So you have looked around and found out that the best Windows laptop for wireless work is a MacBook Air. It’s ironic if you think about it. Windows runs a lot better on Apple hardware than it ever did on other manufacturers equipment. If you’re a WiFi geek like me you realize that most of the industry standard wireless tools run on Windows. For instance, you have Wi-Spy, Chanalyzer and EYE PA from Metageek. Airmagnet Wifi Analyzer and Survey Pro from Fluke. Omnipeek from Wildpackets, and Ekahau Site Survey from Ekahau. There are many others but these are what I use on a regular basis.
There are a few ways to run Windows programs on a MacBook Air. The first way is through the use of virtualization software. This is where Windows is run in a virtual machine on top of OS X. There are two leading products at this point in time. One is VMware Fusion version 7.1 and the other is Parallels Desktop version 10 for Mac. The rest of this post won’t focus on virtualization, but if you are interested in either of these products go to their websites to learn more about them.
I am going to talk about my experience running Windows natively on a Macbook. This process is called Bootcamp. It’s a multi-boot utility included with Apple Inc.'s OS X that assists users in installing Microsoft Windows operating systems on Intel-based Macintosh computers.
The first step is to gather your Windows installation media this has to be in the form of an ISO image and can be obtained from Microsoft.
The next step is to start the Bootcamp assistant from finder bar at the top of the screen, click over to the Go tab, scroll down to the Utilities, then click on Bootcamp Assistant.
Requirements for Bootcamp are as follows: a Windows 7 ISO file, and an 8 gigabyte USB stick (I used a USB 3.0 version). The Bootcamp assistant created my install disk. It took about a half hour to create the install and write it to USB. I rebooted my MacBook Air and I got a message that came up on the screen that said “No bootable device – insert boot disk and press any key”. No matter what I did or how many times I power cycled, it always came back to the same screen. "This sucks," I thought. After a few minutes of panic, I remembered that Google was my friend.
I found this webpage, that listed the starup key combinations for Intel based Macs https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201255 about half way down the page is where I found what I needed. If I held down Command-R during bootup it would take me to recovery mode. The information about recovery mode is talked about in detail on this page https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT4718 .
Coming from a Microsoft Windows world this was new to me. When a machine blue screened with this type of error message it was time to re-install and you might have lost everything. I rebooted my Mac holding down the Command-R during bootup and sure enough it booted into recovery mode. This was awesome, I might have lost all my installed programs but at least I can correct then issue that caused this. I re-installed OS X, it took about thirty minutes. I was surprised to find out that I did not lose any of the programs I had installed this was great
The next step was to try this again and figure out where it went wrong. I used a different copy of Microsoft Windows thinking that the ISO image might have been corrupt. I also used a different USB stick this time I used a 16 Gigabyte USB 3.0 stick. It almost worked I got a Windows startup screen and it looked like it was going to install. At this point, a popup message appeared on the screen that said “A required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing. If you have a driver floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB flash Drive please insert it now.”
I tried to look for that file, it wasn’t on any part of the install disc that was created by the Bootcamp process. I spent about an hour searching google for the answer. It had seemed a lot of folks had run into this issue. There was never a solution listed until I ran across a forum post from someone that said the following.
The problem was that I was using a USB 3.0 Drive during the Windows installation. Windows does not recognize those types of drives due to the lack of drivers installed on the base ISO.
The workaround / fix was:
- Remove all USB drives attached
- Go back into the Mac Side
- Open the Boot Camp Assistant
- Remove the Windows partition that was created before
- Recreate the USB stick again using a USB 2.0 drive with both the boot ISO and the drivers (Check all boxes in the Boot Camp assistant)
- The Mac will then reboot again into the Windows install, and it will work properly now
- If it does not work, Google the USB drive you are using, it may be a 3.0
I followed these instructions, and many hours later, it installed flawlessly. I now had a working Windows installation on my MacBook Air. I thought to myself, "This was a lot of work. How can I back this up if it crashes?" The time machine program from Apple would backup the data, but it would not be in the correct format.
The answer I found was a program called Winclone from a company called twocanoes. (https://twocanoes.com/products/mac/winclone).
This program cost thirty dollars but is worth every penny. I can now feel safe about using my Bootcamp installation and if things go wrong I can restore it quickly and efficiently.
I loaded Ekahau Site Survey onto my machine and it works great. I will be loading the rest of my regularly used software on the machine as well. This has been a great learning ordeal for me. I hope that it helps someone else who maybe having a similar experience.
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