How Boot Camp Works on Your MacBook - dummies

By Mark L. Chambers

Boot Camp is the free utility included with Lion that allows you to install and run Windows on your MacBook’s hard drive. This gives you the freedom (and convenience) of having both Windows applications and Mac applications available.

In years past, you may have heard that a Mac computer couldn’t run Windows out of the box (without expensive hardware or software) and that Mac software was off-limits to PCs. Well, you’d have been correct, at least for all but the recent history of the Macintosh computer.

Why the incompatibility? It was because Apple used a series of Motorola processors (or CPUs) that didn’t “talk the same language” as the Intel CPUs used in PCs. Consider a person speaking Korean trying to read a book in Arabic and you get the general idea.

Then Apple began using Intel processors in Macs, and the ground rules changed. Now Apple hardware was suddenly compatible with Windows. All that was needed was a “bridge” to help keep both operating systems separate on the same hard drive — and Apple developed Boot Camp. Of course, that bridge works in only one direction because you still can’t run Macintosh software on a PC. (Go figure.)

Boot Camp accomplishes this magic by creating a separate Windows partition on your laptop’s hard drive. The partition holds all your Windows data, including the operating system, your program files, and the documents you create while running Windows. Consider this partition as completely separate from your Mac OS X data, even though both partitions exist on the same physical hard drive.

When you reboot your MacBook using Boot Camp, it’s similar to changing the station on your FM radio: the hardware is the same, but you’ve switched to a different DJ (Windows instead of Mac OS X) and you’re listening to different music (country instead of rock). How’s that for a comparison, Dr. Science?

Naturally, you’ll need free space on your Mac’s hard drive to install Boot Camp. Apple recommends 10GB of free space for a Windows 7 installation, but bump that up to 40GB. Both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Vista and Windows 7 are compatible with most Macs capable of running Mac OS X Lion, and any Intel-based Mac can run 32-bit Windows XP or Vista.

When your MacBook is running Windows, it’s as susceptible to virus and spyware attack as any other Windows PC. Make sure that you invest in quality anti-virus and anti-spyware protection for your Windows side!