Random Access   chris, kp & rob
In The Lab
Multi-Boot, the Apple Way
by chris

Okay, just one more multi-boot article and then I can move on to other things. Simply put, the Microsoft approach of creating a multi-boot start menu involves creating a single startup partition or drive and loading all of the different system boot loader files from that location. Once the startup core files have been copied into memory, the OS can switch to the target volume to complete loading of the rest of the system files and applications.

In contrast to this, many third-party boot managers create a small boot volume to load the menu, and then restart the selected OS entirely from an isolated volume. This approach generally avoids any potential problems where similar OS versions could overwrite files of the same name, and can add additional features such as "hiding" the different boot volumes from the active OS. Because the startup files do not have to be on the same startup partition there is also an advantage of being able to start different OS platforms such as Linux from the same start menu. The Microsoft Multi-boot menu only was designed to support Windows.

People have been running Windows and its applications under the Macintosh OS for many years, generally using PC emulation software like Soft Windows or Virtual PC. Once Apple changed the Macintosh hardware platform from PowerPC to Intel, the obstacle to running Windows natively (without software emulation) became one of locating hardware drivers for the system. Apple acknowledged this by releasing a (Beta version) utility called Boot Camp that handles much of the configuration and driver issues. Initially, Boot Camp Beta supported Windows XP Home or Pro with Service Pack 2, although Windows Vista 32-bit support has been added to the 1.2 release of the software and driver install CD.

Boot Camp is scheduled to be included in the next major release of OS X (Leopard), but for those who can't wait, the current Apple Boot Camp Public Beta release (version 1.2) is available for download from Apple right now. Before you can download the Beta, Apple wants some basic information on you and the intended multi-boot Mac using the form at: http://www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp/publicbeta.html

Under the Boot Camp Beta version 1.2, installing Windows XP or Vista is fairly painless. The instructions start by telling you to make a backup of your current software and data, which is always a good idea when messing with hard drive partitions and installing whole operating systems on the fly. Since my MacBook is brand-spanking new, I have nothing to back up or preserve, other than to make sure I have the OS X install media that came with the system, just in case I manage to trash it totally. What I usually prefer to do is to replace the hard drive with a new one, just to test the reinstall process from the factory media as well.

To use Boot Camp Beta, you need:
  • An Intel-based Macintosh computer with a built-in or USB keyboard and a built-in trackpad or USB mouse
  • Mac OS X 10.4.6 or later
  • The latest firmware updates available for your Intel-based Mac
  • At least 10 GB of free space on your startup disk (single partition)
  • Boot Camp Assistant (will be installed in /Applications/Utilities/)
  • A blank, recordable disc (to create the Macintosh Drivers CD)
  • A full, single-disc version of Windows XP Home Edition or Professional with Service Pack 2 or later

    Important: Your Windows XP installation disc must include Service Pack 2 (SP2). You cannot install an earlier version of Windows and upgrade it to Windows XP, nor install an earlier version of Windows XP and update it with SP2 later.

    Note: Boot Camp Beta does not include Windows XP. You must provide your own properly licensed, Windows XP Service Pack 2 installation disc.

Boot Camp Assistant
Boot Camp Assistant
The 138 MB Boot Camp Beta download has three components, the Boot Camp Assistant (Installer), a "Read before you install" document, and the "Boot Camp Installation & Setup Guide" which has an excellent set of step-by-step instructions, complete with screen shots. After verifying your firmware version and updating it if necessary, launch the Boot Camp Assistant to start the process. As you follow the directions for the Boot Camp Assistant, you will burn a Mac Windows Drivers CD, adjust the partition size on the hard drive to create a location for Windows to install, start the Windows installation, and finally install your hardware drivers and software updates.

Choosing a startup system
Choosing a startup system

Vista running on a MacBook
Vista running on a MacBook
The Windows installation is identical to the process covered in my earlier articles, and will proceed just like any other first-time setup. Once you reach a Windows desktop, you need to install the chipset and other drivers, and should follow that up immediately with Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware and any critical updates. The Mac Windows Driver CD that you created at the beginning of the process takes care of the first part and auto-runs the installer when the CD is placed in the drive. I installed Windows XP for the very first run-through and encountered zero issues in either the install or the driver and software update. When I was done, Windows Device Manager did not show any unknown devices or issues. To delete the Windows partition to try again, just restart back in OS X, to do this you can launch the "Startup Disk" application from the Windows Control Panel and specify Mac or Windows and click "Restart." You can also choose between OS X and Windows by holding the alt/option key during the system startup.

During my Vista and XP installation tests, I encountered very few problems, and found no issues with the Boot Camp process or the driver install CD. My XP Media gained a scuff that caused an installation error during the early startup stages, and resulted in a system halt without a completed Windows installation. The solution was found in the Apple Boot Camp FAQ http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=303572 which amounts to pressing the mouse button during startup to eject the CD. Once the CD was removed, the system started into OS X where I could delete the Windows partition and start over. The only other item is trying to remember the key to press to emulate a right click - it was easier to just add a two button mouse for Windows control, especially since the touch pad does not appear to support a tap-click feature.

To undo your experiment, Restart in OS X, run Boot Camp Assistant and click on the choice to "Restore the startup disk to a single volume."

Get Random Access

Understanding Tech

Print this article

Shop Online


Your Name:

Your Email:

Your Friend's Name:

Your Friend's Email:

 © Micro Center