Partial Fail – Windows 8 RC on MacBook Air

note: I am composing this whilst running Windows 8 RC within Parallels on a 13” MacBook Air 2011.

Windows 8 is going RTM in August (or something like that), so I’m trying to get a very slight head-start and use it on a daily basis.  There are a couple of complicating factors for me here:

  • As the title of this post suggests, I largely use my MacBook Air now.  My ‘main’ developer rig, what with all the 27” monitors goes largely unused (and if I had a spare four grand lying around, I’d get a fully tricked out MacBook Retina Pro and probably use that, but I don’t at the moment, but I digress).
  • Though Parallels is nice, I prefer to use BootCamp so as to get access to all the hardware (especially, and mainly, memory).
  • I would try to slip into it by trying to upgrade one of my desktop systems, but as previously noted, the upgrade never works.
  • I use Clear as my 4G connection, so ideally, that would need to work.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I can’t really ‘brick’ my existing laptop, I’ve got too much going on.

I have an older MacBook Air as well (2009 or 2010, whatever the previous incarnation was), so I came up with the following ‘cunning’ plan:

  • Install Windows 8 RC on the older model using BootCamp, and configure it to my current specifications.
  • Use it for a while, ideally at least a week (more realistically, a few hours) to ensure that I can do whatever it is I currently do without any massive headaches.
  • Nuke the newer (though not the newest….don’t have a spare three grand lying around either, but I digress) model, rinse and repeat.
  • Then when Windows 8 RTM comes out and it turns out there is no upgrade path from the RC, rinse and repeat twice more.

As I am writing this within Parallels, you might guess there have been a wee few problems.  Good guess.  In some vague chronological order, here’s how the process has gone.

  • Supposedly, you can install Windows 8 directly through BootCamp, but after spending a whopping 17 minutes or so trying to get that to work, I said fuck it, and instead installed Windows 7 on the older Air, and then upgraded directly afterwards (well, after loading the BootCamp drivers anyway).  <digression>When I was younger, I probably would have spent hours or even days figuring out how to beat the damn thing into submission, but I don’t have the drive for that sort of thing anymore</digression>
  • And immediately ran into an issue.  Though Windows 7 had no problems with it, the trackpad didn’t work.  At all.  Device manager showed it as being unable to load the device drivers.  Trying to uninstall and reinstall didn’t work.  Deleting the drivers from the system32 directory and manually running the .msi/.exe/whatever from the BootCamp drivers disk didn’t work.  IIRC, this is where I stopped when trying to get the Consumer Preview to work, as carrying around a USB mouse with a MacBook Air is rather stupid.
  • I don’t recall the exact sequence of events or steps that I took, but basically, some combination of uninstalling the drivers from device manager, deleting the drivers from the system32 directory AND deleting them from C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository (the mtm and mtp folders) finally allowed it to actually reinstall the drivers instead of pretending to.  A reboot or three later, and I had a working trackpad.
  • Knowing that it would likely fail anyways, I next tried to get my Clear 4G USB thingamabob to work.  Needless to say it didn’t, but it failed in rather interesting ways.  The first interesting thing of note is that it uses an unsigned driver called the Sierra something or other, and Windows 8 by default doesn’t let you load those.  Naturally, I ignored whatever warning it gave and it managed to break all USB functionality.  Oops.  Once again, I don’t recall the exact sequence of steps, but you have to go into the advanced settings and boot into something and type in something.  It’s something like this.
  • Even with that, I couldn’t get it to work.  It would say it was ready to connect after finding the network and then immediately fail.  Ok, that’s an issue.  I decided to just move on and start loading the stuff I really need (which is mainly Office, SQL Server and Visual Studio).
  • All of this was going swimmingly then suddenly, the OS started hard locking after a few minutes of use.  Mouse no move-y, etc.  Only recovery was to power cycle.  Every few minutes.  Okay, that’s definitely a show stopper, so I figured that was it, and put the old Air away.
  • Then yesterday, I saw this.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one with this issue.  So, I pulled the old Air back out, and logged in to install the updates.  With much difficulty, as the machine would till hard lock the OS every few minutes while downloading the updates.  Overall, it probably took about 5 or 6 reboots.  And then everything seemed golden.

Note the keyword ‘seemed’.  After an hour or so of no issues, the hard lock problem kept coming up.  Viciously even.  And so, it is definitely unusable.

So, I have Windows 8 RC installed under Parallels on the newer (though not newest, blah blah blah) Air, with the ‘nicely’ configured 1 GB of memory.  I guess I can load all of my normal software, verify my current codebases run properly on it, yada yada yada, and then try to install it blank on a new BootCamp partition, but if it still hard locks, it will be a waste of time.

Normally, I would use this as an excuse to buy one of the new MacBooks, but I’m trying to be more fiscally responsibly (God, I hate that).  And I want one of the new Microsoft Surface tablets, once they stop being vaporware.

posted on Thursday, July 12, 2012 12:12 PM Print
# re: Partial Fail – Windows 8 RC on MacBook Air
7/13/2012 9:40 PM
I've the other option would be try vmware fusion and see if it works well for you. I've been doing metro Dev with retina MacBook and its going well so far

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