Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Running Windows Vista on a Mac

Here are a few questions I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about running Windows on a Macintosh computer, using one monitor for watching TV and computing, and turning digital photos into a printed book.


In a recent column, you said Microsoft had imposed a legal prohibition on running the Home versions of Windows Vista on a Macintosh using virtualization programs like Parallels and Fusion. Does the same prohibition apply if you are installing Vista using Apple’s Boot Camp software?

No, because Boot Camp doesn’t create a virtual Windows computer — it actually carves out part of an Intel-based Macintosh’s hard disk and turns it into a full-blown physical Windows computer. To Windows, a Mac configured this way looks just like any Dell or Hewlett-Packard or other standard Windows computer. Boot Camp is free, but, such as Parallels and Fusion, it requires you to purchase a full, boxed copy of Windows to install.

The upside of the Boot Camp approach is that, when you are running Windows on the Mac, all of the computer’s hardware is devoted to Windows, because the Mac’s own operating system, OS X, isn’t running at all and a portion of the hard disk is reserved for the exclusive use of Windows. The downside is that you cannot run the two operating systems simultaneously, as you can with virtual solutions such as Parallels and Fusion. To switch between using Windows programs and Mac programs, you must restart the machine while holding down the Option key and then choose whether you want it to boot into Windows or Mac OS X. Both Parallels and Fusion can, however, use a Boot Camp Windows installation to create a virtual version of Windows that can be used simultaneously with the Mac OS.

If you install Boot Camp on a well-equipped Mac model, it can become a blazing fast Vista computer. A few days ago I bought a top-of-the-line model of Apple’s new iMac line, and installed Boot Camp and Vista. I then tested the machine using Vista’s built-in Windows Experience Index, a rating system that goes from 1 to 5.9, with scores above 3.0 generally required for full, quick performance. My iMac scored a 5.0, the best score of any consumer Vista machine I have tested. Obviously, a tricked-out high end Dell or HP box might do as well or better, and a lesser Mac might do worse. But the score was very impressive for a computer that wasn’t designed with Vista in mind.

We have a Sony PC and a 17-inch LCD monitor. Currently, we have a separate old-fashioned TV in the room, with a cable box connected to it. Is there any way to buy a larger LCD monitor and be able to watch TV via the cable box and also use the same screen when we use the computer?

A good approach would be to buy an LCD television that has both the usual connectors for your cable box and a connector, or input, for a personal computer. There are many such models, in various sizes. If you bought such a TV, you would switch between the PC and the cable box by changing inputs on your remote. Just make sure the PC input is compatible with your computer, or that an adapter is available to make it compatible. Many PCs and PC-friendly TVs use the older, common VGA connector, which is an analog input, but others use various newer digital connectors. You can also connect some computers to LCD TVs using standard connectors that aren’t specifically labeled as being for PCs. This is especially true for some Windows Media Center PCs that are designed to work with TVs.

Have you rated any of the Web businesses that assemble personal photos into a book format?

Yes. My colleague Katherine Boehret and I reviewed three contenders in that category in December, and in our judgment, at that time, MyPublisher (www.mypublisher.com) was the best of that group. You can read the column at http://solution.allthingsd.com/20061206. However, the books from Apple, Shutterfly and Blurb are also favorites of many readers.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online free of charge at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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