Reconfiguring my PC to run alongside my dual G5 PowerMac
For those of you who have run Apple Cinema Displays (LCD) with PC’s and are now thinking I can’t see my bios screens, you can quit worrying. Using an ATI Radeon 9550 AGP video card has solved that problem, as long as I ensure that the IOGEAR switch has the PC selected before I start the PC up. If not, then I don’t see anything on the monitor until XP boots.
To get there, though, I did have to make some sacrifices. I had been maintaining a dual-boot Windows system running Windows XP on one partition and Windows 98SE on another. I was trying to accommodate some older flight simulators: a space shuttle landing simulator, Microsoft Space Simulator, and Vertigo, a DOS based flight simulator that allowed me to fly an F-14 aboard the ship (and was as hard to fly a real F-14 simulator). The reality was I didn’t have Space Sim loaded, the space shuttle lander wasn’t running right, and I hadn’t flown Vertigo in a very long time. There was some GPS software I was maintaining on Windows 98SE, but I recently learned that the company who made my GPS (Lowrance) had stopped producing database updates anyway. So my reasons for maintaining a Windows 98SE system and a LCD capable of running 640 x 480 resolutions had evaporated. By moving my PC over to work with my Apple Cinema Display, I could use its beautiful screen when running more modern flight simulators and eliminate the need for a work center. The PowerMac was occupying a lower corner of a Studio RTA Saturn workcenter that could easily accommodate two tower-type CPU’s. Additionally, under Windows XP my Radeon 9550 fully supports the Apple Cinema Display’s 1680 x 1050 resolution but under Windows 98SE 1600 x 1200 is the best I can get. Because of all that and the hassle and expense of maintaining virus checking and disk utilities twice over, I decided to give up the Windows 98SE capability on my PC. Doing so would also let me recover 30GB of space on the boot hard disk allocated to that system.
Reconfiguring the PC to an XP-only system is where things got interesting. The PC had been partitioned so that Windows 98SE was on the boot partition of the boot drive (C drive) and Windows XP on its second (E drive). I used Powerquest’s (now Symantec’s) Partition Magic 7.0 to merge partitions, replacing the C partition with the E partition, and to set the new partition “active”. That took several hours; the software handled the task single-handedly during the night. When I tried to boot into the “new” partition, though, I got the dreaded “NTLDR not found” message, which means the system could find the files it needed to boot. I booted the PC using my Windows XP CD and tried to repair the boot sector by using “FIXBOOT” and “FIXMBR” commands, but neither did any good. The only thing left to do was to let Windows XP attempt a repair. So, I booted the PC again using the Windows XP CD and selected that option.
Essentially, that amounts to a reinstallation of the operating system over the one I already had. Indeed, that did work with one caveat, i.e., my USB keyboard and mouse stopped working.
Now, that’s no small thing. The whole set-up was dependent on the PC accepting those inputs. Otherwise, I’d have to crowd the desk with a PS2 keyboard and mouse as well as the USB units. Things were going to get ugly if I couldn’t get them working again.
From past experience with XP “repairs”, I knew that it’s best to reload drivers to ensure that everything is well in the registry and the right files have been deposited in their various folders. I reloaded the motherboard’s chipset and USB drivers, but neither of those seemed to help. Since the PC had been working just fine with the USB units before the repair, it made sense that an XP upgrade might make things better. So, I logged the system onto Windows Update and let her rip after manually loading SP1 and SP2 from CD.
Adding SP1 didn’t fix the problem. But adding SP2 did.
I wound up reloading the ATI video drivers and applications as well, but everything else seems to be working without a reinstallation. I did have to re-activate Word XP, but that went without a hitch.
The one funky thing remaining is that the boot partition is seen as drive E. Partition Magic can remap the drive and Windows from E to C, but I haven’t convinced myself yet it’s worth risking. For now, my system doesn’t have a “C” drive. So far, it hasn’t appeared to need one.