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Thursday, February 05, 2009, 07:20 am PT (10:20 am ET)

Exploring Windows 7 on the Mac: installation via Boot Camp


Easy drivers with Boot Camp

Once you arrive at the Windows 7 desktop, insert your Leopard install DVD and Windows will offer to install the software drivers Apple provides (below top). This process provides over a dozen custom drivers (below bottom) for all of the unique hardware supplied on every Mac, from the trackpad to the audio, network, and graphics adapters to USB and devices such as the iSight cameras built into MacBooks.

Windows 7 Install


Windows 7 Install


This simple one step installer makes installing Windows on a Mac easier than installing it on a generic PC, as most PC makers require you to select and then download a series of driver install files and then typically install each one sequentially, sometimes with reboots in between. If Apple had any interest in selling Macs with Windows pre-installed just like other PC makers, it could certainly do so, and could offer a nicer install experience, to boot.

The Boot Camp drivers Apple supplies are intended for use with XP or Vista, and were delivered prior to the beta of Windows 7. Even so, there are few problems being reported by Mac users playing with the new beta. You should also install the updated drivers supplied in Boot Camp Update 2.1 for Windows Vista 32 or Boot Camp Update 2.1 for Windows Vista 64 (depending on the 32 or 64-bit version of Windows 7 you installed). You might also need to run the Troubleshoot Compatibility wizard in Windows 7 to get the system to recognize the Apple supplied drivers. And of course, remember that Windows 7 is still in beta and that Microsoft warns against using it for anything apart from testing purposes.

In our limited testing, Windows 7 appears to have fewer problems with device drivers compared to Vista at its launch. The new beta had no problem identifying a generic USB hard drive that Vista had choked on, and it had no problem identifying an iPod that Vista had earlier refused to work with. In some cases we did have to tell Windows to search for a driver for certain devices (including, oddly, the video card driver), but it seemed to work pretty well in identifying what was needed after the initial push.

Installing third party security and Apple apps for Windows

Once Windows is installed, you’ll want to activate anti-virus and anti-malware software. Microsoft provides Windows Defender for malware, but you’ll need to obtain an anti-virus tool. In addition to the beta software and paid version of AVG that Microsoft links to, you can also install a free, basic version of AVG.

You’ll probably also want to install Apple’s familiar Safari browser, which will provide the option of installing Apple Software Update mechanism. That will ask to update itself, and then will recommend installing QuickTime (below). Once you install that, Apple will recommend Bonjour (for local discovery of printers and Mac and AirPort file shares) and iTunes, which will recommend installation of the MobileMe sync setup control panel for Windows.

Windows 7 Install


The download recommendations supplied by Apple’s Software Update drove Windows-centric pundits completely bananas as they fretted in anguish about Apple’s use of the popularity of iTunes to spread its other free software to Windows users. Mac users will probably just find the recommendations useful, particularly if they want their Windows setup to use the same familiar apps and to sync their data with their Mac via MobileMe. In addition to Apple’s optional Windows apps, Boot Camp also installs a control panel in Windows for various settings unique to the Mac, including setting a boot drive preference, and options involving F-keys and an infrared remote, and an option to restart after a power failure.

While Apple’s software for Windows offers Mac users a familiar experience while working in Windows, Microsoft itself has made many of the elements in Windows 7 more similar to the Mac OS X desktop than ever before. The next segment will take a look.