The Computer Blog

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Mac Guy Runs Windows 7 Betas

I finally got the opportunity to download both the 32 bit and the 64 bit copies of the Windows 7 Beta (Build 7000) a couple of nights ago. I have the 32 bit copy running under VMWare’s Fusion 2.0 alongside a Windows XP virtual machine and the 64 bit copy is running under Boot Camp. I was not able to get the 32 bit beta to run under Boot Camp due to problems burning it to DVD which somehow make them not bootable. I solved that problem later using Finder and got the 64 bit copy to work right from the download.

To install Windows 7 under Fusion, I used the .iso file as the source for the installation files. That said, the first try seemed to hang during the “Completing Installation” phase of the Windows 7 installation. I stopped the installation, shut down Fusion, deleted the Windows 7 virtual machine from the Documents/Virtual Machine folder and then deleted the reference to Windows 7 from Fusion’s main window. I tried the installation again, and this time it went without a hitch.

I successfully installed Norton Anti-Virus 2009 (NAV 2008 would not install), and Microsoft Office 2007. Both ran with the same friskiness they have under XP Pro. I’ve had the most trouble trying to run Internet Explorer 8, which hung with almost any attempt to use it. That was all I got to do that night before running out of time.

The next evening I downloaded the 64 bit version of Windows 7 Beta and installed it via Boot Camp. That also took two tries not because of any technical difficulty but because of my ignorance. Sixty-four bit Windows 7 will not install into a FAT32 partition, which is what Boot Camp leaves you with after it re-partitions your hard drive. When the Windows 7 installation halts because of this, you simply need to select the Boot Camp Partition and select “Format” (which may be hidden behind the Advanced Disk Functions link). The partition will automatically be reformatted into NTFS. On my first attempt and after I did that, I wasn’t sure if I had just hosed my OS X installation, so I backed out. I reassured myself that everything was okay by using the Boot Camp Assistant to delete the Windows’ partition and then rebooted the MacBook Pro to check how it ran. It was fine. That gave me the confidence to jump back into the Windows 7 installation and complete it without a hitch.

Inside W7-64, I’ve loaded up a trial version of Office 2007 and the latest version of Firefox and they ran fine with the same speed you’d see under XP. My real interest was to see if my current batch of flight simulators and games would also run under that OS. I’m hoping they do because, from what I’m seeing, I would invest in a copy of the 64 bit version of Windows 7 for my Mac Pro to tap more of the machine’s raw power. Rather than risk my Mac Pro’s set –up, though, I decided to run my testing on my MacBook Pro.

I tried running the Boot Camp 2.1 update, which is a Windows application, in W7-64; but it crashed and died just after launch. So far, though, I don’t seem to be missing much without it. My McAlly Bluetooth mouse paired up with W7-64 without loading any additional drivers, though it did take several attempts to make it work.

I’ve seen enough of the 32 bit and 64 bit systems to preliminarily say they seem to perform equally well. If I buy one of them in the future, it would be the 64 bit version to run on my Mac Pro to better tap its power. That’s why I spent the rest of my time this week focusing on the 64 bit version and determining whether or not I would lose any of my flight simulators running under it. My oldest and one of my best flight simulators is Jane’s F/A – 18. It runs fine under XP Pro SP3 with compatibility mode set to Windows 2000. I decided to start my testing with that.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that it would not run natively under Windows 7. I decided to try running it under emulation, so I downloaded the 64 bit version of Virtual PC 2007 from Microsoft. (It’s free, by the way.) I had hoped I might run copies of Windows 95 or 98 or 98se I had, but I needed to provide a boot device to Virtual PC and while I did have boot floppies for all those operating systems in my closet, I had no way to make them readily available to this set up. (It would simply take more time than I had that evening to make it work out.) I did create a Windows XP Pro virtual machine but found out quickly that though Jane’s would install, only the cover screen would appear when the application was started and then the application would quit. I tried multiple compatibility settings but couldn’t find one that would work. At this point, my hope to run Jane’s under emulation appears dashed; the only way it will work is to run it on an XP system under Boot Camp. If I want to keep the sim then I have to forget about upgrading the Mac Pro’s Window’s partition or establish one on my MacBook Pro and see if XP will also drive my new 24 inch monitor. I may try that soon.