Tim Gaden09 October 2006, 2:30 PM
Dan Warne, chief honcho at APC's web site, asked if I would do a post on installing the new Windows Vista RC2 release on an Intel Mac using the recent update to Boot Camp. Sure, I said, no worries; should be easy. I was wrong.
UPDATE: (Wednesday Evening) Microsoft has taken down the RC2 release after reaching its target of 200,000 downloads in less than 72 hours. Links to it in this post now point to the general Vista web page. However, torrents of RC2 are available everywhere.
Dan Warne, chief honcho at APC's web site, asked if I would do a post on installing the new Windows Vista RC2 release on an Intel Mac using the recent update to Boot Camp. Sure, I said, no worries; should be easy. Macs run Windows now, right? I was wrong.
What you need
- A DVD containing Vista RC2. It's a public release, downloadable from Microsoft's web site. I used the 32-bit version and burnt a DVD of the iso using Disk Utility. No sweat.
- A product key. Don't be like me and only work out that you need this when Vista's install screen is staring you in the face. If you don't have one already, you can get on using this slightly sneaky method. Worked for me. Write it down somewhere.
- Boot Camp 1.1.1. Available from Apple's web site along with a manual and a FAQ.
- A Windows driver CD burnt from Boot Camp. Boot Camp does this for you. It also checks whether you need the latest firmware update or not.
- Coffee. It takes a lot longer than you think; I calculate I lost about twelve hours of my life doing this.
What you don't need
- Windows XP. I thought I would need it from all I had read on the Internet, but when the time came and my Mac asked for a bootable install disk, the Vista DVD did the job. It's quicker that way too -- a twenty minute install, not a two-hour update marathon. If you have XP installed, think about deleting it first. Saves time and feels good.
- So much frigging around. I followed some guides for installing previous betas and RC1 which recommended steps and work-arounds that no longer seem necessary.
Starting out in hope
I ran into trouble early. A 20Gb parition is recommended for running Vista on a Mac. But Boot Camp repeatedly refused to partition my harddrive, claiming that, "Your startup disk cannot be partitioned becuase some files cannot be moved. Back up your startup disk and use disk utility to format your startup disk..."
Several things are believed to cause this error message --- Parallels Workstation virtual drives, Office files, large files in general, incorrect permissions, not enough disk space --- and I worked through them all without success. What worked for me was defragmenting the disk using the shareware app iDefrag. This took a long time, but the optimisation setting moved all the files up to the front of the disk. Then Boot Camp partitioned without complaint.
Whether this process moved an "immovable file" or simply gave Boot Camp enough free contiguous space, I couldn't say. Hopefully, you won't get this error message at all, which will reduce the install time from twelve hours to two.
After that, it was plain sailing. At the appropriate time, I inserted the Vista RC2 DVD and away it went. An initial screen promised it might soon all be over....
Several RC1 guides recommended deleting the first partition created by Boot Camp, then creating and formatting a new one. I tried this, but found that the Vista installer was unable to format the new partition properly. It claimed that the newly formatted partition still didn't meet Vista's requirements.
So I rebooted and tried again with the default three partition structure (EFI partition, Mac OS X partition and new 20GB partition for Vista). It worked fine.
Once it was all set up, the installation itself was quick and painless. Soon I was looking at the Vista Desktop with that same warm feeling of satisfaction that you get after a 10km run.
One step left -- installing the drivers from the Boot Camp CD. These are designed for Windows XP, of course, so installing them in Vista is not straightforward.
Running the extractor will produce an error: "Error: -1603 Fatal error during installation."
You need to extract the drivers and install them manually.
Enter Run into the search field in Vista's start menu. Then type "E:\Macintosh Drivers for Windows XP.exe /A /v" into the command line field (replacing "E" with whatever your optical drive becomes in Vista):
Then you need to navigate to wherever you have extracted them and run the set-ups.
You will also need to visit Windows Update where the drivers for Airport are automatically installed.
Most things seems to work -- audio, video, network, even iSight was recognised. My wireless Bluetooth mouse works too, although Vista has something against nipples.
Vista doesn't like the ATI graphics utility that comes on the Boot Camp drivers CD. However, the Vista-specific Catalyst utility from ATI's driver web site works fine.
I wasn't overly impressed with the OS itself. Vista gave me a Windows Experience Index of 4.1. That's actually a measure of how well a computer's hardware is able to run Vista, but it was about right in other respects as well.
Verdict: Wait for Leopard. It is widely rumoured to include built-in virtualisation that will make this whole performance redundant. If, on the other hand, you are a masochist, or a chronic new-OS experimenter, by all means install Vista RC2 onto your Mac.