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Vista on MacBook Pro

It is clear that the MacBook Pro is no different from any other notebook based on the Santa Rosa platform in its hardware. So you may suppose that Windows Vista is going to run on it without serious problems. Alas, this is not exactly so in practice.

The first problem is the installation. Yes, it is simple to install Windows Vista on the second partition organized by means of the Boot Camp tool. This process goes smoothly indeed thanks to Apple’s programmers, but my goal was different: I wanted to get rid of Mac OS X altogether and replace it with Windows Vista.

You cannot just start up Windows’ installer from the boot disc because the installer refuses to select the partition formatted for Mac OS X as a location to install Windows into.

You can solve the problem by pre-formatting the HDD with the DOS tools or with the Windows XP installer that turns to be able to cope with Apple’s OS and its HFS+ file system easily. Fortunately, even though the MacBook Pro lacks a traditional BIOS and uses Extensible Firmware Interface instead it, you can select the boot device by holding down the alt/option key during start-up. This allows booting from CD/DVD discs with alternative operating systems.

Well, I solved the installation problem in a simple and barbaric way. I just replaced the HDD in the MacBook Pro for the time of my tests. But I wouldn’t recommend this method to inexperienced users. This operation requires some skill and also makes your warranty void. As opposed to many notebook makers, Apple only provides easy access to the memory slots. The other components are all hidden deep in the notebook’s case.

The second problem you have to face right after you install Windows Vista on your MacBook Pro is the lack of necessary drivers. People who install Vista using Boot Camp avoid this problem because everything necessary for the installation is already integrated into the Boot Camp tool. But as I was installing the OS from scratch, I found out that Vista couldn’t identify the iSight web-camera, the integrated Bluetooth 2.0 adapter, and the network controllers. It also couldn’t utilize all the features provided by the keyboard, touchpad and remote control. Some of the required drivers can be downloaded from the website of the manufacturers of the chips, but it doesn’t solve all the problems.

There is one way, though. The Boot Comp disc included with the MacBook Pro contains all the software you need, and this disc can be accessed after you install your Vista.

The disc contains drivers for 32-bit versions of Windows Vista, so you won’t be able to install its 64-bit versions on the MacBook Pro even though the notebook’s processor supports EM64T technology.

Besides the drivers, the Boot Comp disc contains the namesake program that runs under Windows and allows controlling some of the notebook’s features. Particularly, it allows to change the brightness of the display, enable/disable the remote control, and define the operation mode of the functional keys.

Now that the OS and drivers are installed, there is a minimum of compatibility issues between Windows Vista and the MacBook Pro. In fact, you can only have some inconveniences that come from the notebook’s overall orientation at Mac OS X.

For example, the MacBook Pro has only one touchpad button while it is problematic to work in Windows without a right mouse button especially as Microsoft’s OS doesn’t offer any way to solve this problem. That’s why you need an external mouse to work in Windows on a MacBook Pro. There is a less handy option: the Apple Mouse program can emulate “right button clicks” if you press the touchpad’s only button together with the Control button on the keyboard.

The keyboard may also seem inconvenient to a Wintel user with its unusual layout and lack of certain buttons. For example, Apple recommends using Backspace instead of Delete (and the Delete button on the MacBook Pro actually performs the function of the Backspace key of ordinary PC keyboards). But after you install the keyboard driver, the Ctrl-Alt-Backspace combination works as Ctrl+Alt+Del on the MacBook Pro, so the keyboard shouldn’t be a great trouble for a Windows user after all.

Some problems concern the power-saving technologies. Windows Vista proved to be unable to change the brightness of the display’s backlight. This parameter can only be changed manually through the Boot Camp Control Panel, and this has a negative effect on the notebook’s battery life.

I’ve actually named all the troubles you may have, but overall, Windows Vista runs perfectly on the MacBook Pro. It doesn’t provoke serious problems if you prefer this OS to the preinstalled Mac OS X. In other words, Apple’s hardware and Microsoft’s software are absolutely compatible.

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