Running Vista on a MacBook Pro

Ever since Apple Computer released its Boot Camp software in April, thus enabling Intel Mac owners to run Windows on their Apple hardware, I've been working with various permutations of Windows on my 17-in. MacBook Pro. There was the Boot Camp-enabled Windows XP installation, the Parallels virtualized version of XP (no reboot needed) and now there's Vista RC1.

When Microsoft released a beta version of Vista last spring -- the final version is due in early 2007 -- I was one of those who downloaded it and installed it. At first, all I could do was run it on my year-old Sony Vaio. But that changed a fortnight ago when Microsoft released a Pre-Release candidate 1 (RC1) of Vista, Build No. 5536, and then, more recently a full-fledged RC1, Version 5600.

I spotted a news item on a Mac site pointing out that with Boot Camp now updated to Version 1.1, and with an RC1 disk in hand, Mac owners could install Vista and get a real taste for what the competition is up to.

Who can resist a chance to surf the Web with a beta version of something like Firefox, running on a beta version of Microsoft's next operating system, using a beta version of Apple's Boot Camp software? Not I.

I have to say at the outset that after more than a decade as a hard-core Apple fan, running Windows on a MacBook Pro is a bit, well, weird. It's sort of like living your whole life as a BMW fan and waking one day to find yourself behind the wheel of a shiny new Chevy, or wearing sunglasses after dark. You can do it, but it just somehow seems wrong.

Still, in 2006, this is where we stand: Apple's hardware runs Windows, and does so quite well. In fact, the MacBook Pro I bought in May is better equipped to run Vista than the Sony Vaio I bought less than a year ago. At the time, the Vaio VGN-A790 was pretty much a top-of-the-line machine from Sony, with a 2-GHz Pentium M chip from Intel, 1GB of RAM, a 7,200-rpm hard drive and 256MB of dedicated video RAM. I have since doubled the RAM to 2GB.

Using the "Windows Experience Index," which is included with Vista and designed to give computer users a sense of how well their hardware runs the new operating system's "Aero" GUI, my Vaio scored a 3.6 (out of a possible score of 5). The lowest measure was for gaming graphics. Good thing I'm not a gamer.

My MacBook Pro features a 2.16-GHz dual-core Core Duo processor, a 7,200-rpm hard drive, 2GB of RAM and 256MB of dedicated video RAM. Using the Windows Experience Index, I found that the MacBook Pro got a score of 4.7, no doubt aided by the dual-core chip and better ATI video card. (Gaming graphics, for example, were rated at 4.7 on the MacBook Pro.)

In short, if you have a MacBook Pro, you're ready for Vista. Whether you actually want to install it will be up to you.

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