Installing Windows 7 beta on a Mac with Sun VirtualBox

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Microsoft?s public beta of Windows 7 is similar enough to Vista that it is fairly easy to install on a Mac, either using BootCamp to install it natively, or within a virtual environment. Here?s what?s involved with obtaining the beta and installing it using Sun's free VirtualBox software.



Not intended for Macs?



While Microsoft makes far more revenue selling a retail box of Windows to an Intel Mac user than it does bundling the software on a new PC (hundreds of dollars retail versus around $30 for an OEM license), the company doesn?t seem too view that potential Mac market very seriously.



Prior to the move to Intel, Microsoft sold Virtual PC to Mac users as a way to enhance its Office suite. However, ever since Intel Macs gained the ability to run Windows at full, native speed, the company has spared little effort promoting it to Mac buyers, who as a demographic buy more software at retail prices.



That is likely because the majority of Mac users who have some need to run a Windows application work for a corporation that can supply them with a low cost volume license. Not too many home users who go out of their way to buy a Mac are likely to dash out and get a full retail copy of Windows, as one can often buy a new PC for nearly as much as the full retail copy of Windows, particularly since the price of retail boxes of Windows went up with the launch of Vista.



Jumping through the download hoops



As we prepared to install the Windows 7 beta, we found that Microsoft hadn?t exactly rolled out the red carpet for Mac users. From the first login page (required to access the beta site), Microsoft?s warning message alarmingly trails off into nothing for Safari users because the text is too big for the space allotted (below).







The text actually says: ?To register for the Windows 7 Beta, please log-in here with your Windows Live ID. We strongly recommend only experienced computer users participate?those who are comfortable backing up a computer, formatting a hard drive, installing an operating system, and troubleshooting their own technical problems. Don?t install the Beta on your primary home or work computer. The Beta will expire on August 1, 2009. Please be prepared to reinstall a prior version of Windows or a subsequent release of Windows 7 before that date.?



Using Firefox, we ran into show stopper security warnings because Microsoft?s security certificate doesn?t match its domain name. To get past this, you have to confirm a security exception, a step which Firefox insists ?legitimate banks, stores, and other public sites? will not ask you to do (below).







Safari presents a slightly simpler warning that allows you to continue with a single click rather than stepping though the more elaborate exception process within Firefox.







Once past all this mess, Microsoft insists that you download and install its Silverlight 2 web plugin (a step that requires a browser restart) in order to pop up a simple download window to begin copying over the Windows 7 disc image (below).







The 2.44 GB image will take some time to download. Over our ?16-megabit? cable Internet connection, the download required 52 minutes to complete.



Along with the file download, Microsoft creates a 25-character string for you to type in during the installation, apparently so you don?t pirate the free beta. Given that installing an operating system typically precludes being able to copy and paste the license key, this ?print out the key and type in manually? step seems egregious, particularly for Mac users accustomed to not needing any license key to install Mac OS X.



A virtual install



Installing the beta in a virtual environment is identical to setting up Windows Vista, as the new operating system is essentially Vista with some general (largely user interface) enhancements. On an architectural level, they are nearly identical.



Burn the beta disc image to a DVD, then set up a new Vista PC in your virtual software of choice, and Windows 7 will pretty much install itself. We initially tried using Parallels Desktop 3, but it has some compatibility issues with the beta that render it unworkable.



The newer version of Parallels? software addresses those, but we took the opportunity to try Sun?s free, open source VirtualBox software instead. Parallels, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox are all very similar in how they work, making the free software from Sun an easy choice for quickly setting up the new beta without any added expense.



Sun?s software is a bit rough around the edges for a Mac application (using such weird user interface conventions such as the non-functional, purple close box on the preferences window below), but seems to work acceptably.







All three virtual environments emulate a basic PC with middle of the road components. The CPU itself isn?t actually emulated, of course, because Intel Macs have one of those natively.



However, Windows 7 running in one of these environments doesn?t see your Mac?s native hardware, but rather the more generic ?lowest common denominator? PC hardware those virtual apps present to the operating system.



For example, the Sun VirtualBox software presents Windows 7 with an Intel PRO/1000 gigabit Ethernet network adaptor by default (below), regardless of the actual network interface actually installed in your Mac model.







This tends to make installing Windows in a virtual environment very easy, because no special drivers are needed to get it up and running. All you do is run through the basic setup steps presented by Windows.



Unlike XP, Windows 7 no longer drops down into DOS-looking text modes during its several reboots of the install process; instead, it begins with 2001 era, NT-looking windows that quickly adopt the Vista Aero-look as the install process continues.







After keying in that long license number, there isn?t much to set up during the install process, apart from optionally setting up HomeGroup, Microsoft?s new technology for sharing files and devices with nearly the simplicity of a Mac.



Be sure to write down the insane password it generates for you (below), as a weak password would be far worse than a strong password jotted down on a sticky note next to your PC.







The dual boot alternative



Using Windows 7 in a virtual environment is fast enough for running the occasional Windows app, but it isn?t suitable for playing Windows-only games or other applications that demand the full performance of the system. For that, you?ll want to set up your Mac using Boot Camp and install Windows natively.



The next segment will look at setting up Windows 7 natively on a Mac, and what additional issues are involved over using it in a virtual environment.



Previous Windows 7 vs. Mac OS X Snow Leopard segments



Windows 7 vs. Mac OS X Snow Leopard: competitive origins

Windows 7 vs. Mac OS X Snow Leopard: Microsoft's comeback plan

Windows 7 vs. Mac OS X Snow Leopard: Apple ups the ante
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,591member
    Grabbed the download link from XP on my VMware machine. Downloaded with safari, burned to a DVDR.



    Installed in VMware without a hitch (Told it was a vista box) installed the VM additions.

    Installed in bootcamp too for native running, used the drivers from the OS X restore DVD with no problems.



    Runs well and is faster than Vista.



    To be honest apart from the faffing around to get the download link from microsoft its no more difficult than setting up XP or Vista on a virtual machine.
  • Reply 2 of 56
    HomeGroup looks unnecessarily complicated. The average home user does not want to be presented with technical things and is going to freak out when they are forced to use a gobbledygook (but of course more secure) password.
  • Reply 3 of 56
    denmarudenmaru Posts: 208member
    Hey, Kasper, why didn't you just mounted the image in Virtualbox and let it install from the image? That would've been *a lot* faster, and hassle free.
  • Reply 4 of 56
    nvidia2008nvidia2008 Posts: 9,262member
    I just mounted the .iso with Parallels 4 and was Windows7-ing in less than half an hour. This Sun thing is a bit random, never heard of it, how does it perform? Something worth checking out compared to VMWare and Parallels? Stability? Anybody?
  • Reply 5 of 56
    Bootcamps drivers won't load. So all you get is an 800x600 view. No trackpad clicks or sound.
  • Reply 6 of 56
    If you check Parallels forums you will the way to make Win7 run just fine using Parallels 3. You have make a few parts of Parallels Desktop run in virtual mode set to XP.
  • Reply 7 of 56
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,591member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jawporta View Post


    Bootcamps drivers won't load. So all you get is an 800x600 view. No trackpad clicks or sound.



    install drivers from your leopard discs then download the Bootcamp update from Apple. Works fine with my 24" iMac
  • Reply 8 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jawporta View Post


    Bootcamps drivers won't load. So all you get is an 800x600 view. No trackpad clicks or sound.



    Works great with my unibody MBP too. My friend did have trouble with his Mac Pro though.
  • Reply 9 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post


    I just mounted the .iso with Parallels 4 and was Windows7-ing in less than half an hour. This Sun thing is a bit random, never heard of it, how does it perform? Something worth checking out compared to VMWare and Parallels? Stability? Anybody?



    I use it at work running XP and it does everything I need. Mostly just keeping Outlook running and a couple of Windows apps we use to interact with HR.
  • Reply 10 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by smoketx View Post


    I use it at work running XP and it does everything I need. Mostly just keeping Outlook running and a couple of Windows apps we use to interact with HR.



    XP is still dominant in the corporate space. For the life of me I can't come up with a reason to upgrade my VM to Vista, much less be an early adopter of W7.



    It's supposed to be faster and lighter, but I doubt it. To the bloated .Net frameworks they now appear to have added Silverlight as another needless requirement. The basic Microsoft philosophy of adding interlocking layers of junk seems unchanged. I support my wife's Vista laptop, and that's enough of a headache as it is.
  • Reply 11 of 56
    cam'roncam'ron Posts: 503member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Alonso Perez View Post


    XP is still dominant in the corporate space. For the life of me I can't come up with a reason to upgrade my VM to Vista, much less be an early adopter of W7.



    It's supposed to be faster and lighter, but I doubt it. To the bloated .Net frameworks they now appear to have added Silverlight as another needless requirement. The basic Microsoft philosophy of adding interlocking layers of junk seems unchanged. I support my wife's Vista laptop, and that's enough of a headache as it is.



    I have played around with it and can attest that it is better in beta than Vista. I haven't used it too much but it seems just as quick and I'm sure it will get quicker in the GM. Vista noticeably improved from beta to GM. The company I work for was, at some point, going to upgrade to Vista, but after playing around with Windows 7 we are going to skip right to it. When Ballmer admits that it is what Vista should have been, you know you are better off waiting.
  • Reply 12 of 56
    There is a more complete guide to setting up Windows 7 in VirtualBox at http://littlemacblog.wordpress.com/2...vm-virtualbox/ if anyone is interested
  • Reply 13 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Be sure to write down the insane password it generates for you (below), as a weak password would be far worse than a strong password jotted down on a sticky note next to your PC.



    I realise this is completely off-topic, but this point should be well made to all those idiots in IT who think that having password aging is a good idea. I work in an environment where I have to keep track of the logins for about ten different systems, all with different password requirements and which have passwords that expire at 30 or 60 days. Because I can't possibly remember these passwords, I have had to rely on storing those passwords in my bookmarks (I do use 1Password now, but that's not the point).



    So my question to all of you password aging idiots is: Is it better to have a password that I can remember that never expires, or a password that expires and cannot be reused forcing me to store my passwords in a format (plain-text) that can easily be found?



    Yeah, I thought you'd agree with me.



    Now then, back on-topic
  • Reply 14 of 56
    I am trying to install it with boot camp but I keep getting the error message that says "installer disc cannot be found."



    I realize this message is a bit OT but man if anybody knows how to get around this, I would be extremely grateful. I'd like to wait for the next feature that covers boot camp, but the weekend is pretty much here and I want to get this done asap!



    Thanks again!
  • Reply 15 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Microsoft?s public beta of Windows 7 is similar enough to Vista that it is fairly easy to install on a Mac, either using BootCamp to install it natively, or within a virtual environment. Here?s what?s involved with obtaining the beta and installing it using Sun's free VirtualBox software.



    BTW, one really important point the article should have mentioned is that the public beta for Windows 7 is going to close any day. Microsoft has opened it up to the first 2.5 million downloads (which may sound like a lot, but remember how many PC users are out there).



    When I downloaded it yesterday, the beta site specifically mentioned that people should download it as soon as possible because they would be closing the beta very shortly.
  • Reply 16 of 56
    When I first installed Win 7 on my bootcamp partition I thought it was great (on my new MBP 2.8GHz/4GB). The first few programs installed just fine. Then I tried installing Adobe Reader 9, and it got to the end of the install and then said there was an error, so it uninstalled (this is after I installed bootcamp drivers). Then I tried installing Maya, and I got a similar error. Since I couldn't install all of my graphics programs, I had to go back to vista 64, which I hate because it freezes left and right. I'm thinking of creating a full backup of my windows partition, and then installing SP2 for Vista. Maybe that will help reduce the shut-down time from 13 minutes!
  • Reply 17 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AlderMoore View Post


    When I first installed Win 7 on my bootcamp partition I thought it was great (on my new MBP 2.8GHz/4GB). The first few programs installed just fine. Then I tried installing Adobe Reader 9, and it got to the end of the install and then said there was an error, so it uninstalled (this is after I installed bootcamp drivers). Then I tried installing Maya, and I got a similar error. Since I couldn't install all of my graphics programs, I had to go back to vista 64, which I hate because it freezes left and right. I'm thinking of creating a full backup of my windows partition, and then installing SP2 for Vista. Maybe that will help reduce the shut-down time from 13 minutes!



    I thought that some of the AI topics on 64-bit Windows vs 64-bit Snow Leopard have suggested that there are a lot of compatibility issues with 64-bit Windows and not just drivers, but applications that are not written to be 64-bit compatible. This is undoubtedly why the vast majority of Windows installations are on the 32-bit platform... Unless you need 64 bit (which maybe you do for a memory-intensive program such as Maya), perhaps you should try out the 32-bit version of W7...
  • Reply 18 of 56
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


    ...

    Installed in VMware without a hitch (Told it was a vista box) installed the VM additions.



    The first time I tried installing in VMWare I used the Vista64 setting but I was running into strange screen problems. Looking at the VMWare support board I saw someone mention using Windows 2008 instead. I tried that and it has worked without issue.



    I wonder what the difference might have been between our systems? I am using a BlackBook (2.2GHz, 4GB of RAM). I was also installing the x64 version of the beta (for no particular reason) so maybe that was the issue.



    It does seem to run pretty well now that it is working.



    -kpluck
  • Reply 19 of 56
    boogabooga Posts: 1,080member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nvidia2008 View Post


    I just mounted the .iso with Parallels 4 and was Windows7-ing in less than half an hour. This Sun thing is a bit random, never heard of it, how does it perform? Something worth checking out compared to VMWare and Parallels? Stability? Anybody?



    VirtualBox is pretty reasonable. Once you install the native package its integration is nice, and performance is adequate for casual use. Since it's free and can read VMWare virtual disks, it's pretty easy to try out, too.



    I did the Windows 7 thing on it a couple weeks ago and it went a lot more smoothly than this article seems to imply. Just downloaded the iso, mounted it in a new virtual machine, and booted. It booted from the CD and installed Windows 7 normally.
  • Reply 20 of 56
    geez... I can't see how all this can make a story.



    on vmware site there are windows 7 virtual appliances, ready to use with the free player, since before the public beta release...



    http://www.vmware.com/appliances/directory/61622

    http://www.vmware.com/appliances/directory/63752
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