With the impending release of Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) there are more than a few of us who play the game on Macintosh computers by Apple. For information on how to do this and the best way to get the most out of your experience, please read on.
If you are interested in the more conversational FAQ please see the post that follows.
One Computer, Multiple Operating Systems
After the advent of Intel-based Mac computers, Apple made it possible to users to run both OS X and Windows on the same machine. This was made possible by Boot Camp, currently a free download from the Apple website. Boot Camp, in the simplest of terms, is nothing more than a front-end boot loader that also partitions a section of your hard drive to run Windows. Boot Camp also lets you create a Windows driver disc allowing your Mac hardware to be recognized and run within Windows.
How is this possible you may wonder? Intel-based Macs are essentially made of the same components as other PCs; they simply run OS X as their default operating system. Boot Camp sets aside disk space to hold the Windows operating system and provides an easy way to switch between the two by rebooting and holding down the “Option” key at boot. Then you select your OS and you’re done!
Because the operating system (Windows) is being run in its own environment it is indistinguishable from another PC – for better or for worse. Thus, it is possible to run LOTRO on your Mac as good as, or in some cases, better than a PC.
Windows on the Mac 101
A few things to keep in mind when you use Boot Camp on your Mac:
- The software is (currently) beta. That means Apple or Turbine Entertainment does NOT officially support it. If you run into problem you are on your own.
- You will need to partition or “set aside” dedicated disk space on your hard drive to run Windows. About 20GB or so is recommended. If your Mac supports it – like a Mac Pro – you can install Windows to a separate volume entirely.
- You will require a legal, licensed copy of Windows for your install. Boot Camp is merely a boot loader; you must still provide the software.
- Your Windows partition will run like any other Windows PC and will be (unfortunately) subject to the same vulnerabilities found on Windows computers, namely viruses and their ilk. Exercise caution, especially if you are unfamiliar with the Windows operating system.
How To Get The Best Performance?
Just like a Windows PC, performance of the LOTRO client is a measure of how “up to snuff” your hardware is. Visit the following link and run the Online System Requirements Tool (from your Windows partition) to see how your Mac can handle LOTRO online.
Performance is ultimately a measure of several different factors including CPU speed, available RAM, and your video card. Of these, the video card may play the most important role. From “best” to “worst” here’s how the Mac lineup stacks.
Mac Pro (ATI X1900 XT) *note 1
Mac Pro (NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500) *note 1
Mac Pro (NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT) *note 1
iMac 24” (NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT)
iMac 24” (NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT)
iMac 20” & 17” (ATI X1600)
MacBook Pro (ATI Mobility X1600)
iMac 17” (Intel GMA 950 Integrated)
MacBook (Intel GMA 950 Integrated)
mini (Intel GMA 950 Integrated)
*Note #1: The Mac Pro is the only Mac with a removable (user-replaceable) video card. This means you can upgrade the card at a later date, an important consideration if you intend to do a lot of graphics-intensive work, such as gaming. Video cards on the Mac Pro must conform to the EFI specification and support PCI Express.
Ram is another consideration and is something you can always add. Windows, like OS X, loves RAM. Typically the more the merrier. Of note is that Windows (32-bit version) on a Mac cannot see (or address) more than 2GB of RAM.
One alternative to Boot Camp is virtualization software. This is sometimes confused with “emulation” which virtualization is not. Virtualization uses your existing hardware and creates a “virtual space” within OS X to run another operating system. Think of it as running Windows inside OS X. As you might imagine this does come at a performance cost (you’re running two operating systems simultaneously). Unfortunately virtualization has limited (i.e. almost none) support for graphical hardware acceleration. This means that you can expect very poor performance from LOTRO – if the client will run at all!
If you are interested in virtualization on your Mac check out Parallels made by Parallels, Inc.
Emulation is the only option that exists for Mac owners on a non-Intel-based machine. Virtualization and dual booting via Boot Camp rely upon the availability of the Intel chipset and architecture. If you are on a PowerPC-based Mac (G4 or G5) then you can run Windows but only by emulating the hardware through software. These solutions are even less robust than virtualization and graphical hardware acceleration – and running LOTRO – is not an option.
An example of emulation software for running Windows on a PowerPC Mac is VirtualPC made by Microsoft.
Installing Boot Camp
In broad terms installing Boot Camp on your Mac (remember, you MUST have an Intel chipset!) is fairly straightforward.
- Make sure you have the latest firmware installed (Software Update)
- Download the Boot Camp software from Apple and install on your Mac (from within OS X).
- Run the “Boot Camp Assistant” from the Finder (Applications -> Utilities).
- Create a Windows driver disc for use once you have Windows installed.
- Select the volume to partition and a size.
- Finish the assistant and insert your Windows CD-ROM into your Mac.
- Reboot your Mac and hold down the “Option” key and boot from the CD-ROM.
- The Windows Installer will load and follow the prompted directions.
- Format your newly created volume in either NTFS or FAT (NTFS is recommended).
- Install Windows to this new volume.
- Once Windows is installed and reboots, use “Option” to select that volume to load Windows. Insert your driver disc that you made from OS X and install the drivers.
- Reboot again (love Windows!) and install the LOTRO client.
- Play the game!
For more specific instructions consult the Boot Camp documentation that comes with it or from the Apple website.
Remember, Boot Camp is beta software and is unsupported by Apple, Inc. or Turbine Entertainment!