Vol. XIX, No. 1
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Spring, 2006

Windows® on the MAC®!

Harrison Eiteljorg, II

Has Apple® given up, or has Apple made a clever strategic decision? Computer mavens may debate that question for a time, but most users will not care. The simple fact is that, on the new Intel®-based MACs, it is now possible to run Windows as a native program running at normal speed. On start-up the user may select either the MAC OS or Windows as the operating system.

This new capability had been rumored for some time, and many pundits had assumed that, sooner or later, it would be possible to run Windows on a MAC with an Intel processor. That possibility was so enticing that there was even a widely-publicized contest for the first person to create a process for running Windows on one of the new MACs. A success was reported quickly, but the surprise was the speed with which Apple itself supplied a downloadable file to permit users to install and run Windows on the new MACs.

Because I use AutoCAD and had recently bought one of the Intel-based MACs, this was news that I found to be wonderful. Some readers will recall that I have been using AutoCAD® on MACs by running Virtual PC® (see "Virtual PC® and AutoCAD® on CSA's MAC Computers," CSA Newsletter, XVII, 3; Winter, 2005: http://csanet.org/newsletter/winter05/nlw0507.html). That permits me to run Windows as a task under the MAC OS, but running Windows as a task under the MAC OS means that it runs slowly (and it will not run at all on the Intel-based MACs). This is quite acceptable for many applications, and it does permit me to copy and paste between Windows and MAC programs.

I downloaded and installed the new program to prepare for installing Windows immediately, bought a copy of Windows XP Professional®, and installed it. The new system is completely different from Windows under Virtual PC. I can now run Windows on the MAC as if I were running it on a standard PC; the difference is effectively nil. It runs fast. I have done no careful testing, but AutoCAD seems to run faster than it does on our Pentium 4 PC. (The MAC keyboard lacks some of the PC keys; so there are some differences. For instance, the standard keyboard on my the Intel-based laptop does not have keys for capturing the current screen as an image.)

The disadvantage is that Windows and the MAC OS are not running at the same time. To use Windows, one must start the computer from off. To run the MAC OS, one must similarly start the computer from off. Files can be saved and shared, of course, but copy-and-paste between MAC and Windows programs is not possible. A very small price to pay for having a fast Windows machine and a fast MAC in one package.

For me, as a dedicated MAC user with specific needs in the Windows world, running Windows on the MAC is a great benefit. In addition, I have often had to advise students about computers to purchase, and I have felt it necessary to recommend PCs to many of them because of AutoCAD and GIS programs. (I see no other area where PC software needed for archaeology is significantly better than MAC software.) It pained me to do that because I greatly prefer the MAC interface and value the UNIX core that has helped to make MACs less vulnerable to attacks from hackers. Now I can recommend the computer I prefer without concern for the Windows software that may one day be required -- assuming the buyer is willing to pay a premium since Windows must be purchased separately and MACs tend to be a bit more expensive.

-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

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