While businesses continue migrating to cloud-based services, which increasingly demonstrate browser agnosticism supporting Windows, Mac, UNIX and Linux users alike, legions of OS X business users still seek Windows applications on their local desktop and laptop computers. Boot Camp provides the best method for running Windows on a Mac, as the free platform simplifies the process, maximizes performance, and helps eliminate resource and training issues that plague virtual machines. Boot Camp isn’t foolproof, however. Proper partition configuration, however, can help eliminate common errors.

Proper sizing

The common problem my consultancy addresses results when business users or previous IT practitioners fail to allocate sufficient disk space when creating the OS X Boot Camp partition. Reserving too little space on a volume, obviously, leaves users with insufficient space for installing Windows Updates and new Windows applications and storing photographs, videos and other new files.

Apple, in an older Boot Camp manual, notes partitions must be at least 5GB in size. Typically, 5GB will prove entirely insufficient, however. Apple’s newer Boot Camp manual (published for OS X 10.8 users), notes users should reserve at least 30GB for Windows 8 partitions.

When creating Boot Camp partitions, I recommend reserving a minimum of 20GB for the OS and update files and another 7GB for office productivity tools and business applications. An additional 10GB should typically be reserved for Windows file storage.

Apple’s old Boot Camp utility offered 32GB as one option within its Boot Camp Assistant wizard. Assuming businesses deployed Macs possessing hard disks with sufficient space to support both OS X and Windows installations, the 32GB option likely proved acceptable.

Apple’s new OS X 10.8 Boot Camp Assistant, in addition to presenting a manual partition sizing option, provides only a Divide Equally button when partitioning a disk. I believe halving a disk isn’t the best option when configuring a Windows partition and that administrators must, instead, perform basic calculations as to how much space should be reserved for the following:

  • The OS and OS updates (again, I recommend reserving at least 20GB)
  • Office productivity tools and business applications (7GB, minimum)
  • File storage (10GB, minimum)

Consideration must also be given to the amount of mail a user maintains, as well as the business applications the user employs. While 7GB should work well for most, if a user stores inordinate (more than 2GB) mail, performs video editing tasks, maintains QuickBooks accounting records, or leverages CAD software, even more partition space will be required.

Which disk?

Mac users whose OS X computers possess multiple internal hard drives, such as occurs with Mac Pros, will have another choice: which hard disk should receive the Windows installation? Because Boot Camp can configure a Windows partition on a second internal disk, business users may select a second (non-OS X) drive to host the Windows installation.

Apple notes that Mac users seeking to load Boot Camp on a second internal disk must remove disks in lower numbered bays during the installation. Once the Boot Camp installation is complete, the lower numbered drive bay disks may be reconnected.

Business administrators loading Boot Camp on a Mac Pro should pay special attention to a notice on Apple’s Boot Camp 5 FAQ. According to Apple, Boot Camp is not supported on a Mac using RAID (specifically a Mac Pro RAID card or software-based RAID).

Partition management

Often, the need to adjust existing partitions arises. Apple, within its FAQ, unequivocally states third-party disk management tools should not be used:

“Important: Do not use disk utilities not created by Apple to partition the drive before using Boot Camp Assistant. Doing so may erase the entire disk.”

However, my office has tapped Coriolis Systems Ltd.’s iPartition. The utility, now updated for OS X Mountain Lion, enables repartitioning without reformatting and supports Boot Camp installations, specifically Windows XP 32-bit, Windows Vista (32 and 64-bit) and Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit), according to its technical documentation.

When resizing partitions, administrators should always first confirm a verified backup exists. Only then should partition-resizing efforts occur. When partitions must be resized, administrators should also consider leveraging a dedicated defragmentation tool (Coriolis offers iDefrag) to help optimize disk storage and performance.