2010 MacBook Air conversion to Native Windows 7

In case you ever want to convert an Apple to run only Windows, here are the technical steps I use:

Get Mac Drivers for Windows (Apple Boot Camp Windows Drivers)

  • Using a Mac with OS X to generate the Apple Boot Camp Windows Drivers
    • On the (or another) Mac with OS X, keep running apple update until the updates are all current
    • Make sure you have a place for the Boot Camp Assistant to save the Windows support software
      • blank CD, DVD or
      • An external drive formatted as MS-DOS (FAT)
        • To format an external drive as MS-DOS (FAT), use: Applications folder > Utilities > Disk Utility
    • Open: Applications folder > Utilities > Boot Camp Assistant
    • Follow the on-screen instructions
      • Ok to ignore warnings if you do not have the DVD connected
      • Download the Windows support software (takes a while)
      • Save the Apple Boot Camp Windows Drivers to a CD, DVD, or FAT 32 external disk
        • Used approximately 600 Meg on 3/30/11
      • Stop and exit before allowing Boot Camp Assistant to create a partition for Windows—you won’t need that because
        • You are not going to use Boot Camp
        • We are installing only Windows 7 on the computer
    • In a later step, we’ll install the Windows support software on your Windows partition.

Eliminate OS X and Install Windows 7

Note—I learned a lot from http://www.zdnet.com. I also copied and pasted, then modified to eliminate redundancy and add clarity, information from documentation at www.apple.com.

By the way, I did elect to purchase a full license of Windows 7 to use just on my Air.

Another important note: From the very beginning, and every time, when booting into windows expect to stare at a white screen for about 45 seconds.

At first, I thought there was something wrong. Just wait it out—after 45 seconds of the white screen Windows 7 will boot fine. I suspect the Air is looking for other boot devices.

  • With the computer turned off, insert the Apple recovery USB rescue device that came with your system. Make sure the four copper connections are facing up.
  • When powering up, hold down the C key to boot to the USB rescue device.
  • Wipe out the drive partitions and create one new partition with a MBR boot sector instead of the Apple GUID one
    • Choose Utilities > Disk Utility
    • Choose the 251GB Apple SSID drive
    • Select the Partition tab
    • In volume scheme set to “1 partition”
    • Name: Windows7 (or whatever you want)
    • Format: FAT32
    • Size: 251GB
    • Options > MBR (Master Boot Record)
    • Choose Apply (and, when prompted, confirm you want to partition the drive)
    • Use the menu at the top of the screen to “quit the disk utility”
    • Use the menu at the top of the screen to “quit the mac OS X installer”
  • Shut down the Mac
  • Remove the USB rescue stick
  • Plug in the external DVD drive with Windows 7 64 bit DVD installed
  • Boot the system while holding down the Option key
  • If you want to register Windows online during the installation:
    • Join a Wi-Fi network or
    • Plug in the USB to RJ45 converter and connect via an Ethernet cable
    • Neither is necessary
  • Click on the arrow above the Wi-Fi and the CD “Windows”
  • The computer will seem to turn off and then Windows install starts
    • You’ll be prompted to reformat the drive with NTFS
    • The installation process takes a long time and the computer may seems “frozen” at times but it is still going
  • Install the Windows support software you created earlier:
    • Insert the CD or DVD or connect the external disk with the Windows support software
      • If the DVD drive is not recognized:
        • Shut down the Mac / Windows 7 machine
        • Turn on the Mac again
        • The turning on process may take more than 2 minutes, and the screen will flash, and the computer may seem like it went off
        • Eventually Windows will boot and be able to recognize the CD/DVD drive
      • If the installer doesn’t start automatically, browse the CD, DVD, or external disk using Windows Explorer and double-click the setup.exe file in the Boot Camp directory.
    • Follow the onscreen instructions
      • The dialog will say “Installing Boot Camp” but only the Win drivers are installed
      • Important: Do not click the Cancel button in any of the installer dialogs.
      • If a message appears that says the software you’re installing has not passed Windows Logo testing, click Continue Anyway.
      • You don’t need to respond to installer dialogs that appear only briefly during the installation
      • If nothing appears to be happening, there may be a prompt that you must respond to, but the prompt is in a window that is covered up (came up underneath). Check the taskbar and look behind open windows.
    • After your computer restarts, follow the instructions for any other installers that appear
    • Note: To eject the DVD from the drive
      • Open Windows Explorer
      • Right click (click with two fingers on the touch pad) on the DVD drive icon
      • Choose “Eject”
    • Check for updated Windows support software
      • Use the Apple Software Update inside of Windows (look under “All programs”)
  • Configure Windows
    • Install all Microsoft patches
    • Install IE9
    • Install Microsoft Security Essentials
    • Microsoft patches again
    • Set patches to ask me before downloading or updating
  • Then I used the Windows support software by using Apple Software Update inside of Windows (look under “All programs”) to check for updates again.
  • You may want to search e-Bay for “windows 7 sticker.”

In Case You Ever Want to Go Back to Using OS X

  • When powering up, hold down the C key to boot to the USB rescue device
  • Follow the instructions

Test and Use

  • USB Ethernet adapter
  • Wi-Fi LAN adapter
  • Video VGA port—MUST PLUG IN VGA ADAPTER PRIOR TO BOOTING WINDOWS
    • Command-P is like Windows-P
  • External CD ROM

Microsoft Office

Note: If you install Microsoft Office, then PowerPoint will crash as soon as you type a key. The latest Boot camp update disables a keyboard setting in Windows. I found the answer at http://answers.microsoft.com.

  • To fix, Open Control Panel
  • In view mode “View by Category”, find the section “Clock, Language and Region”
  • Click “Change Keyboards or other input methods”
  • Press the button “Change Keyboards”
  • Press the button “Add”
  • Scroll down to “English (United States)” and expand
  • Check box “US”
  • Press OK
  • Press OK—You’ll see two keyboards listed “US” and “United States (Apple)”
  • Press OK

Shadow Protect

In case you use ShadowProtect image backup software on Windows 7 (I do) then note that the apple software updater may interfere with Shadow Protect.

For this reason, I removed the apple updater from my computer permanently. I will miss the updater; However, I would miss being able to perform and image restore even more than I will miss the updater.


6 Comments

  • Cameron April 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    If you open the boot camp control panel in windows and choose windows as the startup disk, the 45 second wait on the white screen at boot up drops to about 9 seconds.

  • Mike Foster November 8, 2012 at 4:18 am - Reply

    When professionals ask me about performing the above tasks, I’ve generally recommended that they just use Boot Camp. You can shrink the OS X partition, set Windows as the default OS, and experience good results. This solution is much simpler than the steps above and the pros/cons in over time are often better using Boot Camp. In fact, using Fusion or Parallels, with all the recent improvements, are viable solutions as well. Whatever you choose to do: test test test. Please share your comments below.

  • Ryan G November 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Thank you Cameron – that indeed fixed the problem! It dropped from ~35 seconds to ~1, for me.

    (Machine: Macbook Pro 15″ [Macbook 9,1], mid-2012, running Win7 Pro x64 with a third-party SSD in the main bay, and the original 750GB 7200rpm HDD in a caddy in the opti-bay – which is the only order you can install or run Win7 on, with this machine – i.e., you can’t install Win7 to (or run it from) a drive in the opti-bay caddy; you can run it off a drive in the main bay, though. For a time I also had Mac OS X (the original install) running in the drive in the opti-bay, and that worked fine, but I nuked it to recover the space.)

  • Bib January 13, 2013 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Great writeup. But won’t one get way better battery life with the native windows install vs. Boot Camp install?

    This was th. Most attractive reason for me anyway. Please confirm if this is true.

    Also my 2012 mac book air did not come with a rescue usb… Is this normal?

    • Mike Foster January 13, 2013 at 11:17 pm - Reply

      That’s right: The Mac Book Airs no longer ship with a recovery USB drive. There is a “recovery partition” on the internal “SSD hard drive” instead. Here are Apple’s instructions if you need to recover the Air: http://www.apple.com/osx/recovery/

      I cannot think of anything that would make a significant difference in battery life for using Windows in a native install vs. using Windows via Apple’s Boot Camp.

      Since it sounds like you are possibly about to (re) configure this machine…

      For the Air to run Windows 7 directly (not virtualized with tools like Fusion or Parallels) on the computer, then I recommend Boot Camp as the “way to go” as opposed to performing the native installation described above.

      For the Air to run Windows 8, many users report having good luck using Boot Camp even though (so far as I can tell) Apple Boot Camp doesn’t officially support running Windows 8 via Boot Camp. Be sure to have a robust backup system for your computer.

      So, taking the “native install” out of the equation, that means there are two options: Use Boot Camp or use Apple’s OSX with virtualization such as Fusion or Parallels.

      With Boot Camp, my biggest concern is the difficulty in having a reliable image backup (see step 5 in http://www.fosterinstitute.com/blog/7-tips-about-a-new-computer-windows-or-mac/ for more information) If you are going to use Boot Camp, use some method of backing up your data regularly to an external USB drive (or drives). Many users use one of the online backup tools (CrashPlan, Mozy, Carbonite, etc.). For “close to image backup” I also recommend you leave a small OSX partition on your Air’s hard drive (as you can do in Boot Camp) so you can use some other tool to make native copies of your Windows partition. I use Carbon Copy Cloner by Bombich.

      With Fusion, the main problem I have with running various operating systems (including Windows 7 and 8 too) in Fusion is difficulty I have running applications across four monitors. I use USB to DVI video converters to add that many monitors to the Air. Yes, Fusion and Parallels say they support using their guest operating systems (such as Windows), but give it a try (and read their support forums fine print) before counting on this actually working well. For users who run more than one program at once, or work with more than one document at the same time in Windows, it is very useful to use at least two monitors. With Boot Camp, or the native install (I still recommend Boot Camp now in 2013), I can use the native Windows support for multiple monitors – and it works great!

      Recapping:
      My biggest concern with using Boot Camp is related to image backups (Carbon Copy Cloner did save me one time)
      My biggest problem with using Fusion or Parallels is using multiple monitors.
      I can’t do without multiple monitors, so I go with Boot Camp.

      If I wasn’t using a Mac (in this case Mac the Air) then neither of the above issues would be a concern. But hey – the Air is the best ultra-book to come along in a very long time and it is stellar hardware for sure. If only Apple made it easier to completely eliminate everything Apple so we could just perform a native Windows install – but they don’t.

      I’ve known all along that some other hardware manufacturer, besides Apple, would release amazing hardware that runs Windows directly (without the, however minor) problems when using a Mac to run Windows.

      And they have. As of January 14, 2013, one of the many choices of ultra books really stands out as a leader: The Lenovo Yoga with Windows 8. This is hands-down the best computer / operating system / application combination I’ve ever experienced in my life. I still enjoy my Air, both with Boot Camp and Fusion, very much. But, Airs don’t have touch screens, and with the Yoga it is very straight-forward to use image backups and have multiple monitor support both at the same time. And then there is the price difference between the Air and the Yoga… But hey, Apples are still more, “Cool Dude!” At least for now.

      If you are rebuilding the machine, I’ve put some important tips in this short video: http://youtu.be/YKw6MnTomIg

      Looking forward to hearing more about how your experience goes.

    • Mike Foster June 6, 2013 at 10:27 am - Reply

      I’ve not measured exactly the battery life change when using native Windows vs. Boot Camp, though I can tell you that my MacBook Air computers running Windows last many hours – through most of a cross-country flight. My guess is that using Boot Camp vs. Native Windows would provide very similar battery life; however, I’ve not measured the difference.

      The 2012 MacBook air didn’t include a rescue USB key because Apple now uses a recovery partition on the internal drive. It is possible to create such a USB – lots of instructions on the Web – though you may find that the partition is enough protection. Weigh risk vs. protection.

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