Windows optimize

Three things to know about Apple Boot Camp

Erik Eckel tells you three things you should know about Apple Boot Camp that might make it a better option than Parallels or VMware Fusion for running Windows on a Mac.

Erik Eckel tells you three things you should know about Apple Boot Camp that might make it a better option than Parallels or VMware Fusion for running Windows on a Mac.

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Enterprise technology professionals frequently are tasked with deploying and maintaining Windows installments on Macs. That's all well and good. Numerous industries require Windows-specific applications.

By dual-booting Mac systems, organizations can leverage the Apple platform's strengths (high performance, tightened security, ease of use, reliability, functional design, etc.) with cross-platform compatibility. Apple Boot Camp, while the least sexy of available dual-booting options, remains the leading alternative for most businesses.

Why?

Here are three things all enterprise administrators should know (and remember) about Boot Camp.

It's free

Yes. That seems simple. Boot Camp 2.0 is included free with the Apple OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard operating systems. But businesses everywhere are forking over millions of dollars to the likes of Parallels and VMware.

Parallels Desktop and Fusion are excellent products. They eliminate the need to reboot a Mac in order to access the Windows operating system, which can certainly save some organizations sufficient time that the productivity gains more than exceed the software's licensing and support costs.

But does every enterprise user requiring Apple OS X and Windows need to access Windows almost instantly or from within an Apple OS X session?

Probably not.

Those organizations whose users can bide time (typically less than two minutes) while the system reboots will find they can reduce expenses associated with application licensing and support costs.

It's faster

When booting Windows using Boot Camp, users will experience better performance. This is because Boot Camp enables Windows to more fully utilize processor and RAM capacity. Windows sessions powered by Boot Camp, for example, fully leverage all core processors, while other methods fail to properly optimize performance.

Do not underestimate these performance advantages. When simultaneously opening multiple windows (including the Internet, email, proprietary business applications, etc.), running antivirus and antispyware applications, and powering a reasonably attractive graphical display, computers place a heavy load on the CPU and memory channels. Asking the same PC to do so while running two concurrent OS sessions is fine (assuming appropriate hardware upgrade investments are made to enable the computer to manage the task), but performance improves significantly when Boot Camp is selected and only a single OS is active.

It's compatible

Seemingly a host of USB connectivity, application and other incompatibilities inevitably arise when using third-party virtualization tools. Apple's engineers work diligently to ensure Boot Camp compatibility. This characteristic is, after all, an Apple hallmark. The company works with almost obsessive proclivity to maintain control of both hardware and software compatibility across its entire line of products.

One recent real-world enterprise example involves the recent OS X Snow Leopard release. I've heard of many cases in which Mac systems running third-party virtualization solutions required patches or reinstallation. Systems running Boot Camp typically suffer no ill dual-booting effects when upgrading to the latest operating system release, however.

Thus, maintaining Boot Camp as a standard helps organizations eliminate unwanted surprises. By utilizing Apple's own dual-booting utility, businesses receive the benefit of Apple's own stringent internal testing practices. Rather than having to rely upon reactive third-party patches and tweaks, businesses deploying Boot Camp can, in many cases, avoid many troubles altogether.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

10 comments
lew
lew

I've never used boot camp, but I do understand the advantages of using it. I've never had the need to use it. If I wanted to just use windows, I'd use a windows PC. They're cheap enough now days. If I need to do a few basic tasks, I start up my vmware, and I can use XP, vista, or windows 7, or a couple Linux options. I still can use my mac to get email, web browsing, etc. Sure, it can be a performance hog sometimes, and the comment about suspending the virtual machine is a good one. I would never want to use windows for email and most internet activities, except for testing a web site in IE, because of all the nasty things out there. So, the virtual solution works fine for me.

corrp
corrp

Two quick comments... I ran Vista Business in Parallels and it returned a Windows Experience Index (WEI) of 1.0. Setting it up in BootCamp on the same Mac, I saw the WEI jump to 5.0. (XP runs great in Parallels, by the way and is where I spend my Windows session time.) I also found that I could not access external Mac hard drives in Vista under BootCamp until I installed MacDrive from MediaFour. Unfortunately, one down-side of that is that Secunia PSI scans hang if they are attached with MacDrive. I have to disable MacDrive, reboot, scan, re-enable, reboot, etc. Sort of defeats the purpose of PSI running in the background.

TNT
TNT

I agree that Boot Camps price is certainly right, and that it gives Windows a chance to shine on Apple's hardware. I run a dual boot MacBook Pro with Snow Leopard on one side and XP Pro on the other. I also agree with vdanen, however, that asking someone you are supporting to wait while you reboot just isn't a good option. Even though I have Boot Camp I also have a desktop PC running windows on my desk for those times I need to support PC users. In the support industry I just can't take the time to be booting back and forth depending on who needs support at that moment, and I imagine there are many other positions that require more convenient access to Windows tools than Boot Camp permits. Is Boot Camp the right tool for the job? In my profession, rarely. I have authorized the purchase of VM Fusion for several of our Mac-based teachers so they can access school resources that just don't work on the Mac side (like the software we use for attendance, grades, etc.). I do think you raise a good point though, in that Boot Camp is a free resource and can meet the need in some places people use a more expensive solution. When I deploy Snow Leopard to all our classroom iMacs next summer I plan to image them with a Boot Camp partition running Windows 7. Doing so allows us a greater return on investment since students will be able to use either platform.

maclovin
maclovin

"But does every enterprise user requiring Apple OS X and Windows need to access Windows almost instantly or from within an Apple OS X session? Probably not." ME: You'd be surprised how many DO. ---------------- "It?s faster When booting Windows using Boot Camp, users will experience better performance. " ME: Reason this doesn't matter is that, typically most users don't require the Windows environment for more than one or two smaller proprietary applications, so performance, unless it's an absolute beast, is a non issue with a newer Intel-based mac.

richard.moore4
richard.moore4

I work at a college, and we insist that every student that requires a laptop must have the laptop be "activated" through Windows before it can get full network access. Until the laptop's MAC addresses are logged by our systems, the laptop is "quarantined." One problem we have is that people try to activate MacBooks through Parallels. The activation script logs the MAC addresses of the virtual machine, and thus when the machine tries to access the network through the real, physical network connection, the laptop is unrecognized and remains quarantined. I understand that there are hacks to change the network address, but it's just much simpler to dual-boot in the first place.

vdanen
vdanen

They may not need to access it instantly, but think of the productivity short-fall when they do dual-boot. For instance, if all my web browsing and email and office documents and all that other day-to-day stuff is on the mac side, I can't get to it if I've dual-booted to windows to, say, update the books in QuickBooks. Get a phone call from a client and need to check something out? How lame does "just hang on a sec while I save this and reboot, then I can tell you" sound? I use VMware Fusion daily, and it works well. I didn't have to do a thing when I upgraded to 10.6 It still worked (can't speak for Parallels). And unless you're gaming, Fusion handles really great as far as performance goes. And you can suspend the session which means if you need that CPU overhead back, suspend the session, do your thing, unsuspend and you're back at it. Convenient and fast. Boot Camp is not nearly as convenient *or* fast. I used to do the dual-boot thing with Linux and it was finally easier to just pony up for VMware Workstation and virtualize Windows than it was to keep dual-booting -- unless it was to play a game. =) While Boot Camp might be necessary for some people, I'd say it's not necessary for most. And while Fusion is so reasonably priced, the expense isn't that high especially when you look at the convenience and productivity factors. Same would go for Parallels.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Why should a laptop's MAC address be registered through Windows when the address is easily found and accessible in OS X? Most routers use html and a web browser to access and configure and such a process should be OS agnostic. It's only the MAC address you need, not the Windows license number.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

In my own case, I've used VMWare's Fusion while my partner used Parallels. In her case, she had no issues since she only used Windows for specific, non-intensive applications. However, as a photographer and photographic consultant, I needed to use applications such as ProShow Producer and others to generate DVD slideshows using the features and control these apps provided--apps far less expensive than Final Cut Studio, for instance. In one particular case, the disadvantage of working in a virtual machine became patently noticeable because I was timing the transitions down to the millisecond and Fusion consistently slipped timing to where the transitions went as far as fifteen seconds out of synch from the audio. In my business, this is worse than unacceptable--it's unprofessional.

cseagren
cseagren

When running Parallels of VMware Fusion it puts in a virtual NIC which has a MAC address of its own, which is then registered on his college's LAN not the acutal MAC address of the host MAC machine. He's basically making another point where BootCamp is easier than using Parallels or VMWare Fusion.