Windows 7 64-bit on the iMac 21.5

So Windows 7 on the iMac 21.5 (Late 2009) How does it fare? Is it stable? Is everything working? I have been using Windows 7 since getting this iMac and have reformatted and reinstalled for more than 3 times. Here’s the rundown of my experience broken into parts. Read more after the jump.

Why Windows?

Okay, first thing. I chose Windows because I’m already comfortable with it. I find Explorer superior than Finder. I find Windows Photo Viewer easier than Preview. I also run Windows-only applications like Zune Software and Live Essentials. I also have Windows-only installation files accumulated in the span of nearly 10 years. In other words, PC EXE’s trumps OSX’ DMG’s.

But in fairness I love Expose, I like Growl notification integrations, I also find the Quick Preview (spacebar method) very convenient. They said that if you go Mac you never go back but I just did go back. I like the flexibility of running two operating system though so thanks to Apple for allowing easy Windows installations.

So why did I buy a Mac then? I didn’t. It was sent to me so it would be a huge waste if I don’t use it. Anyway, I still like the hardware :)

Boot Camp Process

So Apple’s selling point for Intel Macs was the option to install Windows as a second boot operating system. They even made a very handy Boot Camp assistant which helps partition and install any version of Windows.

My Boot Camp process went smooth. I divided the 1TB drive to 300GB OSX then 100GB for Windows 7 and 500GB for my storage files.

Drivers for Windows 7 64-bit

The initial Boot Camp drivers (one of the grey CD’s included in the box)  had no problems installing the necessary windows-drivers for everything specially iSight and the SD card reader. The only problem was the Bluetooth Magic Mouse not working prop erly but the software update to Boot Camp 3.1, released on January 19, 2010 fixed it. I suggest visiting Apple’s Boot Camp support page if you’re experiencing any problems. Just upgrade to latest software.

Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse

The Wireless Keyboard is great. Space-saver, excellent to type on, silent and gorgeous. The battery on these two Bluetooth-paired devices are so good that I think I can run 2 months or even more on a single charge of 4 AA batteries. (2 for keyboard, 2 for mouse) and I’m a super heavy user. My Logitech MX Revolution can’t match the battery life of the Magic Mouse.

However I think this is a bug for some if not all iMac Late 2009 units regarding mouse cursor stuttering and skipping when using in conjunction with an external monitor that is turned-of. Some users including me have confirmed that if the iMac is connected to a secondary-display or external monitor thru DVI connection, and the external display is turned off, the cursor skips at intervals. The only solution to the problem until Apple fixes this would be to either 1.) disconnect your DVI Mini Display Port. 2.) turn on the secondary / external display. or 3.) replace your DVI Mini Display port adapter to a VGA one. 

Another Serious Bug?

Another thing that has been bugging me more is this serious bug that happens when I start booting the computer. After installing Windows 7 64-bit I have been encountering the “white screen of death” during start-up. The monitor will only display all white and would get stuck there without booting to either osx of windows (I set windows 7 to boot by default via boot camp control panel) At first, I tried rEFit and thought it worked until it happened again.

The problem cannot be replicated and happens at random occasions and at random number of times. Users are saying that only specific Hitachi drives are affected by this and is related to boot loader firmware's. One person’s solution would be to erase the harddrive using the Disk Utility from the OS Z boot disk and selecting the 'Zero Out Data' option under the security page. It would take 1-hour to do the single pass.

Apple has issued no formal admission of the error and so no official fix is seen in the near future for this. Another reason to buy and use a PC hardware. In fairness again to the iMac, this error does not happen if only OSX is installed. But still, if Apple touts Boot Camp as a feature then they need to support issues arising from it.

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