After reading various articles about Windows 7, curiosity got the better of me and I downloaded the beta from Microsoft. Since I have (nearly) sold my little gaming PC in anticipation of replacing it and my MacBook Pro with an iMac that can handle all my computing duties, I was also hoping that Windows 7 would be a good base for Steam and the associated games.
I followed the instructions I found on Simple Help.net, although there’s not much difference in installing Windows 7 than XP or Vista. Basically:
- Use Boot Camp Assistant to partition your drive (make sure you have a back-up first!).
- When that’s done, insert the Windows 7 beta DVD and click ‘Start Installation’.
- Format and install Windows to the drive that has ‘BOOTCAMP’ next to it.
- Let the installer do its thing.
- When you’re at the Windows desktop, use Windows Update to get graphics drivers, etc. Sound probably won’t be working at this point.
- Insert your Leopard installation DVD and install the drivers from there. Done.
Assuming that all went well, you now have your Mac dual-booting with Windows 7. Hurrah.
I use VMware Fusion on my Mac to run various other operating systems, and it has a rather nifty feature whereby it can boot the operating system installed on your Boot Camp partition as a virtual machine. Very handy indeed, and I wanted to make use of this with Windows 7 so I could let Steam download game content without having to spend hours away from OS X.
Firing up Fusion, it detected the Boot Camp partition and without any setting up I could boot straight into Windows. Neat. On the first boot it detected and installed drivers for various (virtual) hardware devices and requested a restart. After that, I installed VMware Tools, which requires another restart. Finally, I have a working system. Or do I? No, because it hasn’t installed any drivers for the ethernet controller and as such has no network connectivity.
Googling yielded some results suggesting a similar problem can exist in Vista under VMware (not necessarily Fusion). The solution is to install the AMD PCnet drivers in the virtual machine; they can be found here: AMD PCnet Windows Drivers. Download the latest version (4.5.1) and transfer to the Windows 7 virtual machine (you can drag-and-drop the folder from OS X into the virtual machine if you have VMware Tools installed). Find the errant Ethernet Controller in Device Manger, right-click and select ‘Update Driver Software’. Point the driver wizard at the folder containing the AMD drivers and bingo. It should be recognised as an ‘AMD PCNET Family Ethernet Adapter (PCI)’, and we should now have Internets!
Install the driver via the Device Manager
Performance inside the virtual machine isn’t great on my machine (2.0GHz Core Duo, 2GB RAM, of which I’ve given Windows 7 1GB), but it’s adequate for what I want it for. It certainly seems happier than Vista did when I tried it in a virtual machine, and it takes up far less space – 7.8GB with Boot Camp utilities, VMware Tools, Firefox and Steam (no games yet) installed. If I recall correctly, Vista was pushing 14GB on a fresh install alone.
I’ve yet to really give it a proper test run, but so far it seems like a nice improvement on Vista, which despite improving hugely since launch is still quite capable of making me want to tear all my body hair out. The interface looks smart, and the graphical effects are much more dignified. As much as I’m a Mac fan now, I really want Windows 7 to be a good OS. I doubt it’ll tempt me back to the fold, but without competition and choices life would be dull.
Plus, at the end of the day, I still need something to run Team Fortress 2 on.