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Boot Camp...what a pain

I finally, weeks after getting my new MacBook Pro, have successfully installed Windows XP on my Mac. What a hellish experience it was, too; people claim that Boot Camp is easy as anything to install, but let me tell you that there are some serious stumbling blocks, and I hit them all.

For those of you thinking of installing Windows, here's the experience of someone who's lost several days over the course of a multiple weeks to the process.

Here's my specific situation: I had the Professional verison of Office 2004 for Mac, which meant that I had a never-used, entirely legal license key for Windows XP Pro. Unfortunately, I didn't have a Windows install disk, because Virtual PC is screwy like that. There was no way I was going to spend $300 on what essentialy would amount to a duplicate license, so I set about looking to borrow an XP install disk. Learn from my experience, and just buy yourself Windows.

First off, the files that come with Virtual PC are just not quite right. I burned a number of disks exactly to the instructions in the Apple Discussions forums (and a few experimenting to see if I could fix things), but they always claimed they were missing a file (which was clearly located on the CDs). Good luck getting an install disk using VPC; I had no luck, and have heard from no one who had such success, although they may be out there.

Secondly, you cannot use an academic version of Windows XP; since all of the people with install disks had academic versions, this left me out of luck (dang college kids). This is the single biggest issue that I ran up against; I've slipstreamed an easy eight or more disks that didn't work discovering this. For a clean install, the Windows setup program requires that the disk be a "full" disk of Windows, and Academic disks evidently don't fit the bill. There is a loophole to this, but exploiting it involves acts of sketchy legality.

Thirdly, don't listen to Apple. Their drivers are not in any way perfect. The first time I installed the drivers, I shut down the computer instead of restarting it, and when I started it up the display didn't work at all. After restarting with the old configuration, I discovered I had to uninstall everything and reinstall it to get it working (thanks for being impossible to use, Windows). I did this, but then the sound drivers didn't work at all (they hadn't worked initially, for that matter). If you run across this issue, there is an alternative (linked to from here), but please note: using this driver results in a program called Intel Audio Studio being installed, which will not run, tries (and fails) to start every time you boot into Windows, and is, as far as I can figure, impossible to remove without hacking into the registry (which is bad). Also, the sound will only go through the headphone jack (not through the computer speakers). You can disable the Intel program from starting with the computer (by using MSCONFIG, the launching of which is described here), but the program will still be there.

So there you have it: the things I've discovered trying to get Windows to install on my Mac. It was a terrible experience. My advice, in retrospect, would be to wait for Vista and Leopard. Unless you have a full install disk, the whole process just isn't really worth it, and the Apple drivers are still not perfect even if you do.

Posted on June 26, 2006 at 12:04 am
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