Boot Camp Hell
September 18, 2010 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Mac OS X 10.6.3 and Windows 7 not getting along in Boot Camp.

I installed Snow Leopard on my older (2006) MacBook (from 10.4.11), then used Boot Camp to install Windows 7 Home Edition, 32-bit. I have a 2 GHz Intel processor and plenty of free disk space, I thought. Windows seemed to install smoothly, but when I returned to Mac OS X, there is something very wrong with it.

The wait cursor (aka the "spinning beach ball of death") appears with almost every action and hangs for as long as several minutes, though most applications eventually work, it is impossible to do anything. The clock is also off.

I tried logging back into Windows and shutting down to make sure that was not still running, then restarting in Mac OS X. The beach ball problem persists.

Since I had been running upgrades and installations for hours, I wondered if letting the hardware cool for awhile would help; I'll see how Mac OS X is feeling in the morning.

Should I (a) quit processes that are still running, and how can I find them? (b) use Disk Utility to adjust the size of the partition and repair the HD? (c) start up from the Snow Leopard DVD and repair the HD from there? (d) wipe everything and reinstall both Snow Leopard and Windows 7? I have backed up all my files on flash drives.

Since the MacBook is 4 years old it may be time for a new one, but I am not happy with that outcome, my wallet being already dented by +$350 worth of OS software (I had to buy Mac Box, not having upgraded to Leopard, and I did not own a previous version of Windows).

If I buy a shiny new MacBook computer with Snow Leopard all ready to go, can I expect to have this much trouble installing Windows 7 in Boot Camp?
posted by bad grammar to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You mention the processor, but not the RAM? I had Leopard and then Snow Leopard on a device with 2GB of RAM and a 1.6GHz processor and it would often act as you describe.

How is the performance in Windows? If that's ok, it may simply be that Snow Leopard is asking more than your old Mac can give.
posted by Biru at 8:32 PM on September 18, 2010

How much free hard drive space did you have before and after you added the Windows partition?
posted by lakerk at 8:32 PM on September 18, 2010

Also, just noticed you said 10.6.3? The latest version is 10.6.4
posted by Biru at 8:33 PM on September 18, 2010

Even on an Atom-powered hackintosh netbook with 2 gigs of ram, 10.6.3 is very snappy for day to day tasks. Having a beachball spin for several minutes is quite unusual, unless you're trying to do heavy duty A/V editing or other demanding applications. It sounds as though this behavior came on suddenly with the installation of Windows alongside OS X.
Some clues might be found by opening in Utilities, and seeing if there are any unusual error messages. For example, in the past, SATA drives which were about to fail would produce this spinning beachball behavior, even if SMART status was still verified and everything checked out in Disk Utility.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 9:11 PM on September 18, 2010

Did you do a fresh install of OS X, or an archive & install?
How much disk space is left in OS X?

SL is snappy as on my 1.86GHz Core2Duo MB with 2G RAM, so I doubt it's a RAM problem. When you swap OS's in Boot Camp you're shutting one down / hibernating to disk, so it's not like you've got Windows still sitting in RAM taking up space. But those symptoms sound like a disk problem - corruption maybe, or a dying disk, but quite likely low space. OS X is fairly smart about paging to disk, but does it fairly aggressively - it likes 10Gig free, and gets really slow below 2Gig or so free. I've seen the clock & Finder almost freeze near the bottom of those limits.
posted by Pinback at 10:36 PM on September 18, 2010

I would try to isolate hardware from software. If you boot to the Snow Leopard install disk (restart holding C), and you still get the beach ball, then you know it has to be a hardware problem. More likely, the windows installation process fuzzied up some sectors on your HD... so running repair disk (not disk permissions, which is mostly a useless step since 10.5) while booted from the snow leopard install DVD is probably your best bet.

Failing that... since you have a backup, an erase and install will definitely address any software issues.
posted by ndicecco at 8:11 AM on September 19, 2010

It's possible that after creating the Windows partition that Spotlight was indexing it, which can bog a machine down for a while. 2 things to look at:

Launch Activity Monitor and see how much, if any, free memory you have, how many swap files there are and page-out/page-ins. If you've got more than 3 or 4 swap files and a ton of page-ins, then you've used up all your RAM and are accessing virtual memory, which is slower.

Also, at the top of the Activity Monitor window there's a pop-up menu -- chose "all processes" and sort by CPU usage. See if anything's hogging CPU, and in particular, look for a process called "mdworker" which is Spotlight doing its thing. I've seen it get stuck before, and you can kill it without really messing anything up, except your short-term ability to find brand-new things via spotlight, which you probably don't want to do for your windows system files, anyway.

In general, Activity Monitor is your friend for this sort of stuff. It's a front-end GUI for the UNIX "top" process, which if you want to geek out, you can invoke by opening Terminal, and typing "top" then hitting return. "man top" will give you a manual.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:56 AM on September 19, 2010

Response by poster: After many hours, I finally report success. I decided that trying to fix the bugs individually was beyond my ability and so I did an erase of both volumes (Mac HD and Boot Camp) and clean reinstall.

The install of Snow Leopard was fully successful this time (it became clear that the previous install had not been). I had a little trouble deleting the now empty volume of Boot Camp and arranging the partitions, but eventually I made a clean install of Windows 7. Both operating systems appear to be behaving properly.

I installed MS Office for Mac on the Mac HD and MS Office Enterprise for Windows on the Boot Camp volume. I had bought the latter as a student discount with the intention of installing it on my netbook, but never got around to it.

Now I am deciding which of my document files (backed up to flash drives) are OK to transfer. I will certainly need to be more selective now that I have less space.
posted by bad grammar at 4:45 PM on September 19, 2010

Response by poster: I am no longer seeing the spinning beach ball of death in Snow Leopard. Thank you for your suggestions.
posted by bad grammar at 4:46 PM on September 19, 2010

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