Boot Camp

Boot Camp

Boot Camp is software that is included with the latest Mac operating system releases. For more information on how it works and what you can do visit Apples Find out how section for video tutorials. You’ll find it nestling in the “Utilities” folder within your “Applications” folder. Boot Camp works by dividing your Mac disc into two separate partitions, and then allowing you to place a copy of Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 onto the second partition.

This can then act as a dual-boot system, where you can decide at startup whether you want to run OS X or Windows. The Windows system on your mac will run just like on a PC, at full speed. Boot Camp also includes the means to burn a disc containing all the necessary Mac drivers to run devices under Windows.

What all this means for OU students is that your new Mac can now potentially run every piece of software that the OU makes for Windows.

Installing Boot Camp

There are lots of good resources regarding Installation on the web including Apples own support site. The biggest task that you’ll have as a Mac student is getting yourself a copy of Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 to put on your system. Boot Camp is fussy about which version goes on, it has to be a full retail copy of Windows XP Service Pack 2 or later, and it has to be on a single CD, which means that you can’t put an old copy of XP SP1 on there and hope to upgrade it later. This is quite a caveat: full retail copies of Windows XP SP2 can cost a bit, and are now discontinued by Microsoft in favour of Windows 7, while upgrade CDs are not allowed.

However, if you have an old copy of XP (pre SP2) on a disk, a PC to borrow, as well as a bit of patience, you can get round this problem. What you need to do is slipstream your copy of XP onto one disk, then Boot Camp will accept it. This is what I did, and saved myself a fortune. Full instructions are here.

Or you can save buying anything. Look at the Virtual Box and install Windows server 2008 on that.

Issues with Boot Camp

In truth there aren’t many, Boot Camp gives you a full running Windows system on your mac. That said, there are general things that have to be borne in mind when using this for OU work:

1. You have to Boot out of the mac and into Windows to use it
This can be a bind if you want quickly to access a Windows program and you’re currently doing something on your Mac.

You have to Close up -> restart -> boot into Windows, which can take minutes to do.

2. You can’t access your Mac partition while in Windows.
It’s an irritating fact that you can’t actually see your main Mac volume from the Windows side. Let’s say you’ve just booted into Windows on your Mac to check that an essay you’ve written on OS X works with some Windows software the OU’s given you. Only when you’ve booted into Windows do you realise that the essay file is still sitting on your Mac desktop, you can’t get at it from Windows, so you have to reboot back, copy the file to a portable disc, boot back into Windows, put the disc in and read it. All very tedious.

Actually there is a way around this, but it’ll cost you. MacDrive is a Windows application that allows you to see and write to Mac volumes on your computer, and also on your network. If you install it onto the Windows install in Boot Camp, it’ll see all your Mac disks and folders.

However, now you’ll also expose your Mac side to that which Windows is perhaps most famous for….

3. Security Problems.
If you run Windows natively, then you are also prone to Windows viruses, adware, malware, etc. Antivirus security, regarded by some as an optional indulgence on the Mac, now becomes essential. If your Windows install can’t see your mac partition, then neither can any nasties, and your Mac side is safe, but if you’ve installed Macdrive then it can.

4. The keyboard buttons and shortcuts on the Mac aren’t the same as on Windows
You’ll notice, particularly if you use a one-button mouse (or a laptop), that Windows keyboards do things differently, and the solutions provided by Apple or others to ‘normalise’ your experience don’t always go the whole way.
Boot Camp, the bottom line
Boot Camp is arguably the best insurance policy for OU mac users that there’s ever been. Now you can have a PC on your mac running at native speeds, with all the OU software you need to have in one handy machine. The days of zero compatibility for Macs at the OU are potentially numbered. However, booting between systems isn’t every Mac user’s idea of a good time. That said, in the absence of any alternatives, it is a very fine solution.