Spoutin' Off: Windows is fabulous on a Mac

By Michael Rau

October 30, 2006


I'm going to talk about a product this week, but not the one you might expect.

Yes - both Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 and Mozilla's Firefox 2 were released in the past two weeks, but since I haven't had a chance yet to put them through the paces, I'll save that for another day.

Instead, I'd like to do something that I don't often get to do - discuss how I bought a piece of high-end hardware. I can do this because I recently purchased a MacBook, and have impressions and buying tips to share.

First, I should say that, although I'd planned to buy this product, I had intended to wait until early next year, after the release of OSX 10.5. My timeline was accelerated by one simple fact. As part of some recently acquired professional responsibilities, I find it necessary to work on a daily basis in an application that only runs in Windows XP.

I could have gone out and bought a highly discounted, but decent quality Windows machine for considerably less money. But since this application is the only thing I have to use Windows to work with, I decided to go ahead and pull the ripcord and buy what I wanted anyway.

Being one of the biggest cheapskates in the world, I went searching for the best deal. Now, as anyone who has ever bought one knows, there's no such thing as a discounted Mac. However, there are bargains to be found, if you know where to look.

While there are occasional small rebates on Macs (I received a $100 rebate), and while, for some reason which escapes me, some online retailers knock $5 off of the retail price, Macs sell for the same amount whether you buy them direct from Apple, at an Apple Store, at a retailer like CompUSA, or from an online reseller.

However, some of the online retailers offer "bundles" of software and accessories which, when there are other things you want or need and these are part of the bundle, can really make for a good deal.

There are many such deals available online, and which retailer you choose is really just dependent on which particular bundle best suits your needs.

For example, I bought my MacBook through MacConnection, which is one of the older and more established online retailers. The particular items which I got for free (after rebates) were a Logitech wireless mouse, a carrying case (which I didn't really need, but what the heck - it was free), and most importantly to me, a licensed copy of Parallels Desktop.

Keep in mind that, as I mentioned, my main purpose in buying this was to be able to run Windows XP. We've talked previously in this column about how to set up one of the newer Intel-based Macs to run Windows. You need either Boot Camp, which is free from Apple, or Parallels Desktop, which is $80.

Running Windows through Parallels Desktop is much more desirable because, as opposed to using Boot Camp, you don't have to completely reboot your system to switch from one operating system to the other.

The other component to this is of course, Windows. You have to buy a licensed copy separately.

If you're going this route, I'd like to share a dirty little secret with you. I paid less than half the retail cost for a licensed copy of Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2, and here's how:

Windows XP Pro in the full boxed retail version sells for $299, and you can sometimes find it at a 10 percent to 15 percent discount. However, you can also find what's called an OEM version for much less, if you know where to look. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, and this is what Microsoft ships to computer makers to load onto their systems. It's just the CD-ROM, with no manuals or support.

I paid $139 for mine, and if I'd chosen to buy one with a manufacturer's branding (such as for Dell), I could have gotten it for around $20 less than that.

To find this online, go to a shopping site compiler, such as pricegrabber.com or Froogle, and in the search field, type: "Windows XP Pro SP2 OEM", and you should have several sites which offer OEM versions of Windows.

In terms of installing Windows on my brand new MacBook - it was painful but it had to be done. I followed the instructions for easy installation as laid out in the documentation for Parallels Desktop, and as far as I can tell, everything went well.

I've been running Windows on my MacBook for over a month now, using it almost daily, and I swear, I have never worked on a machine on which Windows ran faster or with more stability. I have no idea why.

I wish I could do all my work in OSX, but if I have to work in Windows, I'm glad I can do so in an environment, and on a machine, I trust.

Windows on a Mac. Two years ago, I'd have said pigs would fly before that ever happened.

Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, go to http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.


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