Which version of Vista for game-playing in Boot Camp?
December 2, 2013 5:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm a late adaptor. After much happy gaming in Windows XP (via Boot Camp on my Mac), I am finally getting around to Vista-only games like Assassin's Creed III. So it's time to take the plunge and buy a copy of Vista on eBay. But which version? 64-bit or 32-bit? Service pack 1, 2, or 3? Starter, basic, or ultimate? Home or business? As somebody who isn't well-versed in Windows to begin with, I'm finding the choice a little overwhelming. I will be using Windows exclusively for gaming and don't care about any other features. Also, note that Windows Vista is the latest Windows my 2006 Mac Pro will support, so unfortunately "Skip straight to Windows 7 or 8" isn't an option.

(PS: I've tried googling, but the information I turn up is (not surprisingly) years out of date, and often hinges on things like "64-bit drivers aren't yet widely available," which I assume would no longer be the case.)
posted by yankeefog to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Windows Vista is the latest Windows my 2006 Mac Pro will support

Given that Windows 7 and Windows Vista have identical driver models and quite similar kernels, I would be very surprised to find a box capable of running Vista that wouldn't run 7 at least as well. And Windows 7 is enough better than Vista from a user point of view that in your position I would be researching all possibilities for getting 7 to work before even contemplating Vista.
posted by flabdablet at 5:54 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you search the web for 5ed2584110e03f498db4458ba9fafd5a7ef602ed you will find any number of dodgy download sites offering you an ISO image of the Windows 7 Professional with SP1 Retail setup DVD. That's its SHA1 checksum; use any SHA1 checking tool to verify that what you've downloaded matches that checksum before burning it to disc.

If it installs and runs, you'll then need to acquire a legitimate product key by spending actual money to make it activate. If it doesn't, you're out nothing but time and you can keep on burrowing down the Vista rabbit hole.

Betcha it does run, though.
posted by flabdablet at 6:07 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hmm... Interesting. I just trusted the official Apple position on this and didn't investigate the possibility of Windows 7 A bit of googling finds this method for installing Windows 7. It certainly seems doable.

So let me change my question to this one: which version of Windows 7 should I get?

posted by yankeefog at 6:28 AM on December 2, 2013

Home Premium is probably as low cost as it's reasonable to go. Professional has fewer arbitrary and irritating limitations but costs a little more. Whichever you go for, get a 64-bit edition that includes Service Pack 1.
posted by flabdablet at 6:40 AM on December 2, 2013

Professional includes the right to run XP Mode, a nicely integrated virtual machine host that runs Windows XP inside Windows 7. That probably won't work inside Parallels because nested VMs need more hardware support than you're likely to find in a 2006 machine; should be OK with Boot Camp and might give you a way to keep using games that fail in Vista/7.
posted by flabdablet at 6:43 AM on December 2, 2013

which version of Windows 7 should I get?

Home Premium. You probably won't need the features in Pro (mostly networking), and you probably can't even get Home Basic anyway.
posted by valkyryn at 6:55 AM on December 2, 2013

Here are the downloads to try. They're hosted by Digital River, the company that MS contracted to be their download host for the official ISOs. You should be able to run it for 30 days without a key in order to try it out. 30 days may be long enough for your high seas whaling adventure. On the other hand, Win7 is one of the better versions of windows for gaming, right up there with Win98SE.

Windows 7 Home Premium x86 with SP1 (bootable) (that is, 32-bit)
Windows 7 Home Premium x64 with SP1 (bootable)

Here's a list of all the versions.

And if you decide you want to go with Vista, here are those downloads. I tested one, and the link was live.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:03 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

On my 2006 Mac Pro (1,1), Windows 7 32-bit runs fine. Installed via Bootcamp normally. I also downloaded Nvidia's latest drivers for the Mac and use a non-Apple graphics card. Runs every game I've tried, although not in Ultra, usually a combination of medium and high. Search for tweak guides specific to the games you want to play.
posted by conrad53 at 7:47 AM on December 2, 2013

Yeah, WIn7 is the way to go. Vista isn't the shitshow its reputation would lead you to expect, but 7 is subtly better in dozens of ways.

64 bit is required if you want to use for than three gig of memory; this isn't actually a significant limitation, in my experience, even a modded out the ass Skyrim only uses 2 gig. However if either will work then go with 64 bit just to cut out a potentially annoying limitation and futureproof yourself a little more.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:45 PM on December 2, 2013

go with 64 bit just to cut out a potentially annoying limitation and futureproof yourself a little more

This is good advice. When I initially set up Windows 7 on all our school workstations, I went with 32-bit because at the time there were some compatibility issues with some of the software and some of the printers in use in the school. All those issues have since gone away, and I'm using 64-bit for all our new workstation installations and have not yet had cause to regret it.

I intend to ignore Windows 8 for the same reason I ignored Vista: MS has a pretty solid track record of getting new features irritatingly wrong. Windows 7 is basically Vista with most of the new-feature annoyances ironed out, and I'm hoping the same will be true of whatever comes after 8/8.1.
posted by flabdablet at 5:49 PM on December 2, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody. That's really helpful. Off to search ebay for Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium, and then it's Templar-killing time!
posted by yankeefog at 3:31 AM on December 3, 2013

Be aware that all versions of Windows come in both OEM and retail flavours, and that the product keys for one won't work to install the other. The OEM flavour is usually substantially cheaper, but its end user licence agreement doesn't let you install it on an existing machine; it's cheaper because it's supposed to be used only by "system builders" i.e. people putting computers together from parts.

As far as I know there are currently no technical measures Microsoft can use to distinguish an existing computer from a just-built one, but Mac hardware is pretty easy to identify and they may decide at some point that since nobody but Apple puts a Mac together from parts and Apple don't supply boxes with Windows pre-installed, an OEM Windows running on Apple hardware should deactivate itself.
posted by flabdablet at 7:54 AM on December 3, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, flabdablet. Good to know.
posted by yankeefog at 1:05 PM on December 3, 2013

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