Getting Windows on my Mac

windows_xp_logo_2I recently endured a rather difficult experience: installing Windoze XP on my MacBook.  Because I’ve been getting busier with website design and coding as of late, I’ve also been struggling with how to test my CSS and XHTML code across mutliple browsers and operating systems.  I had Parallels Desktop installed on my MacBook, but had been noticing quite a performance decrease every time I opened my WinXP virtual disk (probably in part due to the fact that my computer is a few years old and has 1 GB of RAM which is the minimum memory requirement to run the software).

Parallels has a great concept (and with enough memory, great software) that allows users to run MacOSX and Windows literally side-by-side in the same window and allows nearly instant switching from one to the other.  I should be able to start up my MacBook into OSX and from there, boot into the Windows XP OS within a Mac window.  It worked for me for a while, but eventually, I got tired of waiting for Windows to boot up and run slowly (after I’d already been using the MacBook to full capacity with other programs).  Therefore, I thought it would be a good time to switch over to BootCamp.

Knowing full well that what I was about to do could be risky business, I made sure to back up EVERYTHING from my Mac HDD onto an external drive and a few DVDs.  I then sat down with my Mac and BootCamp to start the install process.

At first, BootCamp wouldn’t partition my HDD because some files were “unmovable.”  I determined to completely reinstall Mac Leopard in order to have a “clean slate” from which to begin the Windows install (this is also why I backed everything up first, I knew I would be erasing the whole drive shortly).  After the Leopard reinstall, BootCamp partitioned my disc well, and prompted me to insert my Windows CD to begin the installation process.

Unfortunately, having moved to Korea 3 years ago, I no longer had my old (then new) Windows XP (before SP1 even) CD.  That being the case, I was able to buy a get a different copy of Windows XP in Korea from a third party vendor to attempt my install.  Of course, I knew that I would be installing Windows in the Korean language, but I already had plenty of experience changing Windows XP languages after install.  I’d performed numerous Windows XP installs in the States when I worked for Tech Support at my university, so I assumed that this install would be just as straight-forward as all previous installations.  However, I hadn’t counted on seeing a graphical user interface (in Korean) to “aid” me in the partitioning and installation of my disks.  

Needless to say, the install didn’t go quite as expected.  It seems the Windows install wiped the Mac OS off the computer’s boot record and didn’t write it’s own properly, so that the next time the computer restarted, I was faced with a Mac “gray screen of death.”  This experience did however remind me of the importance of keeping the original install discs of any software (particularly OSs).  But that’s a post for another time.

I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was wrong with the MacBook, or how to make it respond to anything at all (couldn’t even figure out how to get the CD ejected).  I just let it sit for a few hours while I went to church hoping that it would do something, but it never did.  I decided to just take a night off, away from the computer that night and try to find the solutions to my problems the next day at work.

In the past, I’ve always had an extra computer in close proximity to me anytime I needed to do repair work.  This would allow me to get online and troubleshoot any problems I wasn’t immediately aware of how to solve.  However, this time, my only additional computer was at work.  True, Korea being the 4th most wired country in the world, with Internet Cafes on most major street corners gave me a few extra options for troubleshooting, but I decided not to rush things, and just wait for work.

At work the next day I found a few boot-up key-combinations I wanted to try to get the Mac to boot from its original install discs to reload OSX.  The key combos are as follows and found on this site:

Apple Boot Key Combos:

Bypass startup drive and boot from external (or CD).... CMD-OPT-SHIFT-DELETE
Boot from CD (Most late model Apples) ................. C
Force the internal hard drive to be the boot drive .... D
Boot from a specific SCSI ID #.(#=SCSI ID number)...... CMD-OPT-SHIFT-DELETE-#
Zap PRAM .............................................. CMD-OPT-P-R
Boot into open Firmware ............................... CMD-OPT-O-F
Clear NV RAM. Similar to reset-all in open Firmware ... CMD-OPT-N-V
Disable Extensions .................................... SHIFT
Rebuild Desktop ....................................... CMD-OPT
Close finder windows.(hold just before finder starts).. OPT
Boot with Virtual Memory off........................... CMD
Trigger extension manager at boot-up................... SPACE
Force Quadra av machines to use TV as a monitor........ CMD-OPT-T-V
Boot from ROM (Mac Classic only)....................... CMD-OPT-X-O
Force PowerBooks to reset the screen................... R
Force an AV monitor to be recognized as one............ CMD-OPT-A-V
Eject Boot Floppy...................................... Hold Down Mouse Button
Select volume to start from............................ OPT
Start in Firewire target drive mode.................... T
Startup in OSX if OS9 and OXS in boot partition........ X or CMD-X
Attempt to boot from network server ................... N
   (Hold until Mac Logo appears)
Hold down until the 2nd chime, will boot into 9?....... CMD-OPT
OSX: Watch the status of the system load............... CMD-V
OSX: Enter single-user mode (shell-level mode)......... CMD-S

Trying “C” to get it to boot from CD got me nowhere, and trying “OPT” to choose my boot device (I thought I might be able to tell it to complete it’s half-finished Windows install) only provided me with a black mouse pointer that moved around the screen when I moved the mouse.  Finally, I decided to take it back to the Apple Store I’d bought it from, and let them take care of it.

The Apple Experts didn’t fail to impress me as they had the computer ready the next day by lunch, complete with OSX and WinXP partitions (and it only cost around $30, or 30,000 Korean won).  Fortunately, or unfortunately, they had used the original install discs I’d given them in order to put the OSs on my systems which meant I had a large Mac Leopard partition, and a small Korean Windows partition.

Fortunately for me, I’ve already had quite a bit of experience changing OS languages in Windows XP, so I thought this would be a quick trip to take XP from Korean to English.  However, this was not the case.  It turns out that in order for me to install Windows Service Pack 3 (a requirement for changing the OS language) I needed to have Boot Camp 2.1 installed on the Windows partition and the Mac Leopard discs I had only contained Boot Camp 2.0.  

Every time I tried to install SP3 without the Boot Camp 2.1 I got some sort of “insufficient space error” which I knew was crazy since I had well over 6GB of space the SP3 installation could have used.  Well, it turns out that there is a minor error in registry key values in a Boot Camp 2.0 version of Windows XP.  Namely, there is no “BootDir” value in the right place, so when SP3 searches for that value and comes up empty, it assumes that there isn’t enough space on the drive to install itself.

I downloaded Boot Camp 2.1 and tried to install it, but that also failed.  The Windows installer kept crashing every time I opened it.  I did some searching on the ‘Net and came up with the possible solution that additional video drivers were creating difficulties installing the update, so I uninstalled all my additional video drivers and tried again.  Failure again.  Well, luckily for me, I also ran across this work-around to create the registry key that was needed by SP3 in order to install:

  1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
  2. Locate and then click the following registry subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup
  3. On the Edit menu, point to New, and click String Value.
  4. In the text box under the Name column, type “BootDir” and press ENTER.
  5. Right-click the name BootDir, and then click Modify.
  6. In the Edit String Value dialog box, type the drive letter for your system drive, and then click OK. For example, if your system drive is C:, type “C:\”.
  7. Close Registry Editor.

I did that, restarted, and tried the SP3 install again.  SUCCESS!  I was able to install SP3 at that point, and change my whole system over to English.  I then installed multiple Internet Explorer browsers, Firefox, Opera, and others to aid in my CSS and XHTML code testing.  Now I’m able to test code across browsers AND across Operating Systems.  Finally, at the end of it all, I am extremely grateful I had the presence of mind to backup everything on my MacBook before starting the whole process (especially considering all my code was on that drive).  Otherwise, I’d have had much more to regret than simply installing Windows on a Mac.

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