Seems so wrong… but feels so right. I’ve decked out a 27′ iMac for Sonar duties, Windows and all… and I’m going to tell you how you can do it too!

Alright, for some people, Windows on a Mac is probably not a big deal. But this is not an article for you – this is for anyone wanting to harness the pure beauty of a Mac for some perverse Windows action, and has NO idea where to start.

Welcome to Bootcamp

There are multiple ways of getting Windows onto a Mac. Programs like VMWare and Parallels run inside Mac OSX, allowing you to ‘seamlessly’ install and run Windows inside OSX. This might seem like a convenient option, but for resource hungry applications (like music sequencing and recording) you may find that two operating systems running simultaneously is not the brightest of ideas.

In this situation, the best option is a free OSX application called Bootcamp. For a full Apple-sponsored guide to installing Windows, check out the official installation guide. But I’ll give you an idea of how things played out for me.

After downloading some crucial Windows Bootcamp drivers onto a USB drive (automatically done via the Bootcamp app), I needed somewhere to install Windows. I had at my disposal an internal 1Tb harddrive, as well as an external 1.5Tb Western Digital drive connected via Firewire 800. As a rule, it’s better to install an OS on an internal drive due to faster internal connections for increased performance. Seeing as OSX was installed already, Bootcamp kindly partitions this drive for me, allowing me to select with ease the size of both OSX and Windows partitions.

Partitioning is easy as pie!

Bootcamp will format the new partition into NTFS – a must for installing Windows. Upon completing the format, Bootcamp asks for your Windows 7 CD. Now here is where things got a little weird for me…

I personally have an upgrade for Windows 7, which requires an initial installation of Windows XP to register correctly. But to my surprise, my Windows XP disk is NOT supported under Bootcamp 4, which ships with Lion. An odd omission in my opinion, as why should OSX care what version of Windows you have installed?

Anyway, there is a work-around; I found that by throwing in the Windows 7 upgrade disk, Bootcamp will proceed to reboot and start the install. But before it successfully reboots into the Windows 7 setup (which doesn’t register properly… I tried :?) hold OPTION, which halts things at a boot option screen – at which point you can remove the Windows 7 disk, and insert the Windows XP disk. Tada!!

Anyway… most of you probably would have a fresh Windows 7 install disk. Good for you – you save yourself a helluva lot of trouble. Just allow Bootcamp to reboot into the Windows 7 setup and install Windows as normal (just be sure to format and install to the partition you made earlier… otherwise things might get ugly!). Once all is well, load up the Windows bootcamp drivers from the USB drive (downloaded earlier), which installs all the Mac specific hardware features, including mouse/keyboard, WiFi, internal bits ‘n’ pieces etc., alongside a neat app that allows you to alter the boot sequence of the Mac (so you could change the boot sequence to favour the Windows installation), or to easily reboot into OSX. Congratulations, you now have Windows installed on a Mac!

Getting Geared for Music

For years, I’ve used a Echo Layla 3G as my audio interface – a PCI card connected to a breakout box. Its aluminium casing is sexy and sleek, and I’ve made some great music with it. But alas, I have no PCI slot to work with in the iMac, so it has been replaced with a downsized M-Audio MobilePre. Yes, I know – it’s definitely a downgrade, but apart from some occasional glitches when playing system sounds, it’s doing a great job.

My humble M-Audio MobilePre

So the lesson here is – if you already have an interface, be sure it is compatible with your Mac. The same goes for any other gear you might want to use – keyboards, controllers or any other external gear. Most devices these days are USB or Firewire which solves most issues, but it’s just good to be sure.

I chose to install my sample libraries on an external WD harddrive, connected via Firewire 800. To this moment, I’ve found no impact on the performance of the system by storing my libraries this way, but I’ve always trended towards smaller manageable templates in Sonar.  For those with massive templates, this might not be the solution for you, but I’m not sure if any single-system solution is; at which point I’d recommend you look up some network solutions and creating a small computer farm… ’tis the way to go, especially with today’s ever-more power-hungry libraries like, for example, Hollywood Strings.

Ahh... glorious real estate!

But really, once you’ve booted into Windows, things are just as they always were. You won’t have to adapt your workflow, everything is as you would perform on your regular PC system. And best of all, your Mac just became an instant gaming system, giving you the best of everything!

So don’t be scared – give it a try. I’m lovin’ it 😀

-s