Every new model in Apple's laptop line runs both Windows and OS X.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

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Choosing a student laptop? It's easy

Sept. 3, 2006

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt

   Choosing a laptop computer for a college or high school student used to be hard. Now it's easy.
   Here's how you should make your decision:
   1. Choose a model from a company with the highest rating in customer support and service.
   2. Get a laptop that is fast. Kids don't want slowpoke computers. Every new model in Apple's laptop line runs both Windows and OS X.3. Get a laptop that can run Windows and Mac OS X. Some schools are clueless about the advantages of OS X (no spyware, exceptional safety, no zombies, no hijacking, only 1 or 2 viruses compared to 200,000 for Windows), so they actually require Windows. (Rules like that make you wonder if any driver ed classes require GM trucks with exploding gas tanks. What's wrong with the people who run our schools and universities?)
   4. Choose a model that knows how to deal with iPods. Every kid either has an iPod or wants one.
   5. Get a laptop that holds up its value.
   So am I telling you to get five different laptops? Not at all.
   But what's this idea of picking a laptop that runs both Windows and Mac OS X? Such a beast doesn't exist, right?
   Oh, what little faith you have. Every new model in Apple's laptop line runs both Windows and OS X. The laptop comes with the software needed to install Windows. All you do is install it alongside the already installed OS X operating system.
   (I've been told by many of the folks who have done this that they ended up rarely using Windows once they realized how well suited OS X is to most of the tasks they needed to do on the computer. But if Windows is there, waiting for any special operation, you have the equivalent of two laptops for one price.)
   Apple switched its computers to the same kind of central processing unit (CPU) chips that Windows PCs use. By doing nothing more than rebooting and pressing one key or another on startup, anyone who owns a current Macintosh can choose OS X (the Mac operating system) or Windows (the monopoly operating system from Microsoft).
   The software needed to switch from one to the other comes with all new Macs. It's called Boot Camp. You don't get a free copy of Windows -- you have to supply that yourself -- but you get everything else you need to run Windows on your new Mac.
   Don't fool yourself. Windows is just as screwy and dangerous running on an Apple computer as it is on a Dell or Compaq. You need as much protection as possible -- antivirus software, programs to combat and eradicate spyware, software to guard against robot zombies that take over Windows PCs during the night, software that can protect your Windows browser from being hijacked, and all that sort of stuff. (There are many more problems, as Windows users already know.)
   So having a choice of running OS X or Windows doesn't give you any protection on the Windows side; it gives you the opposite. But if you prefer Windows games over OS X games, you can play them. If you have to run a Windows program such as Microsoft Access that's simply not available for OS X, you can run it.