Getting Bootcamp running

This was an interesting experience. I wanted to get Windows running in Bootcamp on my new iMac 5k (late 2014 model). This machine has 32 GB RAM, and a 1TB SSD drive running OSX 10.11 (El Capitan). First, I tried following all the instructions to install Win 7 (I had a full Home Premium edition, not OEM, that I didn’t use anymore). I never got all the way, and the reason (after a lot of Googling with DuckDuckGo (!)) seems to be that Win7 doesn’t support USB 3 out of the box. So as soon as Win 7 starts booting it loses contact with the keyboard and mouse since the iMac has only USB 3 ports. And you can’t install updated USB 3 drivers in Windows 7 until it has booted. Maybe there’s a way, but seriously, I got enough after half a day and gave up.

Skip ahead a day or two, and after receiving a brand new Windows 10 Home, full edition, and I found out the following. Maybe someone will have less of a traumatic journey knowing this.


Boot Camp AssistantScreenSnapz001

When you use Bootcamp, you have two main strategies. One is to “Create a Windows 7 or later version install disk”, and the other is not to do that. Creating the install disk never works. It somehow corrupts the target disk, irrespective if it’s a USB 3 stick or a USB 2 external spinning disk. It always quits with “not enough space on disk” and some really weird sizes, with negative number of gigabytes used. If you look in console, you’ll see it always thinks the destination is just 4 GB large. Hopeless. That cost me untold hours, testing several USB sticks and several different external drives. 

The other strategy is to uncheck the first choice and leave the other two selected. Then the following steps work:

  1. Go to Disk utility and convert your Windows media (in my case a USB stick from Microsoft) into an ISO DVD Master file on your desktop.
  2. Insert a USB stick (USB 3 works) in one USB port on the iMac. Some people recommend the first USB port, closest to the middle of the computer. I don’t know if that makes a difference, but do it anyway.
  3. Start Bootcamp, select choices 2 and 3.
  4. Select the ISO file you created and let Bootcamp download software to the USB stick you inserted.
  5. As the iMac restarts into Windows, it may stay spinning the little juggler balls forever. If so, unplug your keyboard and mouse, and it proceeds. Plug them back in. If your mouse is connected to the keyboard, you have to unplug that, and plug in the keyboard without a mouse first.
  6. Once the first setup page appears, your keyboard may be dead. Unplug it, wait 5-10 seconds (!), then plug it in and it may work. If you have a wired mouse connected to the keyboard, you may have to unplug the mouse, plug in the keyboard, then plug in the mouse to get things going. That’s what happened to me, and I’m using a Microsoft Comfort mouse (4500).
  7. Now you get to the “Enter the product key” page. Enter the product key. Be only moderately surprised when it says the key cannot be verified. If that happens, then:
    1. Boot back into OSX and remove the Bootcamp partition again. Start over with the installation. (Yeah, I know…)
    2. Take care that you are not connected to the internet; disconnect any network cable before getting into Windows.
    3. Rinse, repeat. I had to do this four times before the code was accepted. (You know that old “Einstein quote” about true insanity being repeating the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result? Well, it’s wrong. With Windows, insane methods sometimes work.)
  8. If you get past the product key registration, you’re almost there.
  9. Windows starts up, but it won’t recognise your second screen and sound will not work. The keyboard and mouse will remain flaky at boot. No WiFi adapter will be found, but fixed ethernet works.
  10. Now you need to actually install the Apple Bootcamp drivers (they forgot to tell you about that, didn’t they?). You should still have that USB key plugged in where Bootcamp put the install files and drivers. Open that drive in Windows, go to the folder “Bootcamp” and run the Setup.exe you find there (don’t run the setup.exe in the root). After that has finished, you’ll be asked to reboot.
  11. Now, back in Windows, you’ve got sound and multiple screens (if you have those). Works with my external HP30i, anyway (mini display port to dual DVI active adapter). WiFi adapter shows up, too.

So, that’s what you have to do.

Then, if you’re like me, you then discover you created a partition for Windows that isn’t large enough. And, if you’re like me, you’re not going to start over again, so then do:

  1. Boot back into OSX. Open disk utility and shrink your OSX partition to make space for expanding the Win 10 partition. How much is up to you.
  2. Boot back into Win 10. Download the Minitool Partition Wizard Free Edition and use it to “extend” the Windows 10 partition. When I did that, there was a little 150 MB FAT partition I had to delete between the Win 10 and the unallocated space, but that was really easy. This utility worked like a charm.

I almost forgot: after my first installation run with Win7, the machine refused to boot into anything, only coming up with “No valid operating system found” (or something to that effect). A typical Microsoft DOS boot fail message. I couldn’t reboot into OSX, since the keyboard didn’t work. Spent almost an hour on the line with Apple support, trying everything, growing desperate. Finally, we unplugged the keyboard entirely, restarted without any peripherals whatsoever, and got into a kind of partial and sick Win7, rebooted, and finally could make the alt-boot work to select OSX boot again. Honestly, I thought the machine was lost there for a while. Moral of this story: don’t fuck around with Win7 on OSX 10.11 Bootcamp. It’s not worth the fear and aggravation. I didn’t try Win7 again after that. It’s kind of a miracle I tried Win 10, really.

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