My summer with Bootcamp

By Ron Ellis


Bootcamp is here. Probably not the bootcamp you’re thinking of though. This bootcamp has to do with a new way to boot a Macintosh, and in the case of the new Intel Macs, they can do some cool new tricks. The most important thing Bootcamp can do though is allow a Mac run Windows natively. It has to be an Intel Mac, and it has to be Windows XP Service Pack 2, but the Mac is now open for the Windows world.

Some of you reading this may wonder why would you want to run Windows on a Mac. One reason is that if you are a small shop you may no longer have to have that old PC in the corner. You can have one computer that can run the Macintosh OS most of the time and Windows for the occasional PC job that comes in. Another good reason is for administrative purposes.

Anyone who is responsible for installing and maintaining systems and networks may be interested in being able to run both operating systems on their Mac. Most prepress system administrators have to be fluent in both Windows and Mac OS’s and having one computer that can do that is helpful. (I used to have to carry a Mac laptop and a PC laptop and now only have to carry one). Also, anyone who uses mostly Macintosh software, but has a few PC applications they need to run, such as corporate email, job tracking or other windows applications will find the ability to run multiple operating systems valuable.


How bootcamp works

So how does bootcamp work? How is it different from old ways of running Windows on a Mac such as Microsoft’s Virtual PC? Any of you who have run a copy of Virtual PC on an old Mac can remember how slow and painful it was. If you had a to run a Windows application you could, but programs like Virtual PC never broke any speed records. Even though I had it on my Mac I used to always avoid running it unless I had to. I found it easier to carry a PC laptop in addition to the Mac.

The new Macs are called Intel Macs because they have Intel chips and hardware inside instead of the Motorola chips that used to be used. The new Intel chips are both good and bad. Good because in the long run they will be faster and more powerful, but there are some negatives. One of them is the current Mac version of Adobe Creative Suite applications are not optimized for the Intel Macs and runs significantly slower than on the the old Macs (Adobe is supposed to fix this in the fall). One of the key benefits is that because we are running on an Intel Chipset we can natively run Windows. This means no more emulation mode — when running Windows we have direct access to the chips and hardware. And the Intel Macs don’t just run Windows. They run Windows fast. Very fast. (It seems like Windows runs faster on an Intel Mac than OSX).

With the newest Intel Macs and the newest OSX update we can run Windows natively several ways. The first is by using Apple beta software called Bootcamp. With Bootcamp we can install Windows right onto our Mac, and then can use an Apple driver CD to load the appropriate Windows drivers for the hardware. It is quick and easy. All it requires is the updated OS, Bootcamp, and  Windows XP SP2 install disk. The process is guided by the bootcamp wizard and I found it easier than the traditional OS load often is on a PC.

In addition to Bootcamp, there is another way to run Windows as well. New software called Parallels Desktop also allows you to run a Windows while you are in the Macintosh operating system. Unlike Bootcamp, with Parallels Desktop you boot into the OS X and then run the Parallels Desktop application which boots windows as a virtual machine. Anyone who has used other virtual machine applications such as virtual PC may say “Wait a minute,  that doesn’t sound good.” It’s not the same though because older applications such as VirtualPC had to emulate or create a simulation of an Intel chip they suffered dramatic performance problems. Because Parallels Desktop is simply passing information onto a real Intel chipset, the performance penalties are not as steep, and are estimated to be between five to 8 percent in tests they have performed by the magazine MacWorld in a recent issue.

The Intel Macs are dual core and really fast, so for most people, losing this small bit of performance is a small price to pay for not having to reboot their Mac to run windows. For many applications this is a good way to have both worlds at the same time.

Parallels Desktop also supports passing data between the operating systems using the clipboard, or a shared folder. Parallels Desktop also does not require Windows XP SP2 to run. It can run any flavor or version of Windows, as well as other Intel operating systems such as Linux.


Why Bootcamp may be a good alternative

If Parallels Desktop can do all this then why use Bootcamp? There are still some reasons that Bootcamp may be better for you. If you need every ounce of performance from your computer, then you will have a slight edge running in Bootcamp. If you need direct access to the video cards for applications such as computer games or video card intensive, BootCamp is a good alternative. For running RIPs and other applications that require dongles and processing power, I run Bootcamp rather than the more convenient Parallels Desktop. If you spend a significant amount of time in Windows, then Bootcamp makes sense. If you are only doing one or two things in Windows and are mostly working on the Mac, the Parallels Desktop may make more sense.

Is running Windows on a Mac for everyone? Probably not, but for many of us the ability to run Windows on a Mac lets us do more, and with only one computer. And for Windows users considering a switch — there’s no reason not to now. You can have your windows and your Mac too. For more information on Parallels Desktop, you can access:; for Apple Bootcamp, visit


About the author: Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He worked in the commercial printing industry for 18 years and brings a strong background to all aspects of prepress. He has consulted on numerous CTP installations and he provides color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at