New Mac – Installing Windows XP Pro

I’ve been meaning to blog in depth and often about the experiences I’ve had setting up this new Mac, but really haven’t made the time. However, as I’m approaching finished, I figured I could start talking about a few of the more memorable experiences, starting with the installation and running of Windows XP.

Going Through Boot Camp

Knowing in advance that VMware Fusion can run a Boot Camp partition as a virtual machine helped make this decision easy. I don’t have to compromise either performance or flexibility to run Windows XP: I’ll always be able to boot into Windows if I need a processing intensive application, but for my normal use cases (browser testing and Windows-specific utilities) I can do everything I need from within a VM.

This one went pretty much by the book: I started up Leopard’s Boot Camp Assistant and followed all of the instructions it gave me. At the end of the instructions I had a completely working copy of Windows XP Pro on a FAT32 disk named WINDOWS.

Setting up Windows XP

Coming from many years of Windows XP use, I’m quite comfortable in my own specific setup for Windows XP. However, that same level of familiarity that makes me much more productive also comes with a cost: the time it takes to get everything just right. I really enjoy that time, I always seem to find one more option to set to make me ever more comfortable. Soon I’ll provide a full chart of all the software I installed on the machine, but suffice it to say, I want the ability to be completely productive regardless of which OS I find my laptop booted into.

VMware Fusion

After getting Windows XP completely setup I installed VMware Fusion on the Mac side of things. After spending hours getting all of my installs “just right” for Windows, the refreshingly easy drag and drop approach to application installation was a welcome change.

Setting everything up was a bit more complex, but with no real hiccups. I told Fusion to import the Boot Camp partition, which it did. It then automagically installed VMware Tools while Windows itself was running the new hardware wizard setting up a ton of drivers. With how many things were happening at once, it was a bit scary but after everything settled down and things were restarted there was only one remaining issue…

At the bottom right hand corner of my screen there was a big scary “You must activate this product in three days or else.” warning box. Having just done that no more than a few hours before I was a bit confused. However, after consulting the manual, I found that this was normal, called Microsoft’s WGA Hotline, assured the computer on the other end that I wasn’t installing this copy on a network of 80,000 computers, and punched in the code it gave back to me. The notice didn’t go away. Curious now since WGA had told me everything was fine, I decided to go ahead and restart the VM. Upon doing so (second time now) everything came back up, and lo and behold, no notice!

Curious now to see what would happen on a native boot I pulled up Apple’s System Preferences > Startup Disk and selected my Boot Camp partition. Everything looks just fine… it is working… and then I get the activation notice. Are you kidding me? Again!? It wasn’t so bad though this time, it validated everything automatically and I didn’t have to call Microsoft or sell my first born child. Curious to see if I was stuck in a never ending loop, I rebooted into Windows again natively, and then rebooted into OSX, but no more pesky activation notices. Success! I’ve got my Boot Camp partition running as either a VM or natively!


VMware Fusion has this cool feature where it takes snapshots of your VMs to make sure you can always step back if something gets corrupted. However, it can’t do anything quite so spiffy for Boot Camp partitions, necessitating other measures. So, to make sure I don’t have any problems with losing all of that hard work I’ve done to get XP set up “just right,” I installed the most recent version of Winclone. Drag and drop to install, press one button to clone my 32gb partition and save it as a 7gb bootable and mountable image. Now, if ever there is a problem on my Boot Camp install I’ll be able to go right back to my fresh install state. Or, as Windows seems to have this lemming-like death march to corruption and problems, I’ll be able to revert back to a good state with one more click. Yes, please.

All in all, my experiences with setting up my primary Windows installation on my Mac were mostly painless. I’ll revisit this topic next when I’m talking more in depth about things with VMware Fusion. Stay tuned!