Running Windows Vista on a MacBook Pro


The other day, like Dan Miser, I got a MacBook Pro (MBP) laptop for use at work. I’d shopped around looking for a similarly outfitted machine from Circuit City, Best Buy and Costco and didn’t have much luck as they either came with a very slow 4200 RPM drive, too little RAM, 15″ monitor or some other issue. Ordering a high-end XPS from Dell was going to four weeks to arrive and I started work on Monday. I’d been researching MBP’s for awhile as a replacement for my aging home machine and hadn’t really been thinking about it as a work machine but while out shopping at Valley Fair and I walked into the Apple store to check out the iPhone and I wandered over to look at the MacBook’s. One of the really nice things about an MBP is there aren’t a lot of options to choose from.

If you look online, the Apple website has one page of options for the 17″ MacBook Pro compared to the 12 step (seriously, there are 12 steps) wizard on Dell’s site for a 17″ XPS laptop. The defaults for the MBP are really in my sweet spot where the Dell machine requires considerable tweaking along with choosing all their “recommended” options.

Why doesn’t Dell default to their own recommendations? I just don’t get that!

For example, the MBP defaults to 2GB of RAM while Dell recommends 2GB but defaults to 1GB?? Anyway, I asked an Apple store employee if they had variations of these machines in stock and they did so suddenly this was looking like a viable option. I went home, found a bunch of links where people posted very positive results running Windows on the MBP and now I’m running Vista on a Mac.

Setting up Vista was a total piece of cake. I downloaded $g(Boot Camp), installed it and ran it. It prompted me to create a Mac Windows Drivers disk, asked me the drive partition size and prompted me to start the Windows install. It really couldn’t have been much easier. After Vista installed I put in the drivers disk and a few reboots later and Vista with it’s Areo UI boot up just fine. Anyway, Vista appears to be working great on this machine. I’ll post an update regarding performance once I get some development behind me.

Oh yeah, there’s also OSX which I’m now free to play with and leverage it’s strengths.

On a different note I’m still watching this series of post’s regarding the “Ultimate Developer Rig” from Scott Hanselman and Jeff Atwater

18 thoughts on “Running Windows Vista on a MacBook Pro

  1. Keep us posted, I almost went the same route myself but instead custom configured a HP dv9000 via CostCo. I wanted a Mac simply for the hardware design as they are one of the few companies that "get" that computers should look good.
    One thing I’m curious about, does bootcamp simulate the windows key? I can’t imagine being without win+d or win+e or just plain win in Vista. So much so that I find ThinkPads or any other keyboard without a windows key painful.

  2. Hi Steve,
    I have been reading your blog silently, but now that you are talking my language I decided to put up a comment 🙂 I am a lucky guy who had his HP laptop suddenly not working and decided to use a Macbook temporarily. Now that it has been more than 3 weeks, I am trying to get hold of a Macbook Pro.
    Don’t just limit yourself to Windows, you will find that Mac OSX is a really nice OS and Windows is better of in a VM. Go grab VMWare Fusion Beta which is free now and you will be able to use BootCamp XP in it.

  3. Steve,
    I’m curious about your total experience on this path. I’ve never been very comfortable with development work on a notebook, having been heavily addicted to working at 1600×1200 for many years, but now that notebooks can exceed that, I could change my mind. The XPS machines from Dell come with pretty hefty price tags, and I’d be interested in the comparison at that level, as well.
    Please keep us posted!

  4. Nice! Yes, the Windows key works when running in Windows. I’ve heard good things about VMWare, but I went with Parallels instead. It works remarkably well.
    I’ve found that I spend less and less time in Windows, and try to do more things in OSX. Keep us up to date on your findings. I’m sure I’ll do the same. 🙂

  5. One thing you might try is running Parallels off your bootcamp Vista. It runs nearly native speed but you will loose Aero until they fix that. A nice feature of Parallels is the Windows applications can run windowed in OS X.

  6. Thanks for all the comments! I will definitely post updates as I dig further into development using this new machine. So far everythinglooks very good.

  7. Alpay,
    Thanks for the comment. Too bad I can’t read your blog! 🙁 (for those of you wondering it’s not in English). Anyway, with this new machine it’s a great way to experiment with more than just the Windows world so while my "day job" is Windows I now will have the chance to broaden my skills with OSX.

  8. I’ve looked pretty hard at the MacBook Pro the last couple of months, and I’m convinced it’s an awesome machine, except for one thing: you can only hook up one external monitor! This is, unfortunately, a showstopper for me.

  9. Yes, I’ve seen the Matrox DualHead2Go solution, and it won’t work for me because it simply takes one large Windows display and divides it onto two monitors. I need to use and test software that acts on multiple monitor information as reported back by Windows.
    The Magma solution would work but it prohibitively expensive.
    I’ve used the PC card solution from VillageTronic on PC laptops and it is quite impressive. I’m hoping that they come up with an ExpressCard solution soon.

  10. I also made the jump to a MacBook Pro about six months ago, after my Dell XPS breaking for the third time, and have not looked back.
    Rather than VMWare, I have been using Parallels to run my BootCamp partition inside OSX and have gotten on really well with it.
    A lot of my day to day job involves coding in either Visual Studio or Delphi, but increasingly its web development, which means I can do more work in OSX, which I have come to prefer over Windows.
    Do yourself a favour, get hold of Quicksilver (freeware) and Textmate (cheap) for OSX, both amazing bits of software.
    It also doesn’t hurt now that CodeGear is writing products based on Eclipse which happens to run beautifully on OSX …

  11. Hi David,
    Thanks for the tips. I too am really, really liking this machine. I’m actually surprised at how fast I’ve adapted to the keyboard differences. My only real complaint at this point is that the left Alt key is one key too far to the left for me making things like Alt+F a bit awkward.

  12. Hey Steve, you could have just come downstairs to see me running Vista on my MacBook while you were still here at CodeGear. Feel free to email me with any questions about the mac experience. (BTW, I am running Vista x64 even though it is unsupported by Apple)

  13. Hey David!
    Too funny. I did see you running OSX and my wife has had a Mac mini for awhile now and I finally have a machine which gives me some more room for experimentation.

  14. David
    Where do you got all the drivers for Vista x64? I am strongly considering this path but I am hesitant about native Vista drivers. BTW I got MBP model ID 3.1

  15. I’ve been running XP on Parallels on a 2Ghz MacBook with 2GB ram for the last year, and it works pretty great. It is hot when running both. Two OSes really seem to wear down the system.
    But I’m looking now at upgrading for the larger screen and more power of the Core 2 Duo 17" MBP. I’d like to experiment with running Vista, XP, and uBuntu — either using Parallels or Boot Camp. Has anyone done this with more than the two main OSes (Vista/OSX)?

  16. Do you know if the vista video driver for macbook pro supports the duallink 30" monitor?

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