did install the OpenOffice productivity suite and Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser. Both programs ran superbly, and on switching back to the Mac OS, I was able to access the folder where an OpenOffice document resided and continue editing it with Microsoft Word.

Not so on the return trip — I couldn’t write to Windows folders from the Mac no matter how I tried, because the Mac won’t write files to the NTFS structure that Windows uses as its default disk format.

A colleague, John Beckett, suggests one could format the Windows partition as FAT 32, the initials standing for file allocation table, but that formatting is one Windows isn’t as fond of using. Apple Computer’s IDisk, available to subscribers of its $99-per-year “.Mac” service, is a potential workaround.

Is it all worth it? I suppose, especially for those users wanting to switch to Macintosh but who still need this or that Windows-specific program in order to do their daily work. The computer restarting that’s required to make the switch between Windows XP and Mac OS X is a bit wearing, but if you need to change from one to the other, that’s how it works.

Not only can the boot/reboot process become annoying, but the inability to run the operating systems side by side eliminates the ability to cut and paste between applications on the two platforms. True, Windows XP runs much faster directly on the Mac Mini than it did on previous Macs via emulation software, but there’s another way to handle the question of two operating systems coexisting on a single Intel-based Mac, a subject I hope to address next week.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog, updated daily on The Washington Times’ Web site, at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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