BootCamp Success!

I finally got around to installing Windows XP through Boot Camp and will document my experience here. I am running a 2007 Mac Book Pro 2.4GHz with 4GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT on OS X Leopard. The point is to have a computer on which my wife can play Team Fortress 2 with me. Her idea. Honest. 🙂

As I indicated in an earlier post, my first hurdle was to get my MacBook’s hard drive defragmented enough for Boot Camp to be able to partition it. In theory, the HFS+ filesystem used by Mac OS X does not get fragmented due to how it was designed and how OS X uses the filesystem (read all about it on Apple’s website: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1634).

As one of my favorite professors once said: “The difference between practice and theory is small in theory but large in practice.”

As it turns out, in order to partition a hard drive, and make a new 32GB partition, you need to have 32GB of free, continuous space. My understanding is that Boot Camp attempts to clean up smaller files and try to defragment. But if you have ever used larger files on your system such as in a virtual machine or gigantic movie files when you’re doing movie editing, you are basically left with a partition which Boot Camp refuses/is unable to partition.

I was left with one of two options:

  1. Buy iDefrag – a $30 defrag software
  2. Reformat the hard drive and reinstall OS X

I don’t like to pay for software to fix something that should not have been broken in the first place, or, which other operating systems (ahem, Windows) include with the operating system.

So, I was left with option 2. Reformat and reinstall.

The plan was simple:

  • Back up all my data using Time Machine
  • Double-back up all my data using Carbon Copy Cloner (http://www.bombich.com/), JUST IN CASE, on a different drive
  • Put in Leopard CD, reinstall
  • Retrieve data using Time Machine Migration Assistant
  • Partition the drive using Boot Camp
  • Install Windows
  • play Team Fortress 2 with my wife and best friend

Let’s start with backing up. I needed to do this right because my Master’s thesis is on that drive, so I wanted to be extra careful and diligent in making two copies of everything.

It’s important to remember that in order to use Time Machine OR CCC, you NEED to have a HFS+ formatted external drive. I had only one 750GB HFS+ drive. So redundant backup was out of the question already. Well, I manually backed up all my files smaller than 2GB, which is the filesize limit on a FAT32 filesystem.

So with everything backed up to the HFS+ drive using Time Machine, I held my breath and did a Carbon Copy Clone onto the same drive (stupid I know, but phew, no problems!). All my other files were safely and redundantly manually copied to my FAT32 drives.

Next came the reinstall. But wait, I lost my Leopard CD! Luckily, I made a copy using Disk Utility from which I made a dmg file and another copy. This worked well. I reinstalled Leopard OS X and got to the “Would you like to migrate your data?” screen. I selected “Restore from a Time Machine backup,” selected my USB drive, and let it copy files while I did some things around the house.

4 hours later, the progress bar is still at 0%, and the drive is flickering. This is not good. I had no choice but to turn off the system manually (there was no cancel button on the only window on the screen [?!]), restart, and hope my data is ok. Luckily, it was.

I decided to use a different approach and fired up Migration Assistant from the Utilities folder once Leopard was installed, selecting the same option (restore from TM). This time, the progress bar moved, the hard drive churned, but received an error message at the end that there was a problem with my main user account (where all the data was located). Turns out that the restore only partially restored — none of my preferences or applications were restored. I manually dragged over applications like Firefox from the Applications directory on the drive, which seems to work (except for Adobe Photoshop and VMWare Fusion).

Demoralized, but not defeated, I cut my losses and partitioned the drive. It worked this time! The Windows XP installer presented me with the familiar blue installation screen. After going through all the license agreements and such, I had to choose how to handle the new partition. My choices were:

  • Format the partition using FAT32
  • Format the partition using NTFS
  • Quick Format the partition using FAT32
  • Quick Format the partition using NTFS
  • Convert the partition to NTFS (I chose this)
  • Leave the partition as is

That was the wrong choice. The machine rebooted, and showed a message like “Invalid startup disk.”

Apparently, the right choice was Format using FAT32 (or NTFS). So, back to OS X, use Boot Camp to restore and repartition the drive, and select the right option this time in the Windows installer.

Note: if you need to eject the Windows XP CD because you may have something of value written on it (maybe some kind of a serial number?), you need to eject it after Windows installer restarts and BEFORE it actually boots. Remember, there is no physical eject button on Mac’s computers, and the keyboard button WILL NOT WORK.

I finally installed Windows XP SP2. Great. But, it didn’t recognize the ethernet card, the wireless card, video card… in fact, if there was anything to be recognized, Windows failed at it.

AH! But the drivers! According to Apple’s instructions, put the Leopard CD in while in Windows, and an installer will automatically start up the driver installation process.

But this wasn’t working. In fact, when I inserted the Leopard installation CD, there was nothing on it — it was blank. I finally realized that the original CD is a dual-format CD, HFS+ and iso9660. Since this is a copy of the Leopard CD, and Disk Utility didn’t make an exact copy, I had no way of getting the drivers unless I found them online or got the original CD again.

Don’t even bother looking online, Apple doesn’t provide them (why?!), and as a rule of thumb I never download executable torrents (unless they are Linux ISOs).

I ended up borrowing a friend’s Snow Leopard CD, which worked. The video driver, ethernet driver, sound, microphone, isight, everything is fine.

Except wireless. Wireless wouldn’t connect to my Airport Extreme router saying that the network is out of reach (even though it’s sitting RIGHT NEXT TO my machine). I found a forum that basically said that in order to get it working with XP, I have to change my encryption on the router from “WPA2 Personal” to “WPA/WPA2.” Lo-and-behold, it worked.

The final hurdle was installing Service Pack 3. Starting the install, I get the following message “an error occurred while copying file osloader.ntd.” This forum helped explain that. To summarize, you have to remove the Mac partition from the Windows partition table, install SP3, and re-add it.

So there you have it. It’s a painful process which for once, in my opinion, isn’t Microsoft’s fault. But it’s worth it to see spies burned, heavies backstabbed, and pyros ubered.