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Install Win on MacBook Air without SuperDrive

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OK, I am really too cheap (after spending 2,100) on a MacBook Air to buy the external SuperDrive. I have not been able to install Windows XP via disk partitions (I didn't really expect to be able to). But now I am getting a little impatient.


Since I doubt I can install Windows XP from a USB flash drive/external hard drive, I have come up with this hypothetical solution... I use the Boot Camp Assistant to partition my iMac, I install XP on that partition (sans all the iMac drivers). I then clone the bootcamp partition to a disk image. On my MacBook Air (with the BC assistant already having created my partition) I simple apply the iMac boot camp disk image on the MacBook Air's boot camp partition. This is assuming that everything is FAT32.


Does anyone think this will work? I really don't want to waste my time installing XP without at least some second opinions. To me this seems that it should work, in theory. I just want to know if anyone foresees any major/critical/obvious problems that would happen with this.

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I think I'm the wrong geek to ask about this.


I would love to have a MB Air but don't so I don't know anything about the realities of using the Virtual Disk option (or, whatever it's called) to install things on it. Plus, I've never installed Windows on anything. I have a cheap Dell laptop I use for the only Windows things I must, so haven't bothered to put it on my iMac.


My ONLY experience with alternate OS is an unsuccessful attempt to install Ubuntu on my G5 before it moved on.


Wish I could help but I'm sure someone here can offer a more educated response.

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OK, my day was very interesting... however, I finally managed to install Windows XP on my MacBook Air without an external drive. OK, I also had to use my iMac and my Windows laptop (briefly, and not really required).


OK, so I'm sure every person is just dying to read about my engaging adventure (sarcasm) so here is what I did. My setup includes a MacBook Air, an Intel Core Duo iMac, an external USB drive (has to be big enough to hold you XP partition for transfer), and an existing Windows laptop (this really required, I just used it because I forgot that I didn't need too). I also found this free piece of software called Winclone, which was the key to solving this problem.


The goal of all of this was to install Windows (I'm going to be using XP, but I would presume this would work for Vista) on my MacBook Air, without buying or borrowing an external SuperDrive or other external optical drive.


At any point, when I use iMac, just substitute your Mac with an optical drive.


- Create Windows Partition, using Boot Camp Assistant, on the MacBook Air.

- Create Windows Partition, using Boot Camp Assistant, on the iMac (I don't think you need to make it the same size as the MBA, but I did).

Side note: If you get a kernel panic while you partition any of your Macs (I got it on both of mine), you are kind of hosed. You could try to boot up from the install DVD (or bootable clone) and use Disk Utility to Repair Disk. That will solve that problem, but everytime you go to partition, it will do the same thing (I don't recommend trying... I went through this process 5 times). Just do a clone backup or have a full Time Machine backup and just restore your entire drive. It magically fixes the issue (might be from fragmentation).

- When you iMac is done partitioning, Install Windows on it. MAKE SURE YOU FORMAT THE PARTITION AS NTFS Make sure it boots and it works. I wouldn't recommend installing any drivers while on the iMac (I did, and it causes problems later on).

- Also, don't activate you copy of Windows while on your iMac, as it will register with MS and compare it's hardware with your MBA.

- Boot back into OS X. Now, doing a simple Partition to Disk Image, then cloning that disk image to the MBA partition doesn't work. (you actually can't do this anyways with NTFS, but I had done this with FAT32 initially, so it was 'possibly possible')

- Grab Winclone. I found this program while googling. It is designed for network admins who need to do backups and restores of Boot Camp partitions. This is exactly what we need (as you really can't clone a Bootcamp partition and then restore it with OS X itself).

- In Winclone "backup" your bootcamp partition to a disk image on your external drive. Winclone only deals with NTFS partitions, so if this is why NTFS is important.

- When that is done backing up, take that file and a copy of Winclone to you MacBook Air.

- Using the restore tab, restore that disk image to your MBA Boot Camp partition.

- When it is done, reboot you Mac, hold down alt, you should be able to select Windows.

- Boot into it.

- Ya, you have a problem, no drivers. You have two options, you can use a Windows computer to copy the driver/installer from the MBA Install DVD onto a usb flash drive or external drive. Or you can remember that you just made your iMac a Windows computer, so you could do it from there.

- On you MacBook Air, you probably be able to use your trackpad... at all, until the drivers are there. So if you have a mouse, get it and a usb hub. Plug the mouse in the hub.

- Once you have a copy of the installer and folder of driver stuff on your drive, plug that into the hub.

Side note: You really don't need a hub or a mouse. You could navigate through the keyboard to install the drivers. (I didn't feel like finding my USB hub, so I first copied the files with the keyboard, then unplugged my drive and used my mouse the rest of the way.

- After a restart, or a few, and after Windows updates, you should have a MacBook Air with windows on it.


So in conclusion, this is a very technical thing that isn't for the faint of heart. By the way, if you already have a XP install with FAT32 that you want to convert to NTFS, open up the command prompts, and type "CONVERT C: /FS:NTFS" (no quotes), follow the on screen prompts, and it will restart about 2 times.


Hopefully I didn't forget anything.

Edited by Neil

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Could you have made an image file of the Windows install CD using something like Disk Utility and just mounting it (again using Disk Utility) to install?


The only way I think that would work would be if you're using Parallels or VMware.



Just a thought.

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In theory you could do that (I tried). However, with VMware, it won't let you boot into the bootcamp partition unless the OS is already on there.


With Parallels, I could start the install, but it just failed/couldn't boot. I probably jut screwed something up, so you might be able to use Parallels.

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