Windows on a new Mac: Safe?
February 22, 2008 8:21 PM   Subscribe

I want to install Windows XP on my Mac through Bootcamp. I want to do this for purely frivolous reasons... I want to play games. Has anyone had any bad problems as a result of doing this?

I have a new MacBook Pro, 2.4 Ghz, 4 G RAM. I use it sporadically for my work as an art director. It has a big hard drive and I'm thinking of installing Windows to play games on it. I'm mostly interested in older RPG titles (Morrowind, Neverwinter Nights, etc.) so I'm pretty sure the minimum specs are fine and I'm not concerned about that.

I just want to know if there are any pitfalls associated with installing Windows on my new shiny Mac that I need for work. I don't plan on ever being online while in Windows OS, by the way.

Am I putting this computer at risk? Am I asking for trouble? Or is this OK?

Any advice, experiences, cautions or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks.
posted by jeff-o-matic to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I installed xp on my macbook to play games. It worked just fine.

As far as I understand it, having windows installed on your mac doesn't make it more vulnerable, security-wise, when you're booted into mac os. When you're in windows, all the normal windows risks apply. If you get some nasty virus/spyware, it won't be able to touch your mac os partition.

Use firefox. Make sure you have xp service pack 2. Get a good free anti-virus program like AVG. You should be fine.
posted by kpmcguire at 8:30 PM on February 22, 2008

Nope. I have done that on a couple of macs. The only thing that has ever gone wrong for me is that I didn't make the windows partitions large enough, and had to resize them. That was a pain, so make sure you save enough space.
posted by procrastination at 8:32 PM on February 22, 2008

procrastination: How much room would you suggest?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:34 PM on February 22, 2008

I have XP installed on a partition on my MacBook Pro. No problems to report.
posted by danb at 8:41 PM on February 22, 2008

On a PC I would recommend 10GB for the Windows partition, 5GB as a bare minimum.

While a normal Windows XP installation will not use more than 2-3GB, updating it will make it grow a lot. Add the paging file, the fact that there are programs that will not install anywhere but the OS partition and you may start getting problems at low partition sizes.

Of course, this applies is when you have separate partitions for the OS and data. If you have everything together just add 10GB to whatever space you want for installing apps.
posted by Memo at 8:42 PM on February 22, 2008

(Also, for what it's worth, I have 2.33 GHz and 2 GB RAM and I've played Oblivion and Portal without any problems. Morrowind should be blazing fast.)
posted by danb at 8:42 PM on February 22, 2008

Windows works wonderfully through Bootcamp on my MacBook Pro. In fact, the fastest Windows Vista PC is a MacBook Pro :)

As for XP , it works fine, as well, of course. I had no trouble playing Crysis on my 'Book, for example. So who says Macs aren't game machines? :)

BTW, I recommend using VMWare Fusion if you install Windows, as it will allow to switch between Mac and PC apps without having to boot into each OS. Of course, your PC games will run a lot better if you boot into the PC partition.
posted by newfers at 8:42 PM on February 22, 2008

The only thing that has ever gone wrong for me is that I didn't make the windows partitions large enough, and had to resize them.

It's less painful with Leopard; Leopard lets you adjust partition size without wiping the volume.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:43 PM on February 22, 2008

It depends on the games you play. I used 20GB. XP service pack 2 takes up about 5 GB, and the game I am playing takes up 8, so I have room for one more large game. I originally did 8GB, which was way too small.
posted by procrastination at 8:43 PM on February 22, 2008

You may find that the older games you're interested in would run adequately under virtualization. This has the drawback of driving up your cost to the tune of about $50 to $100, but the advantage of taking up only as much hard drive space as you really need. It also means you don't have to shut everything down and reboot just to play a quick game. Windows XP runs quite well in a GB of RAM. Finally, it sandboxes the Windows environment neatly away from your precious Macintosh-side applications and data.

I ran Bootcamp on my MBP for a while and grew to resent the wasted space in the Windows partition, but I didn't mess around with games that much. I now run VMWare Fusion and loooooove it.

Couldn't hurt to try; both vendors have free trialware:

VMWare Fusion
(Free trial)

(Free trial)
posted by ZakDaddy at 8:45 PM on February 22, 2008

Sure it's safe. It's even safer if you use something like VMare Fusion. You can use your BootCamp partition as a virtual machine, which is pretty convenient.

I'm currently using my BootCamp partition with Parallels. It's not bad, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. It does some stuff to your boot.ini file and if your computer crashes while in Parallels it can break things (not permanently, but enough that you'll have to buy or borrow a copy of Disk Warrior to get things working right again)
posted by stefanie at 8:46 PM on February 22, 2008

It is absolutely safe in that there is little risk to your existing Mac OS partition (since Windows can't even read it). Just make sure you keep on top of the Windows updates and virus scanner definition updates, etc. Better yet, if you run Windows only for games, only use it for games. The less time you spend online under Windows the better your chance of keeping it clean.

For the VMWare crowd, my favorite VMWare Fusion trick under Leopard is putting VMWare in its own space using Spaces. I can then CTRL+arrow back and forth between MacOS and full-screen Windows instantly. So nice.
posted by bigtex at 8:56 PM on February 22, 2008

It's very safe, I haven't had any problems. I know 5 friends who have done it successfully.
Now, getting Gentoo on your mac.. that can be a pain.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 9:04 PM on February 22, 2008

I've been running windows exclusively for about half a year on my macbook. The only strange thing I noticed is that Clinton did not do so good in the nomination. Not so sure there is a connection though.
posted by markovich at 12:29 AM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

the fastest Windows Vista PC is a MacBook Pro :)

That's not actually correct. PC World decided that was true for about a month, because Apple (via Asus) was one of the first to ship Intel's Core 2 Duo T7700 ("Merom") chipset in a thin notebook form factor. You can now get equivalent notebooks on sale in Best Buy for $500. So it goes. You want the fastest now, you probably want a Blackhawk, an XPS, or a Sager, which will destroy pretty much any commodity notebook.
posted by meehawl at 12:45 AM on February 23, 2008

If you get some nasty virus/spyware, it won't be able to touch your mac os partition.

This is incorrect. Anything physically connected to your computer (including 'unmounted' partitions on the hard disk) can be vulnerable if you are running a compromised operating system. It's technically possible for a worm that has compromised XP to detect your OS X install and do something nasty to it. It's also possible for a virus or a system utility to damage your OS X partition unintentionally. Both of these scenarios aren't nearly as likely as 'user error', where you accidentally reformat your OS X partition when installing Windows.

That said, I use my MBP for Windows XP gaming (I've successfully run Knights of the Old Republic and several other games in that generation). I say go ahead and make the install. But please, if you have any important data, back it up. I'm not trying to scare you off, but you are increasing your risk by running XP.

Two tips. Know how to use your Leopard install disc to repair your system if there's ever a problem, and keep it close. Also, when booting, if you hold the option key down, it allows you to select which partition to boot from.
posted by onalark at 1:28 AM on February 23, 2008

I bought my Macbook Pro about 3 months ago, and have had it dual-booted (OSX/XP) pretty much since Day 1. Everything works fine. In fact, the main reason I bought the Macbook Pro was to install Windows and play Half-Life 2, which it does quite enjoyably. ;) I probably spend slightly more time on the Windows side, but thats just because I'm a 10year Windows IT veteran, so thats where my comfort zone is.

I know I'll catch hell for saying this, but the stability and virus problems most often attributed to running Windows are vastly overstated. The bulk cause of most of these problems is human error (people not updating their boxes, not running anti-virus, or making really dumb decisions about running programs/attachments they shouldnt be.) Sure, Microsoft has made its share of mistakes (example: Windows ME = oh jesus why?).. but to blame MS for idiot users blissfully installing spyware infected animated cursor packages or virus packaged screensavers is not entirely fair.
posted by jmnugent at 5:10 AM on February 23, 2008

Just to comment on partition sizes: 5-10 GB will be fine for just running XP and various apps -- but games, even older ones, take up a lot of space. IIRC, NWN takes up 1.5GB or so, not counting the extension packs. I'd recommend more like 20GB for Windows if you can spare it.

Oh, and on an unrelated note if you like NWN you should have a look into the Community Expansion Pack; it's a very extensive mod for the game that adds psionics as well as loads of extra spells and stuff. Hours more playtime o_0.
posted by katrielalex at 5:31 AM on February 23, 2008

I'd second the 20GB for Windows, even that might be a bit small. I'm in the same boat as you, bootcamp so I can play games. The only games I play are Steam related, but having Team Fortress 2, HL2 parts x, y, z Portal, Day of Deafeat and Counter Strike is enough to leave me a bit less than 3 gigs of free space.

The only problems I've encountered with Bootcamp were:
a. The first time I set it up I couldn't get 6gb of contiguous space on my drive, let alone 20. I wasn't able to solve this until I installed iDefrag. I had been using my Mac for a while before I did this though, so if you haven't been filling up your drive it might not be a problem.

b. For some reason most of the time when I reboot to Windows I have to completely unplug my apple cinema display and plug it back in for it to be recognized.
posted by furtive at 6:54 AM on February 23, 2008

posted by kirkaracha at 7:41 AM on February 23, 2008

Thanks a lot everyone.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:01 AM on February 23, 2008

One thing that will minimize risk of infection through your windows boot is to simply not do anything other than gaming on it. Don't use it for casual web browsing or trying new programs. Use it like an XBOX and it should minimize exposure considerably.

Also, find a guide online about how to disable Windows features that hinder gaming, but are useful for productivity and internet usage (which you won't be doing on that boot). Get that Windows install down to fighting weight.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 10:38 AM on February 23, 2008

procrastination: How do you resize the windows partition? I'm starting to run out of space and I'll like to make it a bit bigger (I'm running Tiger).
posted by ranglin at 2:52 PM on February 23, 2008

Nondestructively Resizing Volumes
posted by kirkaracha at 7:09 PM on February 23, 2008

« Older I'm building a project that I think is a little...   |   Good Gift for New DSLR Owner? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.