Having multiple operating systems on one computer is becoming more and more popular. One typical use case is having Linux and Windows on the same machine, another case many Apple owners are having is MacOS X and Windows on the same machine.

In this article, I'll be detailing the installation of Windows on your Mac, tools for accessing your files on the Windows disk and finally how to configure internet and mail so that you can reuse your bookmarks, Web settings and e-mails on both sides. Note that the last part also works for sharing Web settings and mail between other operating systems (for example, Linux and Windows).

INSTALLING WINDOWS ON YOUR MAC

Ever since Macs started using Intel processors, Apple has started providing tools for installing Windows on Apple hardware. The software is called "boot camp" and is provided with MacOS X starting from Leopard. To launch boot camp, just click on the spotlight and look for boot camp. The Boot Camp Assistant will show up in the list, click on it and follow the instructions. If you cannot find it, just download and install it from www.apple.com/support/bootcamp.

LIMITATION: Boot camp currently doesn't let you create multiple partitions. You therefore can have only two partitions in total: MacOS X and Windows. It is very difficult to have a third partition for your documents.

TIP: Since you can access your Windows disk from MacOS X (but not the inverse), I'd recommend you to keep your personal files and documents in the Windows partition. Therefore, it would also be wise to give more disk space to Windows.

TIP: Once Windows is installed, if you want to choose which operating system to start, simply press the ALT key when your computer is starting (start pressing just after you power up, keep pressed until the choice screen shows up).

TIP: With certain versions of Boot Camp, it is necessary to press the trackpad with three fingers for the right click (in other words, right clicking with two fingers doesn't work) or your browser crashes (and sometimes Windows itself gives you a beautiful a blue screen) when browsing Web sites such as Youtube. To solve these issues, download Boot Camp 2.2 from support.apple.com/kb/DL967 and install it.

ACCESSING YOUR WINDOWS PARTITION FROM MACOS X

Once Windows is installed, a "Windows XP" (or whatever name you gave to your Windows disk) icon will appear on your MacOS X desktop. This gives you access to all your files in Windows. But, you'll soon find out a very annoying limitation: the default NTFS driver on MacOS X cannot write on the disk! The solution is easy: NTFS3G. That driver, present on many Linux distributions for years, will let you read and write on your Windows disks from MacOS X. You can download it from www.ntfs-3g.org (they have a section dedicated to MacOS X). NTFS3G is free (both as in free beer and free speech -it is open source software!).

TIP: To access your "My Documents" folder, go to the Windows XP disk, Documents and Settings, your user name, My Documents. I'd recommend you to drag the My Documents icon to your dock and on the left side shortcuts in the MacOS X finder.

TIP: Many file links, for example the ones you'd create in Firefox, start with C: in Windows; but in MacOS X C: is called "/Volumes/Windows XP". To fix this issue, create a symbolic link: open up a terminal, type cd / and then ln -s Volumes/Windows\ XP C: (this will create a symbolic link [i.e. a shortcut], called C:, that goes to /Volumes/Windows XP).

USING THE SAME WEB AND MAIL ON BOTH SIDES: MOZILLA SUITE

An extremely annoying problem any multi-operating-system user has in information sharing. By default, your browsers on Windows and MacOS X will not be sharing bookmarks or cookies, neither the mail clients be sharing e-mails (Internet Explorer and Safari will each keep their own settings, the same for Outlook and Apple Mail, etc. If you're lucky, they'll let you import once, but never get resyhcnronized...); in most cases you need to synchronize manually.

Mozilla, www.mozilla.com, offers great products that do not suffer from these issues if configured properly (you can therefore have the same Internet settings, bookmarks, e-mail accounts, etc. on MacOS X, Windows and Linux). You probably heard of their wonderful browser, Firefox; as well as their easy-to-use mail client, Thunderbird. Both of these products have a "Profile Manager". Using this option, you can tell the Firefox and Thunderbird installations on your Linux, MacOS X and Windows installations to share the same profiles. Note that all these products are free and open source.

On Windows:
  1. Go to Start - Programs and double click on Mozilla Firefox (or Thunderbird)
  2. This will show you the shortcuts. Copy and paste the Mozilla Firefox (or Thunderbird) shortcut.
  3. Rename the new shortcut to Mozilla Firefox (or Thunderbird) (Profile Manager), a bit just like the shortcut with Safe Mode.
  4. Right click on this new shortcut, click properties, and after the " in the target part add (with a space between the " and the -) -profileManager. It will look like: "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -profileManager
On MacOS X:

Start a terminal and launch: /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox -profileManager (you can replace Firefox with Thunderbird).

On Linux:

Start a terminal and launch: firefox -profileManager (you can replace firefox with thunderbird).

This will open up the profile manager. Delete the profile called "Default" and create a new profile. Now, click on the "Choose folder" button and select the folder you want (for example, I've created a folder called Firefox and another called Thunderbird in My Documents). The trick is to select the same folder on Windows, MacOS X and Linux. Once you do this, you can restart launching Firefox and Thunderbird from their usual shortcuts -they'll use your new, shared profile.