[Guest Blogger] Running Vista on a MacBook


Renaud Lepage (Le Gardeur, Quebec, IT Pro)

I met Renaud on the Montreal stop of the Future of the Server Room tour at Trois Brasseurs where Rick and I held an IT Lounge after the event.  Renaud mentioned that he just ordered a MacBook and was going to install Vista on it and I asked him to blog about it.


Disclaimer: I am not loyal to anything. I have run Linux and Windows side-by-side for a long time, sometimes running Linux for two or three months, then using Windows for the same amount time, then switching back and yadayadayada. I have also tried Mac, once or twice, and liked the overall feel of the thing, though some of my friends and contacts are keen to get their teeth on Apple's case. It is in the spirit of cooperation, friendship amongst users of multiple platforms, and a little sarcasm on the side, that I have agreed to this experiment.

Hello everybody, and welcome to my blog post. My name is Renaud Lepage, and today, I will be doing something publicly that will earn me the praise of some, but the excessive badgering and bad behavior from others:


Yes. You have seen right. I will, today, install Vista on my brand new MacBook, that came with an overall good and solid operating system.

For those of you who wonder how or why I want to install Vista on my shiny Apple-branded laptop, here's a quick heads-up. Less than five years ago, Apple finally made the (long-awaited) switch to Intel and its x86 platform. Though maybe less powerful at some degree, the x86 move was beneficial for Apple, as the cost for the Power architecture was indeed higher than the one of x86. And please add to that the fact that applications coded on x86 were not exactly recompile-and-run on the old Macs running PowerPC CPUs. So, Apple made the interesting switch, drove the sales higher than expected, gained back some games and marketshare, and... opened their hardware to other OSes. While, in the past, you could run Linux on a PowerPC, it was sort of hackish, to say the least. Now, with the app called Boot Camp, you can burn a CD that contains the Apple drivers for every Apple-used device, re-partition your computer so that the new OS can have a little breathing space, and install a generic x86-running OS on your Mac, be it SkyOS, ReactOS, Linux, even... Windows, the Arch-Enemy of MacOS X. And that's what I'll do today: pitch one beast at another. Install Windows side-by-side to OS X.

Step 1: Prepare the Stage

As indicated earlier, I burned a driver disk and partitioned 20gb off my OS X partition using the Boot Camp utility. While it can't make more than one extra partition for, say, Linux (you have to use Disk Utility for that), it still does what it's supposed to do.

Step 2: Scratch the Disk

When the hard disk modifications are complete, Boot Camp will ask you to insert a Windows Install disk (the supported versions are XP Home, XP Professional, Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business and Vista Ultimate - I tried Media Centre once and it worked ). Then, click on the "Start Installation" button and it will reboot to the disk drive.

Step 3: Play the Music

I will admit, I was surprised when I first saw the Vista installer. For once, there is a Windows installer that both isn't ugly, and still packs a good punch! Finally, Microsoft got a hold of the click-through installation. There are bits and pieces of the installer that do bug me, though, especially when comparing with OSX's installer. First of all, Mac OS X is multilingual right out of the box, whereas you have to actually BUY a MUI for Windows Vista (except when using the Ultimate) - that sucks, more so for the multilingual users and the ones who prefer English but have, for example, a french-speaking fiancée that would rather have a french UI. Related to this are the rather plentiful localization options on the very first screen of the installer.

It should be a little simpler, and why should the user choose his keyboard at the install stage? That stage should only be click-and-wait. Also, and this is a pet peeve of me, what is it with Microsoft and these limited OS installer screen resolutions? I would find it very nice for Microsoft to program something into their installers that sets the framebuffer's resolution to the screen's native one. The OSX installer already does that, and even OSX's bootloader seems to do it! Maybe it's a BIOS limitation though.

I will end this step with this final piece : can you PLEASE make the boot screen wide-angled? I find it very ugly, to say the least, to have a 4:3 animation displayed on a 16:9 wide screen. And it's not just my laptop.

Step 4: Take it and Hack it!

This is perhaps the thing I dislike the most about Vista's installation sequence: the indexing/performance-check screen. That step should have been done much earlier in the installation; I'd expect to jump right into the "action" after the "Thank You" window, like, for example, in Windows XP.

All right! It runs! *disables UAC*... Okay, I may be just mean, but come on, sudoing half of what I do on my computer? Hell no!

(Note from Rodney: Renaud needs to read up on UAC and understand how it works and why to leave it enabled. 🙂http://www.microsoft.com/technet/technetmag/issues/2007/06/UAC/default.aspx)

So this is it. I am running Windows Vista on a Core2Duo T7200 running at 2.0gHz; with an integrated graphics card that is supposed to be worth not that much, has only 64mb of VRAM shared with the main 1024mb of RAM, but on which the UI runs better than on the one of my sister, which has more raw power and memory; and, finally, Vista feels, for once... snappy. It feels fast... Nice. This is perhaps the first time I'm saying this publicly, but... Vista is a step in the right direction for Microsoft! Yes, it's a fact that it looks like XP with a new skin - I'll give that to the masses criticizing it. But, for some tasks, it does feel more user-driven: for example, I have to say that the bread crumbs interface, while not originally Microsoft's idea, was nicely implemented.

(Another note from Rodney: There is a great list of the new features in Windows Vista at Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Features_new_to_Windows_Vista)

Overall, I can't say that I like, nor that I hate, Vista. I have used it on other computers, as well as on my former computers, tower and laptop alike. This installation is the first that didn't explode in my face, and since I have known what the installer was like back when I was testing RCPublic, I thought that Microsoft finally began to understand what "simple installation" means. The operating system in itself isn't without flaws nevertheless, I feel it is not that much of a hassle to run it on a laptop now, especially since Apple is known to be stubborn on which pieces they put in their computers, assuring the user a safe and optimal interaction between different hardware components. I wouldn't say a Mac and Vista is a match made in heaven (hell no), but installing it is recommended if you really need it, for example with cross-platform programming.

Renaud Lepage is an IT Pro living in Le Gardeur, Quebec and runs a personal blog at http://www.cybikbase.com/

Comments (5)

  1. chainmail says:

    Aero runs flawless on the MacBook Pro.

    I have been using Longhorn/Vista for years.  I was at the Microsoft Vista InstallFest (Bruce Cowper), and have installed it on dozens of machines.  Since most installs were on older, test hardware I had not seen the ‘enhanced’ features.

    Mac hardware, with less resources seems to run Vista faster than beefier PC’s.  

  2. ye110wbeard says:

    Interesting.   I would have thought both being Intel boards, Centrino chips etc they should be the same (or somewhat simliar).  

    If this is true, I wonder what Apple has done to improve the speed?

  3. nicolas says:

    I have a 15″ MacBook Pro, I’m having triple boot of Vista, XP and OSX.  Due to the battery issue under Windows Vista, I run it only if there is a power oulet available (which is 80% of most of the time).  It runs great and fast 🙂

  4. Renaud Lepage says:

    To answer to Sean:

    It’s fairly simple, but it’s not apple; rather, it’s (maybe) everyone else. The big advantage when buying Apple is that they are very strict on which hardware they use; therefore, there is (supposedly) hardly ever any hardware change, even unsignificant, across their product line. In hard-streamlining this, in my (not so) humble opinion, and their supposedly thorough "hardware interactions" testing, they are SURE that the hardware works. It is then a matter of having the good drivers to install. THAT is why the best ever hardware to run Vista on, is… Mac. How’s that for irony 😀

    (This is my not so humble opinion, everyone else that doesn’t agree… may be right 🙂 )

  5. ye110wbeard says:

    Actually your logic is flawless and what I thought to be the case.  

    It’s also quite ironic that the better O/S to run on a Mac is probably Vista… 😉

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