October 13, 2008

Mouse, Keys Freeze Up

Q. I read your recent column about running Windows on a Mac. Is there a way to run the Mac OS X operating system on a PC, like a Dell or a Sony?

A. Yes, but it is really only for tinkerers and hackers, and even then it may not work fully or smoothly. Apple makes the process difficult, both technically and legally, because, unlike Microsoft, it is not in the business of selling its operating system for use on other companies' hardware.

Therefore, I know of no simple software for average consumers that can install OS X on a non-Apple computer without any technical knowledge and with full assurance that the operating system will be completely compatible with the hardware. There is nothing on the market like the products that allow people to run Windows on a Mac.

A small number of techies do install Mac OS X on non-Apple PCs every day, and some people have created software to make this possible for people with plenty of technical knowledge. There is even a company called Efix that is selling a hardware module that it says will make this easier. Its maker warns that the product is only for "enthusiasts," and it requires that you attach it to the computer's internal circuitry. Also, it works only with certain types of personal-computer hardware.

One more thing: Apple takes the position that its licensing terms limit the use of OS X to Apple hardware, so, even if you can pull it off technically, there could be legal jeopardy involved. In fact, Apple is suing a company called Psystar that sells non-Apple PCs with OS X installed.

Q. I have a new PC that came with a 64-bit version of the Windows operating system. It gives me a choice between using a 32-bit Internet Explorer or a 64-bit Internet Explorer. Which should I use?

A. The 64-bit version of Windows, which is rarely used by average consumers, can make the computer faster, but only when running programs that have been written in special 64-bit versions. In the consumer arena, there are too few such programs, and thus too little benefit, to justify paying extra for 64-bit machines. In fact, people who have computers running 64-bit Windows are mostly using older 32-bit programs, which run fine but aren't made quicker.

So, the 64-bit version of Internet Explorer may run faster. But there is a downside. Because of the relative rarity of 64-bit users, some browser add-ons and tool bars, and some of the Web technologies that power the features of Web pages, aren't compatible with the 64- bit version of IE. On top of that, you may not notice any huge speed difference as the perceived speed of Web browsers depends more on the speed of your Internet connection than anything else. So, for now, I would stick with the 32-bit version, for compatibility's sake. You can always install the 64-bit version later, if you decide that the Web sites you frequent and the add-ons you use work well with it.

Q. I am running a Mac with Windows XP Pro in Boot Camp, which requires rebooting to change operating systems. Is there some way I can use my already-installed Boot Camp setup as a virtual machine using VMWare Fusion, so I can run my Windows and Mac programs side by side?

A. Yes, there are two ways. First, Fusion allows you to treat the Boot Camp section of your hard disk, called a "partition" - which is essentially a separate Windows PC stored on your Mac - as if it were a "virtual machine." This approach still allows you to reboot the entire Mac into Windows when you'd like to do so in order to perform the few tasks that Fusion can't handle, such as advanced 3-D graphics.

The second approach is to simply import the Boot Camp installation and turn it into a purely virtual Windows computer, as with any virtual Windows machine you would create in Fusion. If that meets your needs, you can then actually remove your original Boot Camp Windows installation, which will likely free up some hard-disk space. To do this, just select your Boot Camp partition, which Fusion automatically detects, and click on Import under the File menu. Q. I am still using Windows XP on a computer that is about four years old. It's worked fine until recently. But now, at least twice a week, the screen freezes. The mouse won't work and I'm unable to type. If I wait 10 or 15 seconds, things return to normal. What's wrong?

- Bill Reimar

A. Among the most likely causes are insufficient memory or infection by spyware/adware. With Windows XP, you should have at least 1 gigabyte of memory. I recommend 2 gigabytes for Windows Vista.

The lack of enough RAM usually reveals itself when you have more than one program running at a time - and, these days, it's common to have a Web browser running in one window, an e-mail application in another, and a word processor open in still another.

When it comes to eliminating spyware and adware, free programs such as Windows Defender (at http://tinyurl.com/5q36co) or Ad-Aware 2008 Free (at http://tinyurl.com/yt5z4p) can help.

Viruses also can create freezes, as can misbehaving programs. I like Grisoft AVG as a free anti-virus program (http:// free.grisoft.com). If the freezes started after the installation or update of software, then consider at least temporarily removing that software.

Your computer shouldn't be freezing a few times a week. But if the computer freezes just once or twice a year, it's probably just a hiccup.

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