Software

Windows on Mac: What you need to know

Using Windows

Will any Windows program run on a Mac if it’s using Windows XP?

In our testing to date, pretty much everything has run. Remember that a Mac running XP is actually just like any PC running XP. So assuming your hardware matches the requirements, that program should run. We’ve tested Office 2003, Photoshop, and Dragon Naturally Speaking, and all three appear to work just fine.

What limitations are there to a Mac running Windows XP?

Windows XP can’t use the built-in iSight camera on the MacBook Pro and iMac, nor can it use the MacBook Pro’s keyboard backlighting. There’s no support for the Apple USB Modem. And there’s no support for the Apple Remote. And not all keys are supported on Apple Bluetooth keyboards.

How does Windows perform on a Mac?

According to PC World’s WorldBench 5 testing tool, about as well as on comparable PCs. Keep in mind that the processing technology used in the first round of Intel-based Macs is essentially a laptop technology; Apple used it not only for its MacBook Pro laptop, but for its two ultra-compact desktop systems, the iMac and Mac mini. As a result, all of those systems perform in comparable fashion to PC laptops with similar specs.

What we haven’t seen yet from Apple is a high-performance desktop Mac with an Intel chip inside. And until we do, we won’t really know how a desktop Mac running Windows would compare to a PC counterpart.

Well, I’m sold. What kind of software am I going to need for my Windows-on-Mac experience—utilities and the like?

You’ll definitely want an anti-virus solution of some sort; there are many out there to pick from, and given that we’re Mac users here, we’re not sure which one might be best. But here are some free ones to start with:

  • Google Pack: A collection of free programs from Google, including a special version of Norton Anti-Virus with six months’ of free virus updates. Also includes Ad-Aware SE Personal, a free spyware/adware removal tool.
  • AVG Anti-Virus: A free anti-virus tool that’s had some good reviews on the net.
  • We’ve also worked with our sister publication PC World to come up with this list of the best PC antivirus programs.

    You may need some other utilities as well, depending on your particular situation. If you’re using a MacBook Pro, or future Intel laptop, for instance, you’ll find you can’t right click, which is a key action in Windows. You’ll need the free Apple Mouse Utility to fix that problem.

    If you’re using an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, you may find the Eject and Volume keys don’t work. We’re not yet aware of an easy fix for either of these. For the Eject key, however, you can install the freeware program CD Tray Pal. This app puts a CD icon in your task bar, so you can eject discs without opening a Computer window and right=clicking on the disc’s icon.

    Back up a second— viruses ? Am I at risk to those if I run Windows XP on the Mac?

    Absolutely. When you’re running Windows, your Mac is no different from any other PC running Windows. You should probably protect yourself by installing Windows antivirus software; you can find a summary of Windows-compatible virus fighters here.

    That doesn’t mean my Mac OS is vulnerable to viruses, does it?

    That’s a complicated question. By default, Windows XP can’t see Mac hard-drive volumes. So if your Windows installation was infected by a virus that tried to delete files on your hard drives, it wouldn’t even see your Mac files and they’d be safe. But if you install a program like Mediafour’s MacDrive, which gives Windows XP the ability to see Mac volumes, your files could be vulnerable to a virus that deletes files.

    When you’re running Mac OS X, even on an Intel-based Mac, you’re not susceptible to Windows-based viruses.

    How do I move files back and forth between the Windows and Mac OS X environments?

    You’ve got a few different options. If you format your Windows volume as FAT32 (limitation: files can’t be any bigger than 4GB, and the partition must be less than 32GB), Mac OS X will be able to see the drive and even write files to it. If you format the volume with the NTFS format, your Mac will be able to see the drive, but won’t be able to write files to it.

    Windows, by default, can’t see Mac volumes at all. You’ll need to install a utility such as Mediafour’s MacDrive to give it that power.

    Will my iTunes Music Store songs play under Windows XP just like they do when I’m running OS X?

    Yes they will. However, you’ll need to authorize your Windows XP installation to play back store files—meaning your Mac will now count as two authorized iTunes computers. (You can only authorize five computers at a time per iTunes account.)

    I’ve already used my Windows and Office registration numbers on my PC. Can I use those same numbers on my Mac?

    If the license agreement for the software restricts it to one machine only, then no. Some programs allow for multiple installs, but you’ll have to check the license agreement. Windows and Office are one-machine licenses, so you’ll have to purchase additional copies.

    Since we’re going to have to wait some time for Adobe’s products to run natively on Intel-based Macs, could I get better performance if I buy the Windows versions now and run them on a Mac using XP?

    Those programs will run at the full speed of the native Windows versions. So you may well see better performance running them natively under Windows than using OS X’s Rosetta emulation technology. However, if you hope to run those applications natively in the Mac OS, you may want to hold off as it’s highly unlikely Adobe is going to provide a free-crossgrade from the Windows versions of its tool to the Universal Binary version that runs under Mac OS X.

    How do I invoke the Windows key combinations such as right-click and Control-Alt-Delete?

    For right-clicking, we’ve already mentioned the Apple Mouse Utility. The keyboard combination Command-Shift-F10 will also bring up the same menu as the traditional right click on a mouse. And there’s also this keyboard remapper optimized for the MacBook Pro.

    Control-Alt-Delete is really only an issue for the MacBook Pro, as it lacks a true Delete Key. OnMac recommends this fix: Go to Start -> Run and enter

    remapkey
    for a utility to let you remap keys on your keyboard. OnMac suggests using the Right Command key on MacBook Pro keyboards—save and reboot, and you’ll be able to use Control-Alt-Right Command to act as your Control-Alt-Delete.

    Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter

    Comments