Everything you need to know to get started and a little bit more….
In this article I will talk about the software that I use when I have Windows installed on my Mac. The software I use suits my needs but may not suit yours. If there is a tool or app that you think would be useful to others then please let me know and I will feature it here.
rEFIt is a boot menu and maintenance tool-kit for Intel based Macs, it should be installed in your OSX partition. The main use of this software is to add an Operating System selection screen upon booting the computer so you no longer have to hold down ALT. It is very easy to install and is configured via a text file.
The program offers a wealth of options to configure your boot selection screen. To configure this, download and install the software from the link above. Once you have installed rEFIt, open a new finder window (CMD+N), open Macintosh HD and select the EFI folder. Expand the EFI folder, then the refit folder. Within this is a file called refit.conf. This is the file you will need to edit to configure refit, it contains instructions on how to do this so read it carefully before changing anything.
If you would like just a basic selection screen between OSX and Windows with no other options at all, I have a configuration file premade for this. Send me an e-mail HERE with the subject “rEFIt conf” and I will send you a copy of this file, once you have it just paste it to the location mentioned in the last paragraph and replace the old file.
Updated Graphics Driver:
If you intend to do any gaming at all in Windows it is strongly advised to update your graphics card driver to the latest version available. The driver that is installed with Bootcamp has been created at the start of your computers life and will not be updated by Apple at any point. Thankfully Nvidia, AMD and even Intel are constantly updating the driver software for their graphics cards.
To identify which graphics card you have, go to Windows Button > right click on Computer > select Properties > click on Device Manager > click on the + to expand Display adapters.
This should identify the model number of your graphics card and the manufacturer e.g. AMD Radeon 6750.
Now that you know the manufacturer and model of card you have you can visit the relevant website listed below and download/install the most up to date graphics drivers for your computer.
PowerPlan Assistant (http://powerplan7.com/home.htm):
PowerPlan Assistant has both a free and paid version, both operate the same but the free version will require you to download a new license every week. The paid version operates on donations, one small donation will get you a license code and you won’t need to refresh the license every week.
This software brings back some of the functionality in power management that you will miss from OSX in to Windows. Features like enhanced keyboard backlight management, default power settings, Wireless configuration and more are available. For more information just visit the website listed above.
Trackpad++ is developed by the same person that developed PowerPlan Assistant, in fact PowerPlan Assistant is a pre requisite to installing Trackpad++.
One of the major drawbacks of using Windows on a Mac laptop is that the trackpad functionality changes from being a joy in OSX to a complete chore in Windows. Trackpad++ changes that dramatically. It doesn’t get everything right and it still is not as enjoyable to use as the OSX trackpad but it certainly makes using Windows a much better experience.
Here is a list of the enhancements you can expect over the default Bootcamp driver:
This software operates on the same model as PowerPlan Assistant, you will need to download a new license each week if you wish to use it for free. I personally chose to donate a flat $10 and got a license for both from the creator.
Taken from the above website:
“Winclone allows you to easily image your bootcamp partition on your Mac. If you need to migrate your Windows partition (Windows 7, Vista, or Windows XP on NTFS) to another Mac, create an image of the current state of your bootcamp partition or change the size of the bootcamp partition to give more space to your Mac or PC, Winclone makes it easy. Just select the bootcamp volume and create the image. Then restore the image to a bootcamp partition. Couldn’t be easier.”
If you need to clone your Windows partition for any reason then this software is the easiest to use. It used to be free but now you will need to pay the small fee of $19.99
There is a wealth of support on the site itself so have a look and see if it suits your needs. I used this extensively for work when I only had a few machines to clone and it was excellent. If you are looking for a solution to clone Windows and OSX on a larger scale then take a look HERE.
Camptune is a software package designed by Paragon Software Group used to re-allocate space between your Windows and OSX partitions. I did mention previously in my Bootcamp for Beginners guide that you cannot re-size your partitions however it is technically possible. It is much more important to estimate your needs correctly in the first instance rather than having to resize your partitions.
Resizing the partitions is a destructive process, before starting a task like this you need to make sure that you have everything you need on your computer backed up. The re-sizing process can go awry and you could lose all your data if you haven’t backed it up. Generally this software works fine but some users have had problems with it and lost entire partitions full of data.
I still feel that planning ahead and considering your usage needs is far more efficient than having to re-size your partition with paid for software, however for users that desperately need more space in either partition this is the best solution available.
This section really boils down to personal preference, thus everything that I mention here is just my own personal opinion and what works for me. You may find other peripheral hardware and accessories more useful than these, if you think there is an essential product I have missed then just get in touch and let me know.
There are two mice that I use regularly, both I find great to use but they are suited to different needs. I have an Apple Magic Mouse which works great in OSX but in Windows and when gaming the lack of a second separate button and a scroll wheel really holds back performance.
The first mouse I use is a Razer Abyssus, this is generally the cheapest Razer mouse on the market but the build quality still feels excellent. I use this when working or gaming at a desk. The mouse has a solid build quality, 3 DPI settings and the usual two buttons and a scroll wheel. The best thing about the mouse is that its shape fits my hand perfectly, for anyone with small/normal sized hands it’s an ideal place to start when buying a gaming mouse, if you have larger hands you may want to try something bulkier and a little more sturdy.
The second mouse I use is the Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball Mouse. I spend most of my day at work sitting at a desk; I found the prospect of coming home and sitting at another desk quite depressing. I always felt limited using my laptop on the couch and feeling like I was missing out not using a mouse. I had also wrongly assumed that trackball mice were as accurate as a trackpad, I was very wrong in this assumption.
This mouse is quite expensive (£40+) and to be honest when you first use it, it feels as well built as a £10 mouse you can get at PC World. A trackball mouse will take some getting used to but after a few days it will feel natural and responsive. After a week or so settling in this mouse starts to feel much better and not as flimsy as it did on day 1. I can successfully sit on my sofa with my hand by my side and play Counter Strike with this mouse, and end my game with a respectable score. For me that is a massive success!
The best thing about this mouse is the reduction in arm and hand strain I get from using it over a regular mouse. It is comfortable and I never have to strain my hand or wrist to do anything with it. The trackball is located on the left side and is controlled by your thumb which sits exactly in its natural mouse using position, creating no extra discomfort from operating the ball.
If you have a very small desk or like me you enjoy using your laptop while relaxing on the sofa then this is the mouse for you. If I had one wish for the trackball mouse, it would be that more companies were making mice like these and ones with multiple button/better build quality were available.
As a gamer, a good set of headphones is essential, I have owned top of the line, over the top gaming headsets and the cheapest headphones available. Once again this comes down to your own personal preference and what you need to achieve from the product.
I currently use the Creative Fatal1ty headset and it meets all my needs. It connects via the line in for mic and line out for headphones; this is beneficial for me as it keeps one of my USB ports free to attach other devices should I need to. The sound quality in games is fantastic as is the output from voice programs such as Skype and Mumble. The only area this headset is really lacking is music playback, it is very bass heavy but at the price of just over £20 it’s difficult to complain about this.
I would recommend a headset to anyone wanting to use windows on their Mac for voice chat or gaming. The sound quality increase over the built in speakers is huge and you will be able to avoid feedback and other sound interference with your voice chat programs.