Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mac Reflections #4: Boot Camp Pt. 1

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.


Dean said...

Hmmm... Something is not quite right. I see Mac Reflections #1 (assuming that's "Mac Is Arrive"), #2 and #4. What happened to #3?

Damn me and my nitpicking.

Matt said...

Ever the watchful eye, Dean. There was #3, but it was a little too "blue" for Check out DropMy*****.com for that post.

Anonymous said...

I've just converted my last computer away from being a windows machine. Yeah Ubuntu and Mandriva. Now the problem is I feel I should pick between Ubuntu and Mandriva, but I love them both. What to do?


p.s. You mac with bootcamp sounds fun :( It's so hard to stop the hating.

Anonymous said...

OK, I feel I need to add that Ubuntu handles files systems better in general, has a very easy install and apt-get and synaptic are both great.

Mandriva has better driver support and better handling of the 3D desktop features (which are very cool).

And I'm curious if grub works with a mac or not, I just don't know.


Matt said...

Grub, if I recall, is one of many command-line interfaces for Linux. I don't know if it would work on it, or if there is a port, but since Macs are now Unix-based, the command syntax is eerily similar. Linus Torvalds + Unix = ... hmmm.

My only gripe with Ubuntu is the driver support, but, since it's really just misplaced Microsoft griping, I'll let it pass. If they hadn't made driver support so difficult what with their whole "signed / unsigned" thing, universal drivers would be ubiquitous. When running Ubuntu on my laptop, the only problem I've had is broadcom WiFi support for a Linksys PCMCIA card. There are work-arounds for the prob, but the tutorials and FAQs I've found don't seem to help. NDISWrapper is just a work around, anyhow. I can't speak for "Fiesty", or whatever it's called, since I haven't tried the latest distro. That'll be next.

One last quick point to bring up: Due to the volume of complaints it's received with crashes and incompatibilities in Vista, Dell is now offering to install Ubuntu with new purchases. Of course, this option doesn't let people opt out of paying for Vista, it still arrives with the PC, just not installed. Gotta love those no-contest contracts between big vendors.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to see how Apple is using Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt in a way that IBM did in the 80s and Microsoft did in the 90s. Not just you, but many people seem to have grasped onto the FUD thrown around concerning everything PC related. It's also entertaining to see how "facts" evolve and becomes twisted as they are repeated from one person to another.

Matt said...

That is interesting. I take offense at the idea that my negative thoughts on Microsoft are merely the result of a Mac marketing scheme. My dislike of Microsoft comes from 7+ years as an IT professional and "super-consumer" of PC, Mac, and Linux products. They're not uninformed.

It is a fact that Microsoft engages in business practices that many people find distasteful and aligned against innovation, which I am big fan of. My jump to Mac was, in large part, motivated by a professional need to use a stable platform that can run needed creative apps while avoiding many of the problems with Vista's new (horrible) DRM protection scheme.

I'd recommend reading Peter Guttman's A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection ( The problem the paper explores, like Vista unpredictably turning off HD content and various inputs and outputs isn't fear-mongering or strictly academic. No where in the paper does it mention FUD or the idea that all problems associated with Microsfot products are made-up , or that it is trendy to bash Microsoft. Point of fact, the paper uses Microsoft's own tech schematics to point how it cripples the very feature set I need to do my job. Again, I don't see how this is distorting "facts."

Fear-quotes aside, these are facts, insofar as Microsoft's own documentation can be trusted, this info came straight from the horse's mouth. This content crippling was a major reason I did not, and will not, upgrade to Vista or use Microsoft products for my video production work.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that you pointed out that particular article by Peter Guttman. I've read it with great enjoyment. It helps to prove the amount of FUD that's floating around.

These are just a few found using a search on Google.

Matt said...

Link 1: A random user on a forum.
Link 2: Makes some good points, but none invalidate my above comments.
Link 3: Also doesn't address my concerns about editing using premium content.

Guttman's paper uses Microsoft's own materials to make his case. Again, it isn't fear-mongering. It's how the system is designed to work, according to their own documentation. If FUD is being generated by that paper, it's coming from Microsoft itself.

Don't confuse my response with an argument that there is no FUD surrounding Vista. There is. I wrote that my concerns are based on legitimate facts about why I opted out of Vista. The content protection system could (and does) adversely affect my ability to work.

Anonymous said...

Link 1 has 50 minutes of content via MP3. Hit play or download.