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My Dad, the Switcher: Day 140

Robert Palmer

Yesterday, Robert talked about setting up a new Mac Pro for his switcher Dad. Today, setting up Windows proves to be a bit of a headache.

When I mentioned to my best buddy Cameron that Dad was getting a Mac Pro to replace his just-months-old Mac mini, he said "Wow. He sure moves quickly when it comes to toys!"

That he does. Just three or four months ago, he had bought his Mac mini. Now here we were, installing Windows on his tricked-out refurb Mac Pro.

This was proving to be a problem. For me, mostly.

He wanted to install Windows XP Service Pack 2, which, as far as we knew, would work fine. We started Boot Camp Assistant, and printed out the instructions. We had a whole 750GB hard disk to give to Windows, so we chose it and were restarting into that purgatory of Windows Setup in DOSville.

After loading its various components ("Human Interface Parser" was our favorite), Windows Setup displayed the volumes available to install Windows, but our newly-created Boot Camp partition wasn't listed. Uh oh.

Windows Setup desperately wanted us to reformat the C: partition as NTFS. Dad wanted to be able to read and write to the Windows partition from his Mac, and I thought Mac OS X couldn't read and write NTFS partitions. So that was out.

But, according to Windows Update, it was our only option. Stymied!

Dad and I took a break and sat down for some lunch. After we ate, he posited: "I bet it's because the partition size is too large for FAT32." We thought on that for a while. It turns out, FAT32 can support partition sizes up to 2TB, but the cluster sizes get larger, and therefore make it inefficient for use on large disks. Regardless: Windows Setup wouldn't be able to create a partition that large.

I called Cameron, who happens to be the bossest IT pro I know. He said that we should have no problem using NTFS. It works with Boot Camp, it works with Parallels, and -- best of all -- you can still read and write to the volume using MacFUSE. Nice.

Away we went with a single huge NTFS partition, then, and all was well. When the Windows Setup process completed, Dad went on to install his Mac Pro's drivers from the system restore CD, and install Parallels, too. Shoot -- he hardly needed me at all.

Then, blissfully, this email:

There's still a little more work to do: He wants to migrate his old Windows system over using Parallels Transporter. Once that's done, he can get rid of his old PC, and move the Mac Pro into its place. Sure, it means rearranging his desk a little (the Mac Pro's a little taller than his old PC).

All told -- for Dad, it's been pretty easy going as a Mac owner for 140 days and counting. Now, though, it's down to work.

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