The Mac Moment: Windows on Mac: The Best of Both Worlds

In his first article, Knowledge Center contributor Ivan Drucker gave the Windows-oriented IT professional some hands-on techniques about how to better support Macs in the enterprise. In his second article, Ivan shared some essential tools and advice to help IT professionals through some common issues that Mac users experience. Here, Ivan provides an overview of what Mac and Windows hardware have in common, and how to actually deploy Windows software titles on your users' Macs.

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This is the third installment of The Mac Moment, where we provide advice and insight for Windows-oriented IT support professionals to help you manage the Macs in your organization. Click here for our first installment or click here for our second one. This time, I want to give an overview of what Mac and Windows hardware have in common, and how you can actually deploy Windows software titles on your users' Macs.

From a hardware perspective, a modern Mac is not much different than a modern PC. They use common, standard components for CPU, RAM, hard drive and expansion, and are based on Intel board designs. All modern Macs are powered by a single Intel Core CPU (a Core 2 Duo in most cases), with the exception of the Mac Pro, which is based on two Intel Xeon multi-core CPUs.

Older Macs with "G4" or "G5" in the name are based on the very different PowerPC chip made by IBM and Motorola, and these Macs are not nearly as well-suited to running Windows software as the Intel-based machines are. The surest way to know what's in a Mac is to look under "About This Mac" in the Apple menu; all will be revealed. The rest of this article will assume we're talking about Intel-based Macs.

Because the CPU in a Mac is the same as the one in a PC, there are lots of ways to run Windows software on a Mac. The two common reasons for doing this are: 1. an in-house or specialty application which only runs on Windows, or 2. an internal or external Web site can only be used in Internet Explorer for Windows. (For example, some Mac users run Outlook in Windows-either because they don't like the limitations of Entourage or because Outlook Web Access is unavailable or considered inadequate.)

The options for running Windows software on the Mac fall into three categories, which I'm going to call Run Windows, Emulate a PC, or Support Windows Software. Let's discuss each in depth.

Category No. 1: Run Windows

Apple Boot Camp is a feature of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) for users of Intel-based Macs. With Boot Camp, the user is either in "Windows mode" or "Mac OS mode," and the mode is chosen at startup by holding down the option key. There is no integration between the two worlds; it's simply two computers in one.

The primary advantage of Boot Camp, apart from the fact that it's included with Mac OS X (and therefore free), is that it gives you a "pure PC"-you're booting straight into Windows, so it supports pretty much anything an actual PC does, including most hardware. Boot Camp supports Windows XP 32-bit and Vista, either 32-bit or 64-bit (though getting the 64-bit drivers can be tricky; read on).