How well does Windows run on a Macbook?
August 30, 2006 7:22 AM   Subscribe

How well does Windows run on a Macbook?

Rumor around the office is that my boss is getting everyone new laptops. I'm not sure if this includes me, because I have the best computer in the office (a kick-a PC...everyone else runs iMacs) and already own a personal laptop. If I'm included on the gravytrain, it would be easiest for the office if I got a MacBook like everyone else instead of getting a PC laptop. I'd still have to run at least one program (Dreamweaver) on the laptop, at least for a little while, and the last time I tried running DW on a Mac, it...sucked.

Can I boot to Windows once in a while to use Dreamweaver and not even notice that I'm using a Mac? How seamless is the Windows integration into Mac? Tech specs seem to suggest so, but I'd like to hear person-to-person what your experience has been like. I could get a Lenovo T Series, but Macbooks are just so shiny...
posted by sjuhawk31 to Technology (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
yeah, but for what you're talking about Parallels would be better than rebooting.
posted by rbs at 7:34 AM on August 30, 2006

I have a Black Macbook w/2GB of RAM and i run Windows XP Pro in Parallels.

Parallels is fantastic. Windows applications run full speed. Copying and pasting between Mac and WinXP is simple and file sharing between the two OSes is simple once you've got it set up.

I've not tried Bootcamp - but really don't think it would be handy for me for day to day tasks.

The only downside of Parallels is that most games (esp. newer games) will either not run or suffer from huge performance problems.
posted by schwa at 7:40 AM on August 30, 2006

Oh. And you will need more than the 512MB of RAM that ships with the Mac book. I tried to use Parallels when i initially got my Macbook (a day or two before my RAM arrived) and it was painfully slow. You really need at least 1GB of RAM to run Parallels and I'd recommend more.
posted by schwa at 7:41 AM on August 30, 2006

Another vote for Parallels. My Mac mini has only 512 MB of RAM, but for what I do (Firefox, PuTTY, etc.) it's perfectly adequate. I did have some bad luck with a scanner driver running in Parallels and causing a BSOD, but I can't tell whether it was the driver or Parallels or both.

Still, a great piece of software.
posted by cmyers at 7:45 AM on August 30, 2006

If you boot to Windows using BootCamp, there isn't really any integration to speak of. They're two separate worlds.

I can wholeheartedly recommend Parallels as well. I run Visual Studio 2003, which is a real pig, and it's more than fast enough. You can copy files between the OS X and Window side via a shared folder visible to both environments, or just mount either side as a network drive on the other.

If you go the Parallels route, make sure to get the full 2GB memory.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:49 AM on August 30, 2006

Response by poster: I never even knew about Parallels...never heard of it. That shows how PC-oriented I've always been.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 7:55 AM on August 30, 2006

Response by poster: And schwa, I don't imagine I'll be running games on my computer for much longer. I play EA Sports games on my home PC now, but I'll soon be buying a next-gen console (likely the shiny Wii) so I won't need to game on the computer.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 7:58 AM on August 30, 2006

I own a MacBook with 2GB of RAM. After testing both BootCamp and Parallels, I went with Parallels as the ultimate solution. It rocks, and it's so much nicer to be able to launch Windows whenever I want without having to reboot the system.

I run Adobe FrameMaker 7.2 inside Parallels, among other things, and it Just Works. There are a few things with Parallels that are still a little shaky (e.g., USB 2.0 support) but for running occasional Windows apps, even very demanding ones, it's perfect.

Get the MacBook, max out the memory, install Parallels, WinXp and whatever Windows apps you'll need. You'll love it.
posted by enrevanche at 8:09 AM on August 30, 2006

Response by poster: Okay, MeFites, you've very nearly convinced me on the Mac love. But is there a cheaper solution to maxing out the memory? $500 to put in the necessary memory pre-shipment seems like a lot. But then again I haven't busted open a computer since high school, opting instead to buy good stuff out-of-box.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 8:13 AM on August 30, 2006

I'll add another vote for Parallels - but let me also say that (at least as far as Dreamweaver 8 is concerned) the performance and feature set are every bit as good as DW on the PC.
posted by jcummings1974 at 8:14 AM on August 30, 2006,, all have cheap, reliable RAM for Macs. For NewEgg I would check the comments to ensure perfect compatability, but never buy RAM from Apple. It's bad enough they overcharge for the hardware. :-)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:18 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

I never even knew about Parallels...never heard of it

I don't think many people had before the Intel Macs came out. VMWare is pretty much the 800 pound gorilla of the virtualization industry, but their OS X product isn't in beta yet. (Hmmm, looks like they removed the Parallels icon from the dock in that screenshot , though.)

Apple's memory upgrades are insanely expensive. Your best bet would probably to be buy a pre-customized laptop at an Apple retailer. Failing that, order it with the minimum (512MB) and buy 2GB somewhere else (I've always had good service from; they're currently selling 2GB for $268.)
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:21 AM on August 30, 2006

I bought two 1GB sticks of the Patriot stuff at Newegg for like $75 each. Works great.
posted by rbs at 8:40 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you can pick your vendor, Tekserve will ship you a MacBook with Parallels and Windows already installed.
posted by nicwolff at 8:54 AM on August 30, 2006

Ditto what everyone else said about NOT buying Apple RAM (Although with the Mac Pro their RAM Is actually very competitive).

Buy the RAM 3rd party.

But dont be afraid of adding RAM to a macbook, you just turn it off, take out the battery, unscrew a small panel in the battery compartment (a little fidly if your screwdriver is too long), use two levers to pop out the existing RAM, then put your RAM in, put the panel back on and the battery back in and you're done

The Macbook is a GREAT computer. It really is one of the best computers Apple have ever released. The only downside is the GPU is awful (integrated intel POS).
posted by schwa at 9:16 AM on August 30, 2006

But if you add your own memory, aren't you voiding the warranty and/or applecare?
posted by bingo at 9:45 AM on August 30, 2006

No, it's considered a user-servicable part (which is why Apple gives you instructions on how to do it in the user guide).
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:47 AM on August 30, 2006

I believe you can also user-service the HD on a MacBook.
posted by clango at 9:54 AM on August 30, 2006

I believe you can also user-service the HD on a MacBook.

Not entirely true.

The Apple Authorized Service Provider I used to work for, from whom I bought my MacBook, and in whose back room I installed my own RAM, informed me that I was voiding my warranty by putting in a 100gb 7200rpm hard disk. It's the 7200rpm bit that does it - no MacBooks (except, of course, the Pros) ship with 5400rpm drives, and they drain the battery mroe quickly.

Solution: I kept the 5400rpm 80gb disk that I took out, and keep it in a firewire caddy for use as an external hard disk. If I ever need my MacBook serviced (which I will as soon as I get back from Spain, because despite already exchanging my first Black MacBook for this one [30 second beachball issue], the laptop has, this week, contracted the RSD issue) I can just swap the original disk back in.
posted by armoured-ant at 10:28 AM on August 30, 2006

Oh, and, Parallels is shit hot on my 2ghz Black MacBook, with 2gb of RAM. And a 7200rpm disk.
posted by armoured-ant at 10:30 AM on August 30, 2006

Would you recommend buying Parallels from Amazon or downloading it from Apple? Besides having to pay for it on Amazon, is there a difference?
posted by spakto at 11:07 AM on August 30, 2006

You can't download Parallels from Apple. You might be thinking of Boot Camp, which is different. Apple's Boot Camp is free and lets you reboot to run Windows. Parallels is an $80 third-party product, and lets you run Windows and Mac OS X at the same time, without rebooting.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:22 AM on August 30, 2006

What about this?
posted by spakto at 11:28 AM on August 30, 2006

To use it you need to buy an activation key or register for a 15-day free trial.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:34 AM on August 30, 2006

enrevanche or others with MacBooks and Parallels: How well does Parallels do when the computer is put to sleep? Does it handle sleep OK, or do you have to quit out of your Windows session before shutting the lid?
posted by harkin banks at 11:37 AM on August 30, 2006

Does it handle sleep OK, or do you have to quit out of your Windows session before shutting the lid?

I've never had a problem. I leave my Windows session running for days, including apps that expect an Internet connection to be active when they're woken up.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:54 AM on August 30, 2006

Does Parallels support accelerated graphics yet? I'm interested in doing the same thing as the OP, but I'd like to run high end MCADD (solidworks).
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:16 PM on August 30, 2006

If I don't do much more than word processing and web surfing, will parallels run okay on a 1.83 processor?
posted by bingo at 1:21 PM on August 30, 2006

Just helped my boss set up a 17" Macbook with Parallels running XP so he could use AutoCAD (2D only though, not sure how high-end-graphics that is). Pretty sweet once we figured out how to get right-clicking and all those other Windows shortcuts enabled. I think my next machine will have to be a Mac now.
posted by casarkos at 2:23 PM on August 30, 2006

Does Parallels support accelerated graphics yet?

The current beta has "video output improvement and acceleration" (whatever that means). They also claim to be working on accelerated 3D graphics.

If I don't do much more than word processing and web surfing, will parallels run okay on a 1.83 processor?

Yes, the processor won't make nearly as much difference as being able to give it lots of memory.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 6:13 PM on August 30, 2006

the first 5 comments or so sum it up

paralells, if you don't need any 3d accelleration, is a god among mortals (as far as the software world goes), but it needs the thunderbolt of zeus that is 2gb of ram...seriously
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 7:53 PM on August 30, 2006

first: A question for anyone running Parallels...

are there any issues with the "authentication" of Windows under Parallels. i.e. I have windows installed in the bootcamp-created partition currently, and it's authorized for this one machine.
if I were to purchase Parallels and install it, can it run the version installed on the second partition, and how about that authentication? will the iMac, running OS X running windows appear to be a different machine?

and now, the comments:

I'll chime in and say that I bet any intel mac needs a RAM upgrade.

I bought a 20" iMac a few months ago, expecting a shit-hot machine, even with just 512MB (was planning to save my pennies after the initial expense and buy more RAM anyway).
I came from a 600Mhz Pentium III-based machine with 512MB, running WinXP, SP1, and after 6 years it had finally reached the limit for me. I run Photoshop and audio editing/processing apps as well as bread-and-butter Web/email/Word processing-type stuff.

Long story short: I've been watching a "spinning rainbow" cursor for far, far, far too much of the time, doing simple, concurrent tasks like listening to iTunes, surfing the web, reading my email, and downloading "stuff" from Usenet. Apps like safari can (sometimes) take so-ooo long to load that I think they've hung on me. And don't get me started on how long DreamWeaver takes...[maybe I've got a virus.../jk]
When I boot under Windows XP, SP2, using BootCamp, everything runs very fast (esp. compared to my old 600Mhz PC). The main problem is that some of my apps can't "see" the DVD burner (Wavelab...grrr!).

I've read comments on Apple's forums that corroborate this, too: the intel Macs NEED more than the stock 512MB to get your money's worth of the hardware. If I can hazard a guess, the lower RAM in a stock machine is a price-point decision, not the optimum for doing real work. :)

<possibly flammable>
another mefite and I have argued over this:
"Of course you'll want more than 512MB of RAM! What year is this? You need more RAM these days.
To which I (now) reply:
"Hey! WinXP The Much-Maligned, sings on my iMac with 512 MB, and did a very serviceable job on my 6-year old Pentium III machine, too. Maybe it's the "pretty" Mac OSX interface that eats up so much system resources? :)
</possible flame bait>
posted by I, Credulous at 11:31 AM on August 31, 2006

I, Credulous: I have a gig of ram and still see the pinwheel too often. Safari in particular does a terrible job of memory management - quit and restart it once in a while, or use another browser and you might find things improve.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:39 PM on September 1, 2006

thanks, PE, glad to know I'm not alone in this.
I use Firefox (happily!) in the windows environment, and at work, but wasn't so thrilled with the way it ran on the Mac. Maybe I'll try it again...
posted by I, Credulous at 4:39 AM on September 2, 2006

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