Installing Windows XP, the Right Way

When we first reviewed the Mac Pro, we of course tried to install Windows XP on it. 

Although Apple's Bootcamp beta now allows you to install Windows on a separate hard drive, you'll need to physically remove your OS X boot drive before beginning the install process otherwise you'll be greeted with the following error:

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Even with Apple's updated Bootcamp 1.1 beta release, we encountered serious performance issues with SATA drives under XP; the fastest transfer rate attainable, regardless of drive used, was only 3.9MB/s, which obviously made the system very slow.  Video and CPU performance was fine, but with I/O performance so low the system was a very poor performer in most applications. 

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Thankfully, some clever OS X/XP users figured out the cause of the problem: the Intel 5000X drivers must be slipstreamed into the Windows XP SP2 install CD and loaded during Windows setup, not after, in order to avoid the problem.  We couldn't find a reason why this was true, but after following the instructions posted here (and later mirrored here) our SATA problems went away. 

The fix is simple; you need to download and extract the Intel chipset drivers for the 5000X, as well as the SATA drivers, and use a tool such as nLite to slipstream the drivers into your XP SP2 install CD.

If you've done it correctly, your SATA drives should now operate in Multi-Word DMA Mode 2 instead of PIO Mode when viewed in Device Manager. 

With Windows XP now working at full speed on the Mac Pro, we run into another hurdle in making the Mac Pro the perfect XP/OS X workstation: the video card.  Apple only offers three video card options for the Mac Pro: a GeForce 7300 GT, Quadro FX 4500 and a Radeon X1900 XT.  The problem is that the first option is a fairly low end GPU, and the remaining two are fairly expensive upgrades at $499 and $399 respectively.  It would be much nicer if we could simply use a PC video card in the system, as it would greatly expand the possibilities for upgrades and do so at much better prices. 

PC video cards will actually work in the Mac Pro under Windows XP, they will not however work under OS X or during any of the pre-boot period of starting the machine (e.g. you will not be able to see the startup disk selection screen if you hold down the Option key while the system starts).  If you install a PC video card in the Mac Pro you'll simply get a black screen until Windows starts loading, at which point everything will look normal.  We used this fact to our benefit by running all of our Windows XP game tests with a regular ATI Radeon X1900 XTX.  Interestingly enough, when we tried to use a Radeon X1900 XT 256MB, we got a lot of display corruption as you can see from the screenshot below:

We couldn't do anything to get rid of the corruption, and aren't sure why it happened only with the 256MB X1900 XT. 

On the OS X side, if you try to boot with a PC video card you'll simply get a black screen from start to finish.  We've tried ATI's Radeon X1900 XT as well as the new GeForce 7900 GS (the GPU supports OS X, but the cards themselves do not) and had no luck in OS X.  As soon as Mac versions of these cards are readily available, users should be able to rip the firmware off of one and work on putting it onto a PC card.  Until then, your video card selection for the Mac Pro is going to be quite limited. 

Great News: Quad Core Works Windows XP Performance - The Test
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  • Calin - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    Assuming you want a workstation capable of accessing 16GB of RAM (and using two processors), your options are a bit more reduced. There was an article on Anandtech, and the Mac Pro (the most expensive) was just a couple of hundred dollars more expensive than the sum of its components (and operating system I think).
  • tuteja1986 - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    Intel Xeon 5150 2.66Ghz
    1GB PC2-5300 DDR2
    250GB 7200RPM Sata-II
    16x DVDRW
    Good Looking Case
    Server Mobo
    Mac OS



    Intel Xeon 5150 2.66Ghz $729
    3x 250GB Western Digital in raid 5 $65 each = $195
    Pionere 110D = $50
    7900GT $260
    2x 1GBx2 OCZ PC2-5300 $200 each = $400
    TYAN S5370G2NR-RS Dual Socket 771 Intel 5000V SSI CEB Server Motherboard $319 supports 16GB ram
    Cool Master Stacker $154
    Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL 600W SLI Ready $70
    Linux OS , Microsoft Windows XP Professional X64 Edition Single Pack $139


    I know what i will pick :!
  • grtgrfx - Monday, December 21, 2009 - link

    And which one will run cooler and be completely silent when you push it? Ah, the Mac will. High quality build, excellent components, superior GUI: $2,500. Peace and quiet while working: priceless.
  • Nimbo - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    Anand did compare prices in its second article about Mac pro">
    Mac Pro: $2499
    Dell equivalent: $3110
    Home Built: $2390
  • tuteja1986 - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - link

    MAC PRO $2499

    Two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon
    1GB (2 x 512MB)
    250GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT 256MB (single-link DVI/dual-link DVI)
    One 16x SuperDrive
    Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse - U.S. English
    Mac OS X - U.S. English

    - not include :
    Server OSX
    Fiber Channel Cards
    Wireless Option
    Any Apple Software
    Or even Apple Care Protection Plan (APP)

    Now if your doing loads of Video Editing/encoding.. one Gigabyte ram is crap all and 1 250GB is to little...

    Two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon
    4GB (4 x 1GB)
    500GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    500GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    500GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
    ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB (2 x dual-link DVI)
    One 16x SuperDrive
    Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple wireless Mighty Mouse - U.S. English
    Mac OS X - U.S. English

    - not include :
    Server OSX
    Fiber Channel Cards
    Wireless Option
    Any Apple Software
    Or even Apple Care Protection Plan (APP)

    At Mac Customize they don't give you a chose of additional 250GB hard drive just 500GB Hard drive

    Now Windows/Linux PC is where it shins :

    Intel Xeon 5150 Woodcrest $729 : $1458

    Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb x3 $189 = $567

    HIS/Sapphire/Asus Radeon X1900XT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 CrossFire Video Card - $300-$320 could way more cheaper with rebate

    NEC/LG/Sony/Lite-on 16X DVD±R DVD Burner Beige IDE Model ND-3550A $30

    hermaltake Armor Series VA8000BWS Black Computer Case - Retail $149

    Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL 600W SLI Ready $70

    Logitech Cordless DesktopS Keyboard Mouse $58

    Creative Sound Blaster $40

    Windows XP PRO 64bit $139

    TYAN S5370G2NR-RS Dual Socket 771 Intel 5000V SSI CEB Server Motherboard $320

    Crucial Technology 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 FB-DIMM DDR2 667 $170 x 4 = $680


  • tech010101x - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - link

    You do realize that the Mac Pro comes with all the drive sleds... you can add the WD5000KS drives yourself later. You can also add memory yourself.

    Doing it this way... ordering the Mac Pro with 2 x 512MB RAM and 1 500GB drive costs: $3009.
    Add in the RAM you quote: 4 DIMMS at $680 + 2 WD5000KS at $189 @ = $4067
    Total difference then is a mere $256.

    You are still missing firewire 400 and 800 and firewire target disk mode.
    The power supply in the Mac Pro is much beefier.
    Windows XP 64 bit is a mess.

    And then we get to the fact that you are comparing a retail price to a non-retail price, comparing a bunch of parts to a fully assembled system, and you are leaving out the shipping issue altogether. Certainly, it is possible to pay $4,909 + tax for the Mac Pro. It is also very possible to pay far less.

    The arguments in this regard are less about Apple and more about homebuilt vs. Tier 1 vendor. You might as well be comparing against IBM Intellistations, Sun Ultra 40's, or HP xw8400's. You'd appreciate it not being a homebuilt when you have to manage many of these over time.

    A 5% discount on the base system + the extra RAM and drives added later is $3917, or $106 difference. I usually get bigger discounts than that 5% on systems like this.

    In the end, if you aren't interested in using Mac OS X at all, the Mac Pro is probably not for you. It is the complete suite... from the hardware (including the nice boot menu, target disk mode, etc), the software (Mac OS X, iLife, platform user experience, etc.), solutions integration (Xsan costs $999 vs. ADIC StorNext at $4k for SAN filesystems), on through to applications (Final Cut Studio, Shake, etc.).
  • Calin - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - link

    Windows XP Professional supports two processors (cores) out of the box. Put a Windows 2003, and see where you get...
  • Sunrise089 - Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - link

    and even that "home built" price was without a case, OS, or power supply.
  • Calin - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - link

    As for the OS, you could "migrate" your Windows XP - with one small problem - XP is 1-2 processors only, this configuration would have 4 cores...
    So, add another ... for Windows 2003
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - link

    Sorry, but that's wrong. XP is 1-2 *sockets* only. XP home will work with a dual core or even quad core CPU just fine, and XP Pro works with all 2S workstation setups without difficulty. Microsoft modified the way they count CPUs when dual core first came out.

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