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November 28, 2009 10:52 AM   Subscribe

How do I beat the Boot Camp assistant? Mac/Boot Camp problem.

I am the sole Mac user at a friend's weekend, which mostly consists of gaming together. Earlier this week I installed Windows 7 using Boot Camp on my iMac (Snow Leopard) without any significant problems.

Yesterday I tried to do the same for my Macbook Pro, yet Boot Camp assistant told me it couldn't partition the drives. It suggested I backed up my information, erased the hard disk, reinstalled Mac OSX, then tried running Boot Camp assistant again to partition the hard drives.

I tried to avoid this situation by doing the following (a Google search yielded these possible solutions):

(1) Verifying disk permissions and repairing them using Disk Utility
(2) Running iDefrag to defragment the hard drive

None of these helped.

I have:

(1) A disk image of Snow Leopard on my HD, but no physical disc
(2) A physical Windows 7 disc
(3) A 500Gb external USB HD that is a Time Machine backup of my current system

I am at a loss how to continue fixing my problem without a physical Snow Leopard DVD. It's too late to run out to the shop now for DVDs. My physical DVDs are in my hometown, 2,5 hours away.

Can I somehow bypass the Boot Camp Assistant, create the partition manually? I think Windows has to run on an NFTS formatted hard drive (partition?), but that doesn't appear to be an option in Disk Utility.

posted by wolfr to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
You may be able to shrink the Time Machine partition on the external HD and create a new partition in the empty space, then lay the Snow Leopard disk image on the new partition in a way such that it's bootable. Then you would be able to boot from that partition to reinstall OS X on the MBP's hard drive and, theoretically, restore the Time Machine backup to the fresh Snow Leopard install.

That said, IANYITP* and by messing with partitions you could hose your external HD and/or MBP HD. Moreover, this is an awful lot of sensitive work to do hastily, so proceed with caution and at your own risk if you proceed at all.

*I Am Not Your IT Professional
posted by The Michael The at 11:28 AM on November 28, 2009

Best answer: There's a weird problem I've encountered a few times where the regular partition isn't quite right, and Boot Camp refuses to partition the drive. Before you get into any of the nitty gritty solutions, try this:

Open Disk Utility. Click on the top level of your hard drive (not the bit that says Macintosh HD, but the bit with the size of your drive). Now click the 'Partition' tab. There'll be a single rectangle with the name of your boot drive under the heading 'Volume Scheme'. There's lined corner in the bottom right of that rectangle. Click and drag it upwards so as to make the partition smaller (any amount will do), then let go. Click it again and drag it down as far as possible to make the partition full size. Now click the 'Apply' button in the bottom right. Now try and partition the drive using Boot Camp — it should work fine.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 11:44 AM on November 28, 2009

Response by poster: Trying Jaff's solution gives this:
Repairing disk permissions this:

I guess you have to repair disk permissions from a drive that is not in use, so... trying out partitioning my backup drive to contain a bootable Mac OSX install DVD.

What do I do to boot from an external USB hard drive partition?
posted by wolfr at 12:17 PM on November 28, 2009

Best answer: Now that I've seen that, I'd be inclined to think that your hard drive needs formatting. You can try repairing permissions from an external, but you should be aware that not only are the results likely to be identical to doing it when booted up, but that repairing permissions has the same kind of voodoo status as zapping the PRAM. It can help, but more often that not it does nothing at all.

My advice would be to make sure your Time Machine backup is current, then wipe your hard drive, reinstall Snow Leopard, then restore from your backup. Be aware that this will take a while, but if it doesn't work I'd start pointing the finger and a fundamentally wonky hard drive that might need replacing. Not to scare you though — formatting and reinstalling from scratch should work fine.

To boot from an external hard drive partition, all you need to do* is create it in Disk Utility and then use the 'Restore' tab. Drag the Snow Leopard disc image from the Finder over the 'Source' field (sometimes clicking the image button and selecting it through the dropdown doesn't work) and drag the newly-created partition on your external USB hard drive over the 'Destination' field. If this doesn't work, you might have to mount the Snow Leopard disc image (make sure it's locked!) in the Finder and drag the mounted volume from the left column.

Once that's done, you can just restart your computer while holding down the alt-key and select the partition.

* I can never remember which one of these it is, so I always have to use trial and error. If it's not going to work, it usually errors straight away, so yay for that at least.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 2:40 PM on November 28, 2009

Best answer: Actually, I just reread the error message that resulted from my instructions. Before you jump over the brink with a reinstall, try the 'Repair Disk' function from your Snow Leopard boot partition. This is the operation that you can't perform whilst booted up, and if it reports that it fixed anything then jump back into Boot Camp assistant, following that with my first suggestion again if it still won't work. Otherwise, it's reinstallation curtains I'm afraid!
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 2:43 PM on November 28, 2009

Response by poster: Bummer, this is a two week old Macbook Pro. Thanks for the instructions.
posted by wolfr at 5:34 PM on November 28, 2009

Before you reformat and install, I've had success using a gparted liveCD to resize the boot partition, create an NTFS, and then just install as normal by booting to the windows CD.
posted by CharlesV42 at 10:42 AM on November 29, 2009

(this is assuming you have a spare CD or bootable USB stick lying around).
posted by CharlesV42 at 10:44 AM on November 29, 2009

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