By popular demand, Apple has introduced Boot Camp, software that configures an iMac, MacBook Pro or Mac mini system to boot Windows XP. I'm installing it now on an Intel-based iMac. Here's what's happened so far:
The first step is to update your firmware. This extends Apple's implementation of Intel's Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) to include support for operating systems that require standard PC BIOS support. The firmware update requires a shutdown, after which you power up by holding the power button until the power light starts flashing. You'll hear a loud beep and the startup chord, and then a bar will display the progress of the firmware update. After the update, OS X boots normally.
At this point, you're ready to download and install Boot Camp. The Boot Camp installer drops a package called Boot Camp Assistant Beta.app into your Utilities folder. Just double-click it.
The coolest thing about the assistant is that it does a non-destructive repartitioning of your boot drive. In other words, you don't need unpartitioned space to install Boot Camp, just free space within your Mac's existing boot partition. Choose your partition size within Boot Camp Assistant and go. Don't split your OS X volume in half! This raises the risk that you'll clobber your OS X partition during the Windows install. Make the new partition markedly smaller (or larger, if you're weird that way) so the difference will be obvious. The XP partition isn't a Mac-standard physical partition; it does not appear in Disk Utility. However, the partition does appear in the DOS/Windows partition map.
Boot Camp Assistant then requests a blank CD, which it uses to burn a special set of drivers for features like the graphics adapter, the brightness keys, and other Mac oddities that confuse Windows. The assistant gathers the files and automates the burn.
Then it's time to install. Boot Camp Assistant puts up a "Start Installation" button. Slam in your Windows XP Service Pack 2 boot CD, click and go. The Mac reboots and the next thing you see is "Setup is inspecting your computer..." The file copying phases that come next are slower than they would be on a late-model PC. The optical drive operates without a RAM cache, and it may also be that the BIOS is not shadowed in RAM.
A special note to MSDN subscribers: You'll need to burn a bootable CD from the WinXP SP2 ISO; it's on DVD 2429.4 in the November '05 distribution.
After another reboot, the system starts Windows XP's graphical installer. The estimate on my display when the process started was 39 minutes. It took about four minutes to get to the product key dialog.
Yes, you'll need your product key, and Windows will nag you to do the on-line activation as well. Keep this in mind since this is a time-limited beta. If you just want to fiddle with XP, ignore the nags and run until XP's activation grace period expires.
I need to attend to other business while this finishes installing. I'll check back in with you when it's up and running.