Boot Camp

Today I decided to try out Boot Camp.  That is a software that comes with Mac OS X and allows a person to install Windows 7.  I downloaded the instructions from Apple’s website and used the Boot Camp Assistant, found in the Utilities folder to get going.  I still really don’t know where the Utilities folder is but fortunately Spotlight, a search feature in OS X, knows how to find it.

You’re supposed to start with checking for updates but since I just did that a couple of days ago, I went ahead and skipped to step 2.  Boot Camp Assistant gives you the option to install Windows from a USB flash drive if you already have a Windows 7 ISO image.  I already burned a disk with Windows 7 Professional with Service Pack 1 so I skipped that.

I went ahead and downloaded the Windows Support Software.  That is a bunch of drivers that Apple put together so Windows will be able to utilize the various things on a Mac such as its specific graphics card, sound card, etc.  It gives you the choice to download it and burn it to a CD or DVD or put it on an external drive.  I chose to put it on a USB drive.  It’s a rather big download and I thought it stalled out after waiting quite a while.  I cancelled it and restarted the download but it appeared to stall again.  I left it and Googled it on my dv4i and found a few people also found it to take quite a while but found it will finish if you just leave it alone.  So I did.  The part where it didn’t appear to be doing anything was when the progress bar was about ¾ full.  I looked up network activity and while it was over 3 Mb/s for the first ¾, it went to virtually nothing afterwards.  After about 30-45 minutes of “not doing anything,” it finished.  What I believed happened is that it downloaded it to the hard drive and spent that 30-45 minutes writing it the USB drive.  My USB drive is a cheapo drive from Micro Center and is pretty slow, especially when writing to it and very especially if there are many small files involved.  The Windows Support Software is 1.08 GB and has 1,120 files in 99 folders.  That’s why it took so long to write to it.

Unfortunately there is no drive light indicator on the Mac so there is no way to tell if any access is going on.  Perhaps there’s a way to do so in software but I haven’t stumbled upon it yet if there is.  That keeps Mac users from doing what Windows users do – complain about the constant disk activity when its noticed.

The next step was to partition the disk.  I spent quite a while trying to think of how much disk space to give it as Boot Camp doesn’t natively seem to support resizing (though there does seem to be other software out there that can).  I’m leaning towards keeping the 15” MacBook Pro and eventually replacing both my desktop and my laptop with it.  I would ideally like to switch OS X as much as I practically can for day to day things.  With that in mind, I chose to give it 65 GB, about ¼ of a hypothetical 256 GB drive (in case I upgrade to an SSD of that size).  In case you’re wondering, it wouldn’t let me choose 64 GB.

As a side note, Amazon is selling Crucial SSD drives with 6 Gb/s throughput right now for:

  • 64 GB        $ 79.99
  • 128 GB    $ 119.99
  • 256 GB    $ 205.29
  • 512 GB    $ 399.00

Windows installed without a hitch.  I immediately installed the Support Software and although it warned me about a failed installation, that warning seemed to go away after rebooting.  I think the reason was it installed USB 3.0 drivers while I was installing the software from the USB drive (I later found that wasn’t he case – I don’t know what the cause is).  I should have copied it to the hard drive and installed it from there.  A look at the device manager revealed no yellow exclamation marks.

Now remember, I installed Windows 7 Professional with Service Pack 1.  There were still over 80 updates in the first of many rounds of checking for updates.  The number of restarts bordered on ridiculous.  I look forward to seeing if Apple makes you reboot as much on the Mac side.  There was a time I restarted and it just did a little something and then restarted itself again.  There was another time that I made it to the desktop and it said I had to restart to continue installing the update (right after a restart).  Like I said, ridiculous.

I installed Microsoft Security Essentials.  I’ve read some decent things about it in reviews so I thought I’d give it a try since it’s free.  I normally install Avast! on my machines.  No product catches everything and products go up and down in ratings.  In the end, no program can save you from yourself.  You have to do your part when it comes to computer security.

It’s too late to do much else today but I do want to note one more thing.  The MacBook Pro normally runs cool or perhaps a bit warm.  When I was in Windows 7 on it, it got HOT.  I mean EXTREMELY hot!  You could fry an egg on the bottom if you turned it upside down.  I know I read that Windows can only see the discrete graphics card and not the integrated one so it is always running with it.  That means the battery life suffers if not running on AC.  I’ll be testing the power draw tomorrow (I added it to a previous post).  The problem seems to be that the fan isn’t being turned on.  I Googled the problem and some posts mentioned a Mac program called “smcfancontrol” that seems to help but you have to boot to OS X, set it, and then boot to Windows.  It would work but it’s inconvenient.  Fortunately someone else posted a link to a Windows program called Lubbo’s MacBook Pro Fan control.  It’s an open source program that lets you set the minimum and maximum fan speeds.  For my particular computer, it turns out that there is a left and right fan.  The left side is where the heat is so turning the fan up on that side solves the problem.  It reads temperatures and is designed to keep the computer within a certain range (which you can set) but unfortunately it doesn’t read the CPU temperature correctly.  It says it’s stuck at the maximum, 90 degrees C.  Speccy, a different software, says the CPU is about 54 degrees right now.  That means I have to manually control the fan but it’s definitely better than nothing.  I guess the plan right now is to keep the left fan at about 4500 rpm normally, which keeps the GPU in the low 40s.  If I were to play a game that taxes the GPU, I will probably have to set it higher, perhaps all the way to the maximum (6000 rpm).  When setting both fans to maximum, I notice the noise but honestly, they’re really not that loud.  My desktop is easily louder when it’s being taxed and I would say my HP dv4i laptop is too.  Since the MacBook Pro is made of aluminum, the heat can dissipate through the body easier than it can through the plastic of my HP.

I have to decide on which MacBook to keep soon as my 14 days will be up in a jiffy.  The 15” is certainly heavier, to the point where it’s really noticeable when carrying it compared with the 13”.  It’s also much larger; the 13” is just right size as far as portability goes.  Having the 15” (at least on the Mac side) beat out my desktop in both CPU and GPU performance makes me think it would be a better gaming machine for current and future games.  I bought Portal 2 a while back but haven’t played it yet.  Since it’s available for both the Mac and PC, perhaps I can try it out to see if I can tell a difference.  Maybe there’s a frame rate tester demo for it.  That would be interesting to check out.  Having such a steep price is still hard to swallow for the 15” though.  The $600 lower price tag of the 13” is quite appealing.

Incidentally, I love Google Docs.  I originally typed this journal into it and find it is pretty cool with its autosave feature.  Having it available across multiple machines is quite nice too!