Mac Reflections #3: Boot Camp Works!
A warning to readers: In terms of a past posts, this one is long, highly geeky, and more technical than usual. Swim at your own risk.
A couple weekends ago I was able to get Windows XP to run on the new Mac Pro. I used the beta of Boot Camp with virtually no problems. First, I had to slipstream Service Pack 2 into Windows XP to get it to install and went through the setup process. I also ran some benchmarks to test the performance and stability under stress. These updates will come in a later post.
A quick note before considering trying any of this: You have to be running the latest version of OS X and you must run the latest firmware updates. Check the official Boot Camp page to make sure you're running the right firmware and OS X updates for the version of Boot Camp you're about to install. I've read absolute horror stories of people killing their hard drives and ruining the BIOS on their Macs by not having done this. If the term "Flashing the BIOS" is unknown to you, don't try this at home.
Step 1) Get your legally purchased and fully authentic copy of Windows XP (Service Pack 2) out of the vault.
This was the first hurdle. My copy of Windows XP Pro is old. To run at all, Boot Camp requires the copy of Windows XP being used to be at least to the Service Pack 2 level. This is tricky since the way it usually goes is A) Install Windows B) Run the Service Pack 2 update. I needed to update the Windows files to Service Pack 2 before I even installed it.
To get my old version of Windows up to the Service Pack 2 level, I had to slipstream the update into the installation disk. I followed this guy's tutorial, and it worked like a snap. It took a couple hours of downloading, running, and burning but it worked like a charm.
Step 2) Install a new hard drive.
While this isn't technically necessary, it is really helpful. I try to keep like-purposed files on different physical drives when I am able. It's an old habit hearkening back to the days when the operating system had so much processing overhead, that it was smart to keep the media files on a separate drive to speed things up and add a little insurance. Wait a minute! Have you seen the system reqs for Windows Vista? 1GB to recommended just to run the OS? What kind of madness is that?
I purchased a 320GB SATA-II (3gb/sec) hard drive for $79 through Tiger Direct. I installed it via the amazingly simple process detailed in a previous post. I formatted it to run just like any normal hard drive on the Mac. I rule.
Step 3) Download Boot Camp
Boot Camp is a basic boot loader that lets the user, on boot, choose which OS they would like to load. In addition to a raw boot loader, Boot Camp also comes with a simple installation wizard that takes the pain out of building cross-platform driver disks, partitioning / formatting drives, and what to do once you begin the installation process. While I found it to be incredibly stable, Boot Camp is still in beta, so be warned. Beta just means that it's not officially released yet: If you have any problems with it, Apple will not provide support. A quote from the Boot Camp webpage summarizes it as, "We do not sell or support Windows. Duh." As an aside, the new version of OS X, Leopard, will come with the full, gold version of Boot Camp already installed and, by default, supported by Apple. By October (when Leopard is not reported to be released) they'll have worked out most of the bugs. So, if you're the paranoid type, wait until then.
Boot Camp can be downloaded right here.
Step 4) Install and run Boot Camp
The installation process is the same as any other Mac app. Unpack the .dmg file, browse to the mounted virtual drive and copy the .app file to the application directory. Run the app. Bonus!
Boot Camp will prompt you to do two things before you can install Windows. It will make you print a copy of the instructions and burn a disk of Windows drivers. I got around wasting the paper and ink by copying the instructions to our laptop via a handy 2GB thumb drive Mandy's parents gave me for my birthday (thanks!). Either way, you need to have access to the directions some other way than through the Mac box. You do have to burn the driver disk, however. The driver disk becomes vital in step 6.
The last thing it will do is prompt the you to choose the drive and partition size you where you want to install Windows. I chose the new hard drive I had installed and told it to split the drive in half, allowing 150GB of space to install Windows and 150GB for use as either storage in OS X or a Linux installation some point down the road. After the drive had been partitioned and formatted, it prompted me to put the Windows XP disk in the drive, reboot the computer and pray.
Step 5) Install Windows
Windows installs just like always. The terminal-looking blue screen, complete with the bad Courier font has the warm, nurturing feel of an iron pipe to the face. I followed the Windows on-screen instructions and the Boot Camp provided .pdf on the laptop until Windows was fully installed.
During this phase, Mandy read film trivia questions out of a book I received from my sister-in-law. I got every one of them wrong. Good thing I spent all those thousands of dollars on a film criticism degree.
Step 6) Configure Windows to recognize Mac peripherals
After several reboots and an hour of running the Windows installer, I was presented with the XP Desktop. The first thing you'll notice is the resolution is horrible, there is no audio, and the eject button doesn't work. This is because Windows doesn't come with the drivers necessary to run the hardware peripherals built into the Mac Pro box natively. This is where the driver disk Boot Camp forced you to burn in Step 4 comes in handy.
Simply pop open the disk drive and run the disk. Of course, the eject button on the upper-left corner of the Mac keyboard won't work. Windows doesn't recognize the keyboard layout, remember? To open the disk drive you have double click on My Computer > Right-Click on the DVD drive > Select Eject. Once the driver disk is inserted and the drive closed, Windows will run the driver package on the disk and force the system to reboot. Again.
If all goes well with the driver installation, the next thing you'll hear is the creepiest sound ever to come out of a Mac: The Windows Startup Fanfare. I literally felt a shiver run down my spine when I heard it played through the internal speaker.
And there it is: A Mac booting to, not emulating, Windows XP. To choose the operating system I want to boot to, I just hold down the Option key when the computer is starting up, and it will ask me to pick.
I will post some final thoughts and benchmarking figures in a couple days.