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Bootcamp/Windows 7 on a 5k Retina iMac


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#1 Ben Stowell

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 10:39 AM

Hi. I'm considering buying a tricked out 5k Retina iMac w/ the R295x GPU, 32 GB RAM, 4GHz i7 CPU etc. Crazy stupid $ but I'm getting a deal b/c it's a used system. Anyway, after days of researching this machine, I had a few questions/concerns.

For work purposes, I need to be able to boot into Win 7. Currently, I have an early 2008 Mac Pro I do that on w/ no problems. Leaving aside the annoyance of no optical drive on the new iMac, I've seen multiple references to Bootcamp partitioning the standard Fusion drive, but ignoring the SSD portion. My concern is that the iMac I'd be getting has the 1GB SSD upgrade. Would I be able to partition this such that Bootcamp would work for me, or am I stuck getting an external HD?

Another concern is a comment I found about Win 7's support for HiDDI (??) displays being very poor. I do play some Windows games through Steam or bought on GoG, and I'd like them not to look like total crap. Am I shooting myself in the foot w/ this display for Win 7 gaming?

A related concern: obviously I know I'm not going to be using 5k for gaming (the Windows cap is 4k anyway); most people suggest being content w/ 2560x1440 or even 1920x1080. Given that my HP monitor has been delivering a 1680x1050 experience for the last 7.5 years, that's fine! However, I am worried about higher resolutions forcing me to play games in windowed mode (this could apply to Mac games too), which kind of breaks the immersion for me. So, I guess I'm looking for some assurances I can keep playing in full-screen mode. (I seem to recall some videos of Crysis 3 and WoW full-screen, so maybe I'm ok)

For reference, I play mainly RPGs and strategy games w/out high performance requirements. I'm playing Lords of Xulima now, love Spiderweb Software games, etc. Demanding games I'll just play on a console and be fine w/ it.

Thanks.

#2 Cougar

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 12:24 PM

Don't know about the SSD question. I know Windows 8 and 10 have much better HiDPI support. Could you install one of those and use W7 in a VM for work?

Games, though, should be fine running them at a lower resolution. They need to have support for 4k/5k anyways.

#3 Ben Stowell

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 04:19 PM

Some internet searches seem to indicate it might be possible to partition an SSD for Bootcamp purposes, but it's not very straightforward as far as I can tell. I'll have to ask my IT dept about your suggestion of running w7 in a VM for work purposes, thank you.

Though I'm not exactly sure what that would entail; is it as simple as installing Win 8 and accessing a feature that makes it work like Win 7?? (Probably not, that'd be too easy...)

#4 Frost

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 07:54 PM

View PostBen Stowell, on 01 August 2015 - 10:39 AM, said:

For work purposes, I need to be able to boot into Win 7. Currently, I have an early 2008 Mac Pro I do that on w/ no problems. Leaving aside the annoyance of no optical drive on the new iMac, I've seen multiple references to Bootcamp partitioning the standard Fusion drive, but ignoring the SSD portion. My concern is that the iMac I'd be getting has the 1GB SSD upgrade. Would I be able to partition this such that Bootcamp would work for me, or am I stuck getting an external HD?

You'll only run into this problem if you have a fusion drive. A full SSD works just the same as a HDD with respect to Bootcamp usage. You can partition it no problem.
Kestrel (Falcon NW Tiki) – 4.0 GHz i7 4790K / 16GB RAM / 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2, 2x480GB Intel 730 (RAID0), 10TB STX BarraCuda Pro / GeForce GTX TITAN X 12GB
Iridium (MacBook Pro Mid-2012) – 2.7 GHz i7 3820QM / 16GB RAM / 2TB Samsung 850 Pro / GeForce GT 650M 1GB

Eric5h5:
When there's a multiplayer version, I'm going to be on Frost's team. Well, except he doesn't seem to actually need a team...I mean, what's the point? "Hey look, it's Frost and His Merry Gang of Useless Hangers-On!" Or something.

#5 Ben Stowell

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 10:07 PM

That clears a major hurdle, thank you! Now I just need to think about an external optical drive; not just for my Windows 7 disk, but occasionally I'll need to get an anti-virus disk (SEP) from work when there's newer versions...

Any recommendations for such an external drive?

#6 DirtyHarry50

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 12:48 AM

View PostBen Stowell, on 01 August 2015 - 10:07 PM, said:

That clears a major hurdle, thank you! Now I just need to think about an external optical drive; not just for my Windows 7 disk, but occasionally I'll need to get an anti-virus disk (SEP) from work when there's newer versions...

Any recommendations for such an external drive?

I use an external Apple Superdrive myself which works great. I do not need it often but it works just fine when I do. I'm sure there are others that are cheaper (this one runs 80 bucks i believe) but I prefer Apple hardware personally.

As to your gaming concerns, if I understand correctly what I have read, the retina display scales down nicely for 1080p so if you run games at that resolution they should look decent I believe. With the GPU in that system, performance will be very good at that resolution as well. You also do not have to rule out retina gaming entirely. I think Aspyr's Civ 5 port supports retina and may run decently for a visual treat. If you like 4x strategy games I'm sure you know about the Civ games and you could contact Aspyr's support to ask about what kind of performance you could expect there. Both Aspyr and Feral Interactive are excellent sources for native ports to OS X for games. So keep any eye out for anything they publish when shopping.

I play a lot of different kinds of games using both OS X and bootcamp and I do it on a lesser system (2013 27" iMac) and performance is fine without too much compromise, so I don't think you need to worry there given your gaming preferences especially.

Since gaming in Windows 7 is of importance for you, forget about using a virtual machine software. Yes, something like Parallels actually works for a fair amount of stuff but the overhead impacts performance. Having used their software for two version releases I'm done with it. It's just not worth the trouble to me. I'd rather reboot and have everything just work as they say when it comes to Windows gaming. It's also money saved. Parallels is obsolete every two years so it is like subscribing to their updates forever.

Bootcamp on either a SSD or a Fusion drive is not a problem. It was a problem with the 3TB Fusion drives initially but that has long since been fixed by Apple.

That's a very nice system. I'm sure you'll enjoy it and be able to do anything you've mentioned wanting to on it without issue.
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” — Bertrand Russell

#7 Ben Stowell

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 07:58 AM

Super--I should have credit when selling my current Mac Pro (Power Max store), so I'll get an Apple Superdrive. And thanks for clearing up what the VM reference is for; I think I'll stay away from Parallels as well.

I've been a lurker on this site for many years, and I appreciate the input and help I get in its current incarnation. Thanks to you all!

#8 Cougar

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 07:33 AM

Just to clear something up--I was not talking about playing games in a VM. I meant, install Windows 10 in Bootcamp for its better HIDPI support, then run a VM in either 10 or OS X for work. But as DirtyHarry says, there are compatibility issues and a performance overhead, so it all depends on what your work apps are. I am curious what they are if they aren't supposed to work in Windows 8+. You might be pleasantly surprised that your apps work fine in W10.

#9 Frost

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 01:58 PM

I would not run Parallels for hardcore gaming, but older games and work apps it's totally fine for unless you're running it on some ancient underpowered Mac. I find it much preferable to rebooting all the time just to run a Windows app.
Kestrel (Falcon NW Tiki) – 4.0 GHz i7 4790K / 16GB RAM / 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2, 2x480GB Intel 730 (RAID0), 10TB STX BarraCuda Pro / GeForce GTX TITAN X 12GB
Iridium (MacBook Pro Mid-2012) – 2.7 GHz i7 3820QM / 16GB RAM / 2TB Samsung 850 Pro / GeForce GT 650M 1GB

Eric5h5:
When there's a multiplayer version, I'm going to be on Frost's team. Well, except he doesn't seem to actually need a team...I mean, what's the point? "Hey look, it's Frost and His Merry Gang of Useless Hangers-On!" Or something.

#10 Ben Stowell

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 08:02 PM

Re: Win 7 or later, I'm a govt worker and we have to use Win 7 for certain internal applications. So I need it for telework purposes mainly, and enjoy the occasional game (typically when there's no good Mac port or even version) when I can. So I don't think I'll be using 8 or 10 and trying some sort of compatibility mode. Not until we move on to a newer MS OS anyway.

I don't mind booting into 1 or the other as the need arises.

By the way, I'm on the new machine right now. If I run into problems w/ the Bootcamp installation of Win 7, I'll be back! Wish me luck, and thanks again.