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A Unibody MacBook, VMware Fusion, and Windows 7 Beta


A couple of days ago I installed Windows 7 beta (32-bit, Ultimate version) on my 13″ unibody MacBook, and I thought I’d recount my installation experience in case some of you are curious how the other half (OK, the other 95 percent) live.

Alas, this exercise afforded little opportunity to dazzle anyone with my technical acumen. I have no stories of incompatible hardware (even my five-year old HP printer is fine), no BSODs, no failed installations. Heck, I can’t even brag about hitting up Microsoft’s knowledge base and then going to the four corners of the Internet to download various drivers to make it all work. 

Make no mistake, I was still in the Windows world, and got a reminder of that pretty quickly, which I’ll explain shortly, but the bottom line is this was about as uneventful an installation of Windows as you could ask for. 
 Here’s how I installed: 

  • Hit the MS web site and download the beta. It comes in the form of an ISO image file. As an aside, MS warns you that it may take “many hours” to download the file — it’s 2.44 GB. Ha! They laughed at me when I ponied up extra dollars each month for Cox Cable’s special premium high-speed connection. The fools! Who’s laughing now? Thirty-seven minutes for the download.
  • In VMware 2.01 create a new virtual machine. My existing VM is Windows XP, which Windows 7 will not upgrade, but I didn’t want this beta software on the existing machine anyway. Hey, it’s beta folks, the beauty of VM is you can have a new “PC” whenever you want it. For the new machine I chose Windows 2008 Server as the “base.” I used the ISO file as the installation media. 


  • I did not choose the Easy Install option. I suspected a scripted easy installation might not work until VMware has a bona-fide Windows 7 option. Since I was using Windows 2008 Server as a surrogate, I figured I’d just handle the install prompts myself. 


  • Replied to the usual prompts, and the installation took off. It was done in under 40 minutes. 
  • Installed the VMware Tools. 

That’s really it. After this was done I changed the desktop to 1280 x 800 and ran it full screen. Internet, sound, trackpad, graphics, all just worked. I didn’t even have to configure my printer, it was just there as my default. Smooth.

For those who didn’t know, Microsoft has unbundled the basic mail, chat, photo, etc. software from Windows 7. Therefore the installation is pretty spartan. So the first thing you should do is download the Windows Live Essential apps to fill that gap. I’ve been running these in beta on XP for quite a while, and they were taken out of beta status just a couple weeks ago. 

It was at this point I hit my first snag. I used VMware to share my Mac’s Pictures folder, and then pointed Windows Live Photo Gallery to that share. It created a couple picture thumbnails, and then froze. I could force quit the app, but every time I opend it it would try to process the share, and freeze. 

So I removed the share, thinking the app would balk at it being missing and I could just get rid of the reference. Nope, it still tried to handle the share and would freeze. Bummer. 

OK, I uninstall the app and re-install it. Sadly, it remembered the share and still froze. 

So I dug into the Registry to see if I could find where the string for this share was stored within the photo app so I could delete it manually. It was at this point I really remembered I was in WIndows. Put simply, the registry blows. Anyway, my searches turned up negative so I needed to take another tack. 

I re-established the share and decided to try using the brief delay between the app opening and when it tries to process the share to delete it via the app’s interface. I couldn’t quite right-click the share and hit Delete fast enough on the first two tries, but on the third I got it. Now all is well. 

While the registry serves as a Windows reminder, I don’t really blame anyone for this issue. Is it the VMware share? Is it Win 7? Is it the photo app? It doesn’t matter much since right now VMware does not claim support for Win 7, and I’m sure it’s not yet a tested config for Microsoft either. For what it’s worth, I’m using another VM share for a folder between the Mac and the VM machine in Windows Explorer with no problems, so it may be the photo app. 

The only other glitch I had was that after a few hours that first evening, I lost sound. I tried rebooting and a couple other things, but it was getting late and I resolved to tackle it the next day. However, the next day (yesterday) it was working again, and has been since. 

So what’s it been like in use? My short time so far with Win 7 has been positive. I do not have the Aero “see-through” windows or previews (the VM graphics do not support them), but even lacking those the interface is decent. Hovering over an app in the dock taskbar pops up the names of the windows (or tabs in IE), and overall response seems to be close to my XP SP3 VM. 

As I get more familiar with Win 7 in comparison with Mac OS X and Win XP I’ll likely post more bits and pieces of my experiences. For now, however, I’m off to a good start.

16 Responses to “A Unibody MacBook, VMware Fusion, and Windows 7 Beta”

  1. Hi Tom,

    thanks very much for your information. Could I ask that which MacBook you used to install the Windows 7? Mine is the basic config. 2GHz and 2GB memo. I don’t know whether mine Mac could run the Win 7.

    Thanks in advance!


  2. I have this set up also. Did any of you get the wireless working on your windows 7? I have to use some wireless testing programs for work, One is called “inSSider” anyway, I can’t get my Windows 7 to even register that there is a wireless card or see the airport.
    Any suggestions?

  3. Hey man…Thank you a lot for this page. I had some trouble installing windows 7 and getting the sound and everything to work. But I followed the way you said and everything works so far!!!!

  4. Windows 7 looks promising, runs well for me, but I’m having some driver problems now.

    For Daniel: For quick page switching in os x use expose or better, spaces. much more advanced than the taskbar in Windows 7 I think.

  5. It looks like Microsoft really took the “Redmond, start your photocopiers” seriously. Look, you said the way the “dock” works with aero- looks like the taskbar really did steal some of the docks ideas.

  6. I, for one, just reformatted my macbook to clean it up nice and tidy so I could install a fresh copy of Win 7 via boot camp. I ran it in Fusion and was impressed by how light it was, and the fact that I find it to run even faster than my XP VM. When I finally booted it up in Boot Camp with the full Aero support….WOW…I have been a straight up Mac guy for over a year now and have probably convinced at least 10 people to go out and buy one and I must say that I am sad that I cannot make the smooth transition to Win 7 right now. I know this might sound like a shock to some of you, but the way the dock works in Aero with the Screenshot preview and the transparent transitions…has the dock beat by a mile, seriously.

    I like things to look nice, but what I am most concerned with is getting the job done. The fact that I can have multiple windows open and so easily switch between them, not just switching between the programs themselves, using the new taskbar is Awesome. That really made all the difference for me.

    OSX still has the edge in terms of ease of use for System preferences, which I find in Control Panel to be a pain, but man, I’m just so sold on the new task bar…you know what…I’ll just stop, you get the point. Try it yourself in Boot Camp.

  7. According to VMware, 3D harware acceleration works with DirectX 9.0c but it doesn’t seem to be working on my Windows 7 Beta. If I launch a program (e.g. Solitaire) that uses 3D hardware acceleration, the whole system freezes and I have to force a restart. Aero doesn’t work either, but it just tells me I need to update the Video Card Driver. For now, I just turned 3D acceleration of in VMware’s settings.

  8. Justin,

    I have the exact same screen issue at boot. It goes nuts for part of the boot, but sorts itself out when the login screen comes up and is fine after that.

    VMWare folder sharing is my issue, too. I finally settled on sharing just one folder (w/ Read/Write permission) and use it shuttle the few things I need to. Hard to say if this is a Win7 or Fusion issue, but I have a good enough workaround for now not to care that much.

  9. Just found your article. I did the same thing as you a few days ago, except I installed using the “Easy Install” option just for grins. It worked fine. The new guest OS booted into the account I specified and with the activation key I specified for the Easy Install. Just serves to remind us that in many ways Windows 7 is a service pack for Vista.

    I also let VMware Fusion install it’s “fusion tools” (or whatever they’re called). Doesn’t seem to have messed anything up so far.

    A strange but fairly trivial problem I have is that the Windows 7 screen bugs out during boot (looks like what happens when a monitor loses “sync”), but once it’s booted everything comes back to normal.

    The main problem I’ve had is sharing files between Mac and Windows 7. Windows 7 tells me that I don’t have write permission when I try to write files into the shared folder (my OS X home dir) that VMware set up. I got around this by enabling the “Mirrored Folders” on the Sharing tab in the VM’s Setting panel.

  10. Overall I’m still pretty happy with this release. Some issues I have:

    – Internet Explorer 8 may have a good idea or two, but it sucks. Seems to me it’s Win7’s greatest weakness.
    – Windows Live Mail is OK, but it’s pokey and there’s no excuse for that. Further, I think combining the mail, calendar, and contacts apps into one is a step backwards. I know it’s just a warmed over version of the years-old Outlook Express, but I still expected better. Oh, and keep in mind Live Mail is NOT beta; this is a release, and it’s rather mundane.
    – The copied elements from OS X’s Dock into the Taskbar are nice, but they didn’t go far enough. Don’t like that I can’t have folders directly on it, for example.

  11. HobbesDoo

    I had a similar experience and I felt the OS more responsive and way less annoying than Vista. I installed it on an HP tablet laptop. I was surprised to see that all the hardware was working out of the box. The UI didn’t impress me much, but then it’s still a beta. My laptop came originally with Vista, so I could quickly compare the two versions. Windows 7 runs way smoother than Vista on the same hardware. I believe Microsoft will finally redeem themselves with this release, though they’re still light years behind OS X.

    Competition is awesome and the more the better. Windows 7 is a good option for people that need to go the Windows route. As for me I will stick with OS X anytime anywhere.