The following post was originally published in Chapter 11 of our new book, Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better.
You can have both a Mac and a PC on a single computer, using Apple's new Boot Camp software. Boot Camp lets you install Windows on your Mac in addition to Mac OS X. With Boot Camp set up, when you start your Mac, you can choose whether to use OS X or Windows. Boot Camp is a great way to consolidate the computers in your life and to run essential Windows programs that aren't available on the Mac. Here's how to set up Boot Camp to get a Mac and PC all rolled into one.
Note: Setting up Boot Camp is not a trivial task because it involves repartitioning your Mac's hard drive and installing another operating system and drivers. Block out a couple of hours for this project.
What You Need
Getting Boot Camp and Windows up and running on your Mac requires specific hardware and software. Here's what you need:
An Intel-based Mac running OS 10.5 (Leopard) with all software updates installed.
At least 10GB of free space on your Mac's hard drive.
A working printer connected to your Mac (with plenty of ink and paper!).
A genuine Windows XP installation disk, which includes Service Pack 2. (Important: You cannot install XP using a disk that does not include SP2 and expect to download it after the fact. If you have an old XP CD without SP2, here's more on how to add SP2 to your older Windows XP installation disk.)
A genuine Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate installation disk (32-bit version only.)
Set Up Boot Camp
Before you get started, free up as much space on your Mac's hard drive as possible. (Here's more on how to identify and cut back disk space hogs.) Then back up all your important data, just in case. Do not skip this step! Finally, log on to your Mac as an administrative user (and log off any other users), quit all running applications, and if you're using a portable Mac, make sure it's plugged into a power source. Got all that? Great. Now it's time to get Boot Camp going.
Step 1: Launch the Boot Camp Assistant
The Boot Camp Assistant is a step-by-step wizard, located in /Applications/Utilities/, but it can help you only as long as you're in Mac OS X, which you are not throughout this entire process. So the first thing the Assistant does is prompt you to print the 26-page user guide [PDF]. Experienced users may be annoyed by this seemingly unnecessary step, but because you'll be rebooting your system and making major changes, a paper copy of the guide is a comforting help along the way when the on-screen Assistant isn't available.
In fact, Apple's user guide printout is more complete than any instructions I could include here, so rather than repeat the instructions it already contains, I offer additional information not included in the official instructions.
Step 2: Partition Your Mac's Hard Drive
After you've told the Boot Camp Assistant that you want to set up Windows on your Mac, you come to the scary (and fun!) part: splitting your Mac's hard drive into pieces and setting Windows to install on one of those partitions. The Assistant will show you a map of your Mac's hard drive. Click the divider to drag it and set the size of your Windows partition (which will take space away from the Mac partition). Alternatively, using the buttons, you can split the drive equally, or use exactly 32GB for Windows, as shown.
What size should your Windows partition be? Good question. This decision is difficult to undo later, so do consider a couple of questions before you decide:
What will you use Windows to do and how much how much hard drive space will that take up?
If you're using Windows just to play PC games, for example, you won't need much space (10-20GB will do.) But if you want to manage your photo library in Windows (which I do, with Picasa, because I prefer it over iPhoto), you'll need enough space to accommodate all your photos. It's impossible to know in advance exactly how much space you'll need, but guesstimate as best as you can. Also, keep in mind that you can attach external drives to add space in Windows. But remember: Files stored in the Mac OS cannot be accessed from within Windows, so make sure you have enough space for all the programs and files you'll want in Windows.
What format will the Windows partition be, FAT or NTFS?
If your Windows partition is larger than 32GB, you will have to format it as NTFS, not FAT. Mac OS X cannot write to NTFS-formatted drives, but it can write to FAT drives. That means that a Windows partition greater than 32GB will be read-only in Mac OS. In general, FAT is considered less reliable than NTFS. (Windows Vista uses only NTFS, so the 32GB threshold isn't a factor if you're installing Vista.)
After you've chosen how to split your hard drive between Mac and Windows, click the Partition button.
Step 3: Start the Windows Installation
With your partition created, insert your Windows installation disk and click the Start Installation button in the Boot Camp Assistant. Your Mac will reboot from the Windows installation disk and begin working. Two things to know when you're installing Windows:
When it comes time to select the partition to format, be absolutely sure to choose the partition labeled C:Partition3 . Vista will list it as Disk 0 Partition 3 BOOTCAMP. One false move here and you could wipe out your entire Mac, so choose carefully.
If your partition is less than 32GB and you're installing Windows XP, you'll have a choice between the NTFS or FAT Windows format. NTFS is recommended, although FAT is okay, too. Whatever you do, don't select Leave The Current File System Intact—make sure you format the partition to NTFS or FAT.
Complete the rest of the Windows XP installation per the installation disk's instructions.
Step 4. Install the Windows Drivers for Your Mac's Hardware
After you're completely booted into your new Windows installation, eject the installation disk and insert your Mac OS 10.5 installation CD. Let Autorun launch Setup.exe, and follow the on-screen instructions. When the drivers are installed, Windows will recognize your Mac's devices (such as the Bluetooth receiver, video adapter, iSight camera, and wireless receiver.) If you receive a message saying that the software hasn't passed Windows testing, click the Continue Anyway button. You'll have to reboot to finish this installation. Then you're done!
Now you have the choice to start either Mac OS X or Windows on your Mac. To make that choice when you turn on your computer, hold down the Option key and you'll see the two partitions you set up, as shown. Click the one that has the operating system you want to use.
Alternatively, if the computer is already running, use the Boot Camp software to restart in a particular operating system. In Windows XP, click the Boot Camp icon in the system tray, and in the Startup Disk tab, select Macintosh HD or Windows and click the Restart button to move into that operating system, as shown.
While you're in OS X, you can do the same thing by going into System Preferences and choosing Startup Disk.
Using a Mac Keyboard in Windows
When you first start using Windows on your Mac, one of the first things you'll notice is that the Mac keyboard is different from Windows keyboards. It has a Command key but no Windows key; on MacBooks and iBooks, the keyboard has a Delete key but no Backspace key; it also has no Print Screen Key. The Boot Camp user guide you printed includes a complete table of Mac keyboard Windows action mappings, but the most important ones to know are the following:
The Option key is the Windows Alt key.
The Command key is the Windows key.
The Delete key is the equivalent of Backspace. To forward delete with it on built-in Apple keyboards (on your Mac notebook), use Fn-Delete. (External Apple keyboards have a forward Delete key.)
The Windows Print Screen key is F14 on an external Apple keyboard.
Your best bet is to bookmark the Boot Camp key mapping reference in Windows for easy reference the next time you need to use Print Screen or Delete.
For more documentation, user discussions, troubleshooting, and frequently asked questions about Boot Camp, see Apple's Boot Camp support section. Also, be sure to download and install the latest update to the Boot Camp software for Windows, just released this past week. Finally, if you want to hop into Windows without leaving OS X once in awhile, here's how to virtualize and dual boot the same Windows on your Mac.
Are you dual booting OS X and Windows on your Mactel? What tips and tricks do you have to share? Tell us about it in the comments.
For more on managing multiple computers (and operating systems), check out Chapter 11 of Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better.