Apple Boot Camp Part 1 – OS X and Windows XP Pro

I’ve finally found a minute to finish my review of Apple’s Boot Camp. While I’ve read mixed reviews elsewhere, it worked beautifully…as long as I could live with certain limitations.

First, it assumes that you only have a single partition on your hard-drive with Mac OS X. When you first run Boot Camp, you must have a single HFS partition on your hard-drive that takes up all available space. When I first tried to install Boot Camp, I decided to pre-partition my hard-drive with an HFS partition, an NTFS partition and an ext3 partition along with a linux swap partition. Turns out, I wasted my time. Boot Camp simply didn’t want to operate in that environment.

What I also didn’t realize at the time was that the partition table was a dummy partition table. The Intel Macs use EFI instead of a traditional BIOS and uses a GPT (GUID Partition Table) which is quite an improvement over the old-style partition tables but to maintain backward compatibility the EFI standard includes a dummy partition table at the beginning of the drive just before the new GUID partition table. When I rebooted after parititioning the drive, OS X didn’t recognize the new parititions which was simply due to the fact that while I had created entries in the old parition table, the GPT had no record of the new partitions. Boot Camp, however, recognized that something was different and wouldn’t allow me to continue…considering that the GPT wasn’t setup properly, it was probably for my own good.

 So, I started from scratch and reinstalled OS X cleanly so that the partition used the entire drive. By this time, I’m so engrossed in the process that I almost forgot that I was trying to install Windows on my Mac. Once I finished the OS X reinstall, I ran Software Update and reinstalled Boot Camp. This time, Boot Camp was willing to cooperate.

The first step was burn a driver CD. This was simple enough. I placed a CD-R into the drive and pressed the “Continue” button.

Burn a Boot Camp Driver Disk

Once this step was complete, I could start the installation process. This was also push-button simple. Boot Camp imformed me that it was creating the Windows partition and gave me some size options. I was given an option to create up to a 32gb partition. I chose the full 32gb. After that, I was prompted to insert my Windows XP Pro w/SP 2 install disk to start the install. The remainder of this process became a normal windows installation with the caveat that I had to select the correct partition in which to install Windows.

Boot Camp Windows Install Screen

After the Windows installation was complete, the system rebooted into Windows automatically and other than a few complaints about unrecognized hardware, it looked good. Then I inserted the driver disk and saw an executeable titled “Install Macintosh Drivers for Windows XP.exe”. This seemed like the thing to do, so I ran it and playing the role of install-monkey and clicking “Next” a couple of times, the installation was complete. Pretty much everything worked great right off the bat. The iSight camera worked, the video driver was working and the wide screen looked great. The sound worked. I was off an running, except…I couldn’t right-click on anything since my MacBook didn’t have a right mouse-button and the keyboard driver didn’t seem to support Ctrl-click. After a little research, I finally gave up and connected a standard USB mouse with a right mouse-button and all was right with the world.

Upon reboot, I discovered (after reading the manual) that holding down the option key allows you to select between booting OS X and Windows. I also noticed that the “Startup Disk” option under “System Preferences” showed both OS X and the Windows partitions allowing me to select my default boot OS. Good stuff!

Startup Disk OS Selection

Since OS X (at least the later versions) have read-only support for NTFS, I was able to access my Windows partition from within OS X which makes sharing files between the two possible in a limited manner. After the fact, I now think that I should have used a FAT filesystem for my Windows installation which would have allowed two-way filesharing between OS X and Windows since OS X has read-write support for a FAT filesystem. Oh, and a search for an HFS driver for Windows did not turn up very much of interest.

Ok, so both OS’es were running perfectly and I had worked out the quirks but, I wanted more. First, I wanted to install Windows Vista RC1 to see if I could get away with it. Then I was hoping to install a copy of Linux and triple-boot my MacBook. I’ve read on the that others had succeeded but I obviously had a little ways to go before I got to that point.

I’m planning this as a three part article. Part 1 (this article) is the original installation of Boot Camp. Part 2 is the installation of Windows Vista (see Windows Vista “Borrows” Features from Mac OS X) which i’ve already done and simply have to write the article. Part 3 will be the installation of a Linux distro. I’ve read that others have had success with both Ubuntu and Gentoo. I expect that the Linux installation will involve reinstalling just about everything. It will also probably break Boot Camp since it assumes that it controls the partitioning scheme on the hard-drive and will only allow an HFS and a Windows partition. But, we’ll see.


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