Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mac Mini Upgrade and Adventures in Boot Camp

Now that Snow Leopard is out and I have some time off between classes, I am able to get Bailey's computer fully upgraded. I thought it was going to be a simple software upgrade, but as it turns out, his Mac Mini was only running on 512MB of RAM and a 80 GB hard drive. Since he is starting to use this machine for more than just games, I guess it is time to max out the RAM and get him a decently sized hard drive.

A quick trip to Best Buy and $200 later, we have 2 GB of PC2-5300 RAM and a nice Seagate 7200 RPM 320 GB hard drive. I considered going larger on the hard drive, but my time was too short to wait for something to be delivered and the 320 GB was the largest drive they had that was 7200 RPM. Also, now that we are going to have three people on the Time Capsule, I figured 320 GB was a good limiter to make sure he would not prematurely force me to upgrade the Time Capsule to 2TB.

I used the iFixIt instructions for opening up the Mac Mini. It was surprisingly easy. One thing they did not mention was to label each screw you remove. I used a sticky note and labeled where I removed each screw from. Most of the screws were identical, but I noticed one or two were specialized sizes, so I was glad I kept that organized. Another part I had to learn the hard way was the RAM insertion. I did not insert one of the sticks hard enough and when I booted up the machine only one stick registered. After re-seating the RAM, I was able to get both 1GB sticks to properly register. I might also add that the Mac Mini is a really impressive sample of engineering. Everything fits together amazingly well. Total hardware time would have been about an hour if I had seated the RAM correctly the first time. Given my mistake, it was around 2.5 hours (I tested each stick individually).

Now that the hardware was working properly, it was time to install Mac OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard). The install was effectively effortless. There were only two hitches. The first was the basic install. No drives showed up to select as a target to install. I was able to go to one of the installer pull-down menus (I think it was Utilities) and select disk tools to partition and format the disk. Once that was done the installer showed the target disk and the install went through flawlessly.

The second hitch came after the installation was complete. I noticed that the "Macintosh HD" icon was missing from the desktop. After some help from TheGoogle, I figured out it was simply a default configuration option that is delivered with Snow Leopard. To add it back, just click on the desktop anywhere so you display the Finder menu. Select "Preferences" from the Finder menu and make sure "Hard Disks" is checked in the "General" menu. I also found it helpful to go to the "Sidebar" tab and and check the box next to "Hard Disks" and turn off the one for "iDisk" (I choose not to use Mobile Me, so iDisk is not useful to me).

Once all of that was complete I went to Software Update and installed all of the updates (at this point there were only three). Voila, fully working Snow Leopard system with 4x the RAM and 4X the Hard Drive space. Total "from scratch" OS X Snow Leopard install time with updates, 2-ish hours.

Last but not least, it was time to get the WindowsXP partition up and running. Boot Camp has gotten incredibly easy to use since I originally played with the beta. I found the Boot Camp icon in Application/Utilities. It started up and allowed me to partition and format the disk, then it had me insert my WindowsXP Pro SP2 disk and rebooted into the XP installer. One of the biggest problems I encountered was that my keyboard would not work. After some searching, I found out that it was the Mighty Mouse that was confusing the XP installer. I removed the mouse and moved the keyboard to the USB port just below the audio port (the last one), and after rebooting, the XP installer worked just fine (I am not sure that moving the USB keyboard port helped, but I figured I would mention it). When it came time to select the partition to install to, it was easy to find the BOOTCAMP partition. I opted to change the format from FAT to NTFS (I have since verified that NTFS is still read-only from OS X, hopefully Apple fixes this some day). Once the graphical installer interface came up, I was able to plug the Mighty Mouse back in and it worked for the remainder of the install.

After the base XPSP2 install was complete, I inserted the Snow Leopard disk to install all of the Apple specific drivers. Once that was done, it was time to start applying XP updates. I made the mistake of attempting to install the SP3 update first. I kept on getting error messages about not being able to find files like "osloader.ntd". I figured this was because I did not apply the mountain of pre-SP3 updates first, which I then proceeded to do. It took so long I went to bed and resumed the next day. Even after that, SP3 still did not apply cleanly. After some searching, I was able to find this link that perfectly explained what was wrong and provided a solution that worked. After that, SP3 applied cleanly and then I was able to apply the final group of updates. Total time spent getting Windows XP installed and fully updated was probably 12 hours, nearly 3x what was required for a RAM, Hard Drive and OS X Snow Leopard install (4x if I had gotten the RAM installed correctly the first time).

I also spent some time getting FireFox 3.5 installed in each OS as it is one of the required browsers for Bailey's online Math class. The last thing I did was to get The Snow Leopard partition connected to the Time Capsule. This was the easiest part. I clicked the Time Capsule icon in the dock, slid the switch from "Off" to "On" and typed in the Time Capsule password. After that, I just left the machine alone while it did the initial backup of the OS (8.11GB). I should also mention that the first Time Capsule backup has to complete uninterrupted, so I turned off the power-saving settings in case the Mini went to sleep before it was done (I left myself a note to remember to turn it back on when it was done).

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