FAQ: Will your Intel-based Mac run Windows?
FAQ: Will your Intel-based Mac run Windows?
By Ina Fried
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: January 20, 2006, 12:05 PM PST
Apple Computer's announcement of new Macs based on processors from Intel raises an interesting question: Since both the Mac and Windows operating systems now run on Intel-based hardware, shouldn't it be easy to run both on the same computer?
That simple question deserves a simple answer. But there isn't one--at least not right now. Reaching the nirvana of running the two most popular desktop operating systems on one machine is a lot harder than you might expect.
Apple has said that it wasn't planning to support Windows on the "MacTel," but the company also said it wouldn't try to stop people from doing so. Still, some of the technical choices Apple has made in designing the new Intel-based Macs have made running Windows a challenge.
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The good news? Plenty of people have been working to break down the barriers, so it should only be a matter of time before Windows shows up on the iMac's 20-inch widescreen display.
Even after solving the technical challenges, there are also legal hurdles. Just because you might get Windows running on a Mac, or Tiger running on their Dell, doesn't mean it's legal.
Finally, even if the legal and technical obstacles are overcome, many people say just being able to boot both operating systems independently is not the answer. Most people will want the systems to interact, which means some form of emulation or virtualization. Some small developers are making promises in this area, but just how quickly this will happen--or how quickly the emulated OS will run--remains to be seen.
We're not engineers or lawyers, but here's our best stab at answering some common questions:
Q: So if the Mac runs on Intel chips and Windows runs on Intel processors, what's the holdup?
A: The challenge comes in the technical means by which the operating systems load. Windows loads itself using something known as the Basic Input/Output System, or BIOS. Apple's Intel Macs, however, use a newer technology known as Extensible Firmware Interface.
"These different firmware environments will separate MacOS and Windows environments almost as effectively as instruction set architecture did when Macintosh software ran only on PowerPC chips," chip analyst Nathan Brookwood said in an e-mail.
But not everyone is convinced the obstacles are so insurmountable. Envisioneering analyst Peter Glaskowsky noted that Gateway had a Windows Media Center PC back in 2003 that used EFI rather than BIOS. Gateway, Glaskowsky said, had to change the boot loader that manages how operating systems load.
"It's just not a big deal," Glaskowsky told CNET News.com. "At some point, I expect it would be in the next week or two, somebody will figure out how to change boot loader on those Macs so that it is smart enough to do the same thing."
In any case, word is that the next version of Windows, called Vista, will support EFI. Enthusiasts claim to have made some progress in loading test versions of Vista onto an Intel Mac, though the work is not yet complete.
Q: OK, that sounds complicated. So what about running Linux on an Intel-based Mac?
A: Discussions about the idea quickly cropped up on a mailing list for Red Hat's Fedora version of Linux. The verdict: Again, it's a matter of writing the right code, but it's not simple.
The challenge here is not the chip, but the way that the operating systems boot. Most Linux versions use a boot loader called GRUB that doesn't support EFI at present, though Itanium versions of the operating system use a different one called Elilo that does.
Q: What about going in the other direction: How about running the Mac OS on other Intel machines, like a standard PC?
A: Apple has said that it will take steps to prevent this from happening. "We will not allow running Mac OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac," Senior Vice President Phil Schiller said in a June interview. The company has not gone into specifics, but appears to be using a TPM (trusted protection module) chip as part of its authentication mechanism.
Q: OK, how about programs like Virtual PC, then, that run under the Mac OS but allow Windows emulation?
A: Microsoft, which now owns Virtual PC, has been a bit cagey on when, or even if, it will bring out Virtual PC for the Intel Mac. The company's public statement is that it sees a need for such software, but hasn't decided whether it will do it. However, the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg said Microsoft is doing a version and will have it ready next year.
Other emulation makers have been more direct. One small company, iEmulator, has promised that it will have an Intel-native version of its software by the end of February. "We're already in early testing," said general manager John Czlonka. "The performance increase is staggering."
Q: Technical issues aside, is it legal to run Windows on a Mac?
A: It seems so, but only by purchasing a full copy of the OS, not the upgrade versions typically bought by consumers. Microsoft says that a fully licensed copy of Windows XP Professional can be properly licensed if run on an Intel Mac.
Q: What about running the Mac OS on a non-Apple PC?
A: There isn't a legal way to do that, given that Apple doesn't sell standalone versions of its operating system. Because all Macs come with some form of the Mac OS, the retail boxes that Apple sells are only licenses to upgrade from one version to another.
This post is not meant to bash windows or apple since i like both (or your post since it was good!) But why would you want to run windows on an apple? You pay a premium to buy a apple. If you wanted to run windows, you could have spent less doing so.
I also like both PC and Mac. To answer your question:
'Cause they look cool. Why else would you buy a Mac?
Originally Posted by gear02
The appeal of a Mac is that since it's based off BSD and has the inherent security features of BSD...it's got a lower (almost no) chance of being messed with by spyware or viruses. Not to say that it's impossible but the likelihood really isn't there.
That being said...primarily a hacker or expert user is about the only type of person who will dual boot both...and most people in that category already own a Windows PC and have downloaded and installed one of the OSX86 leaks on that same computer.
The TPM chip security feature has long since been cracked...looooong time ago. OSX86 leaks ended up on the net at least 2-3 months ago, and, while Apple's tried releasing updates to OSX86 (going to newer builds of Tiger, trying to plug up the holes in the earlier versions of the OSX86 developer builds), the OSX86 community has found ways around those solutions as well.
Originally Posted by C/Net
Apple doesn't get it, really.
Before, their software only worked on Mac systems (for the most part) and since most people didn't own that hardware, they wouldn't bother trying. Now you're throwing out a custom build of your OS that just-so-happens to run on standard hardware that 99% of computer users already own (even with the support of AMD cpus and mobos other than an Intel chipset)...and you expect that it won't be downloaded, hacked/fooled with, and redistributed? Wake up and smell the coffee, Apple...you're fighting a battle that you cannot win.
I will say - I have grown to love OSX at work and later this year I'll either a) buy an Intel PowerMac or b) build a new PC around an AMD Socket M2 processor. Most likely I'll probably go the AMD route unless everyone is surprised by lower-than-expected prices on the Intel PowerMac systems. Considering the rumors, and the fact that the Intel iMac and PowerBooks are already of a similar cost (compared to a PPC iMac or PPC PowerBook) - I seriously doubt we'll be seeing any Intel PowerMacs for under $2g's which would buy a really phat AMD64 X2 4800+ cpu setup at today's prices (and something even faster with the new socket M2 cpus).
I really like Apple's products...they just need to come down to reality and realize that their computers aren't worth the kind of money that they think they are. OSX is really nice and I love using it...but there's no chance in hell that I'm paying $2g's for a PowerMac when I can build a better (arguably) AMD box and run it with XP or Vista and have better software support/options available. (In addition to more expandability.) Windows might not have the security out of the box that OSX does, but, the reality is - it's not hard to secure a Windows box...not hard at all. And with the features they're throwing into Vista...Vista may just be the first Windows release that has that out of the box security that OSX offers. (From what I've read, a few of the things that Vista offers is a) 'user' account by default vs making 'admin' accounts, and b) IE only has access to the Temp files folder and cannot write any files to any other folder other than the Temp folder, and even then, it's heavily restricted. At least according to the last article I read about Vista on Paul Thurott's WinSupersite.)
Last edited by zero2dash; 01-22-2006 at 07:01 AM.
I think you're looking at Apple in the wrong way. Microsoft promotes Windows in a functional way. You buy windows because you need to use it. As a result, PCs have become commoditized and prices are low.
Apple promotes their hardware and software as one package designed to give you an experience. You generally don't buy Apples because you have to, you do it because you like it. As a result, they are able to charge a premium for that experience.
The parallel is similar to cars. A PC is a Honda Civic. Very functional, a little stylish, but cheap. A Mac is a BMW or Mercedes - very expensive, fancy, luxurious. Do you need a BMW? No, all it really does it drive you from place to place. A Honda Civic can do the same thing, yet people buy BMWs for the styling and luxury and they do so by paying a premium.
Yes, but they are also able to charge a premium for this specific reason:
Waay back in the day, IBM allowed its OS (DOS) to run on non-IBM hardware. That led to the thing we know today as the 'PC'. Today, now that they've dumped the last of their PC prducts on Lenovo, IBM has practically nothing at all to do with PCs. Apple never allowed that (well, maybe once or twice in highly controlled situations), and probably never will. As soon as they do, OS sales for them will explode, but hardware sales will take a major nosedive. After a while, they will likely have to abandon their hardware sales alotogether just like IBM did, because there will be countless companies that will sell similar machines for much less $$.
Originally Posted by cnet
Now that they have the iPod to generate cash for them, they might take a second look at this. But I would be quite shocked if they ever allowed their OS to run on non-Apple hardware, esp. on x86 hardware that everyone already owns.
Some people have programs that they HAVE to run in Windows. Take games for example. Some people REALLY want a Mac, but want to run their games and can't afford two computers.
Originally Posted by gear02
IMO Apple should go strictly-OS in relation to the PC market, but they never will since they can still make some money off of PC sales. They make more than enough off iPods to live luxuriously the rest of their lives, but because of that, they're more than happy with their small market share percentage. It's just like Nintendo with consoles and the Game Boy line...a lot of people think that Nintendo should just become a developer and put all their games on the Playstation/Xbox systems, but it'll never happen. Nintendo already makes a killing on their portables, so they can afford not to be the 'top dog' when it comes to console sales.
The truth is, though - even if Apple did go mainstream OS (against Microsoft), they'd still have problems penetrating because the fact of the matter is - most computer users are trained and fortified on Windows computers, so if a company or home user wanted to switch to an OSX environment, there would be a lot of getting used to that would have to happen (and training, if they were so-inclined), which are two things that most users don't want to bother with. I think Apple/OSX is going to remain one of those things that's always there/always a constant, but not something that really threatens to overthrow it's competition (Windows). Too many people use Windows at this point in the game that there's no way Apple could ever make up that ground.
At least with other competing 'markets' (ie "browser wars"), sure, there's a lot of people who use IE, but those people that want to use alternates (Firefox/Mozilla, Opera, Netscape) can use them on the same computer that they already own; they don't have to purchase a whole new piece of equipment just to 'try something new'.
As for people buying Apple products for the experience (gear02) - oh I totally agree with you. (And vice versa...people buy Windows PCs because they're cheaper and they just want something that "works", not necessarily an "experience".) My point was that Apple thinks that they can do everything and anything to keep people from running OSX on non-Apple approved hardware, and my point was that people already do run OSX on non-Apple hardware, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future because there's a market there for it (albeit an "illegal" market). If you build it, they will come... Truthfully though, while I'm fond of OSX, I'm just as fond of Windows, and in reality - both do the same for me, and I've already got Windows installed and secured (installed on a PC that's already paid for and it didn't cost an arm and a leg), so...I'll stick with what works already, basically.
Last edited by zero2dash; 01-23-2006 at 11:50 AM.
Just use virtualPC.