Stop the Noiz

Windows 7 vs. MacBook

Frank Fox - 2009.10.14 - Tip Jar

When I heard that Microsoft was going to give away Windows 7, I had to sign up. This wasn't just the beta version or an upgrade. I got the full Windows 7 Ultimate Steve Ballmer signature edition.

Sure, there was a catch - there's always a catch. I had to have some kind of party to show off Windows 7.

How hard can that be?

It is horrible: You get something for free, but you have to invite seven people over to show them what you got for free. They will be asked to pay hundreds of dollars for what you are telling them was free for you. It is totally unfair.

So what is the first thing people say after I tell them I got Windows 7 for free? "Why didn't you tell me about this?"

Hey, I'm a Mac person. I figured that if they liked Windows so much, they'd have heard about it too. Sheesh!

Mac Guy Installs Windows 7

The funny part is that the lone Mac guy gets to install Windows 7 on his MacBook before anyone else. I got my copy last week. It was sent early so I could install it before my party. That way I would be familiar with it and could show off the new features to my friends so they would all want to buy it.

It is a nice theory, that a party would be a great way to show off Windows 7. So far the response is that everyone would like to get the free copy like I did, but no one wants to pay for it. This shouldn't be a surprise. After all, Microsoft likes to campaign on how much cheaper PCs are then Macs.

You can't expect customers, who are too cheap to buy a Mac to jump at the chance to pay for something they don't need.

Windows Is the Biggest Mac Tax

The Windows 7 Ultimate version costs $319.99 for the full retail copy. It is funny to hear Steve Ballmer complain about the "Mac Tax" and then price a version of Windows 7 at over $300. For that price you can buy a small netbook. Which one sounds like the better deal, Windows 7 or a netbook?

Come on, Steve, I thought you knew your customers better than that?

As a Mac user, I actually need a copy of Windows, because my Macs didn't come with it. Last year I bought an OEM version of Vista Ultimate off eBay. Even at that discount, I only installed it on one computer for testing. If I had to "upgrade" all my computers to run Windows, I'd go broke.

The biggest "Mac Tax" for me is getting licensed copies of Windows for my Macs.

Trying to Install Windows 7

So I got to save money on Windows 7, and I get to confuse my friends by having it before they do. I thought it was a good deal - until I went to install it the first time. I got two days of frustration as a penalty for being overconfident.

I had prepared my MacBook by installing an unregistered copy of Vista. It worked fine. I surfed the Web a little and downloaded virus protection software I did nothing else with Vista. I figured Windows 7 would be coming soon, so I'd wait until then to play around with it.

To install Windows 7, I booted into Vista. I first tried installing the 64-bit version, and it failed to even run. I got some not compatible error message. I think this was because my copy of Vista was 32-bit. Then I tried installing the 32-bit version of Windows 7, and during setup I got an error code that it couldn't write a file. It made no sense - I was logged in as the administrator, so there shouldn't have been any privilege issues.

The advice the installer gave when it failed was to make sure my copy of Vista was up to date. Heck, I didn't know any better, so I ran the Vista updater. There were 70 items that need updating. After two crashes. I switched to updating only a few items at a time. Eventually everything was up to date - and the installer for Windows 7 still failed.

It was time to search the Web for that error code. I found a dozen different sites that talked about it, and each one had different advice. I tried the Mr. Fix It tool from Microsoft, but that failed. Then I tried to make changes to the registry, and that didn't work.

Back to Boot Camp

By now I'm thinking, "Who cares about updating Vista? I'll just wipe Vista, and do a clean install." So I booted back into Mac OS X and ran Boot Camp. It wiped out Vista, but then it couldn't partition my drive. I got the error that a file can't be moved. Great! I am stuck with no way to set up Boot Camp again.

I try repairing permissions using Disk Utility - same problem. Finally, I pull out my TechTools DVD. The software is out of date, so I download the update and ran a disk surface scan. It didn't find anything, but there was a problem with the volume structure. It prompted me to download a file from Apple's website. The file was a disk image of Tech Tools to boot from so I can make repairs - only it is the same version I already have. Apple hasn't updated its website, so I'm worried that this old version may have compatibility problems with Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard". I run it anyway, and luckily it works.

Boot Camp is now able to partition the hard drive. I'm back in business with my Windows 7 install. I start with the 64-bit version. Now that the old copy of Vista is gone, it works. Everything is working!

The excitement won't last long.

No 64-bit Boot Camp Utilities

I then go to install the Boot Camp Utilities from my Snow Leopard disk. It gives me the message that 64-bit Boot Camp Utilities doesn't work with my computer. Thanks a lot, Apple, for ruining the rest of my day. Windows can see that I have a 64-bit computer, but Apple doesn't see things that way.

Without Boot Camp Utilities, I won't have drivers for many features of my Apple hardware. I can't live without two finger scrolling on the trackpad, but what to do? Microsoft hasn't implemented this feature on Win 7, and no other utility from Apple would work. I tried finding a solution on the Internet, but nothing worked. I really didn't want to go back to 32-bit Windows. I pressed on with installing other software as is. I start using a cordless mouse to help navigate around.

Incompatibilities Galore

I began installing some software I have around the office. After numerous failed software installs, I finally gave up. It was time to start over again.

This time I did it from Windows. There is a special control panel called "Recovery". I was supposed to be able to reinstall from a backup disk or a disk with a copy of Windows on it. The only problem I found is that it wouldn't recognize my install disc as having a copy of Windows on it. I have no idea why.

Instead, I ran setup.exe from the desktop. It would only proceed if allowed to overwrite the C: drive, but the Mac partition was listed with the C: drive. I hoped for the best and clicked OK. It worked. I still have the Mac partition unharmed.

Installing Windows 7 Again

The install of Windows 7 was not easy. Neither Microsoft not Apple were much help. Microsoft tried to be helpful in a dozen different ways and failed each time. Apple mostly failed from the start, and that was it. I had to keep trying to find alternate solutions where I could. Installing an operating system that is this new on a Mac, for which it isn't intended, meant I wasn't going to find the help I'm used to getting from the Internet. I generally avoid being an early adopter for this reason.

After two days of problems, I've had three days of things mostly working.

It Doesn't 'Just Work'

Will Win 7 replace Snow Leopard on my Mac? No, it is slow starting programs, I get random cursor movements, and I don't own much PC software. There are even applications that don't work. I will still need to keep Vista on my Mac Pro for applications that fails on Windows 7. I do think Win 7 is a little nicer than Vista, but who cares about nice, computers are about getting something done. It is a big problem when not everything works as it should.

Good luck to those who want to make the switch. Be ready for a couple of days of pain as you sort out what still works and what won't. If all you do is surf the Web and use Office, this may be an easy upgrade. If you are like me and you want to be able to run whatever oddball programs you happen to have, expect to find a few that just won't work anymore.

I can say that I got what I paid for. Sure it was free, but I spent two days sorting out dozens of problems, just so I could throw a party to tell all my friends how great Windows 7 is. Since the party is still days away, hopefully the bad memories will fade in time for me to smile when I tell people how great Windows 7 is. LEM

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