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Mac Mini with ONLY Windows XP

I'm trying to install Windows XP on a Mac Mini (Intel 2.53) as the SOLE operating system.  

Before I start a debate, let me answer the 'whys?'

Why Apple hardware:

1. Apple has excellent quality control in their hardware construction
2. The Apple Mini fits the size needs for the particular project I am working on

Why Windows:

1. The applications I need the hardware to run is Windows-based and I prefer XP over Vista/7 for this particular project

NOW...my problem and what I have done so far:

1. Installed a new blank 32GB SSD drive in the Mini
2. Booted the Mini from a retail Windows XP Professional SP3 CD
3. Created a new partition (using the entire 32GB) during the XP install and formatted it as NTFS

During the installatin process, at the first reboot, the Mini came up to a the standard gray screen but with a blinking folder with a question mark.  

I restarted again holding the Option key, two items were available: the Windows partition and the Windows installation CD.  If I select the Windows partition I end up back at the gray screen with the blinking folder with a question mark.  If I select the Windows installation CD, the Mini prompts me to "Press any key to boot from CD..."  If I bypass this and don't press 'any key' the computer then boots to the hard drive and returns to the installtion process.

I preceeded in this manner to make it through the XP installation process and eventually got XP installed.

Once the installation was complete and Bootcamp/drivers were installed I tried setting the "Startup Disk" via Bootcamp.  This had no effect and brought me back to the gray screen with the blinking folder after rebooting.  I then tried booting to the OSX DVD and setting the "Startup Disk" with the OSX utility.  OSX would not recognize the Windows partition; seeing only the OSX DVD and Network.

What am I missing?

NOTE: On the same machine, using a different SSD drive I was able to successfully install Windows 7 Home Premium using the above mentioned process with no problem what so ever.  Unfortunately Windows 7 does not meet the needs of my project.
1 Solution
John HurstBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I cannot answer the question about XP (much as I like, understand and long used XP). However, I have Windows 7 Pro in production now, and what can Windows 7 not meet for you? Generally, all I had with XP is now running in Windows 7 (although I had to upgrade much software to get to Vista and then Windows 7 64-bit). Otherwise Windows 7 does commendably well. ... Thinkpads_User
guruerrorAuthor Commented:
I concur that Windows 7 is very good OS.  XP is simply my OS of choice since it is easy for me to strip down for the appliance type of devices I tend to build.  It is very easy to visually 'hide' XP so users of my devices have no idea that it's a PC running Windows OS.

The main problem I encountered with Windows 7 when testing with my current project is that my displays do not supply the OS with EDID information; therefore Windows Vista and 7 have been locking my display resolutions at 640x480...XP does not.  

So my goal is to resolve my current problem and get XP installed.
See the instructions in this thread:  http://forums.macrumors.com/archive/index.php/t-441108.html
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guruerrorAuthor Commented:
Hmmm...perhaps the part I missed was relying on Bootcamp (under OSX) to create the initial partition for Windows (and prep the EFI for the Windows installation)?

Since I was starting with a new, blank SSD drive I didn't have OSX to start with...okay...I'll bite.  Tomorrow I'll try installing OSX on the new SSD, then run Bootcamp and proceed with the steps in your (Strung) link.

Hopfully that will work...I'll post back.

I haven't tried using an SSD drive, but with the normal drive that comes with a mini, I have successfully installed XP a number of times.

I just look at the Mini as any other Intel based computer. I boot from the CD, go through the normal install including creating the partition and formatting from within the Windows install and when I am done I get the Windows desktop.  At that point, I insert the OS X install CD so that I can install the necessary bootcamp drivers.  At this point I have a fully functional XP system with no trace of OS X.
guruerrorAuthor Commented:
Question...have you ever started with a new blank hard drive (whether it be SSD or mechanical)?  

I'm wondering if that is my problem.

The SSD I used to test Windows 7 previously (which installed and booted fine) had OSX already installed (and I'm assuming a GUID partition table).  I removed all visible partitions during the Windows 7 install and created a new one and it worked fine.  The only difference with my XP test is that I didn't install OSX on the hard drive...I merely partitioned it first with the OSX Disk Utility from the OSX install DVD creating a Master Boot Record partion, then booted to the XP install disc.

From what I've been reading this morning I beleive that EFI is failing to load the Compatibility Support Module (CSM) needed to find/load the MBR when the Mini is fired up. (http://refit.sourceforge.net/info/boot_process.html).  Perhaps something in my process has not alerted EFI that the CSM is needed.
guruerrorAuthor Commented:

Made 'some' progress...I think...
  1. I booted the Mini with the OSX DVD and repartitioned the HD as GUID, MS-DOS (Fat).
  2. Reinstalled XP this time leaving the EFI partition in tact and simply reformated the FAT partition to NTFS
    (NOTE: I had the same issue mentioned in the first post where each restart during the install would need to boot from the XP installation CD...and I would have to ignore the "Press any key to boot from CD..." prompt)
  3. Once XP was installed I restarted the machine with no CD/DVD inserted and got the flashing folder again...ARG!
  4. I then booted the OSX DVD again and opened the Startup Disk utility (NOW OSX sees the Windows partion as a bootable option...'SWEET', I thought)
  5. I selected the Windows partition and clicked Restart (and removed the OSX DVD)
ARG! The mini still comes up to the flashing folder with a question mark. If I reboot and hold Option down and manually select the Windows hard drive icon...another ARG...I get the same result.
I have never done this on a brand new totally blank HD. I would assume that if I wiped the disk while installing XP that it would wipe everything and I have installed XP and then reinstalled XP without issue.

However, there is merit in your thought process. You could prove it by installing OS X on the whole partition, once installed insert the XP CD and then reboot with the C key held so that it boots from the XP CD and go through a normal install of XP.
guruerrorAuthor Commented:
I've already started the process.

I've installed OSX on the blank HD and rebooted to the XP installation disc (just as you've mentioned).  XP just did it's first restart during it's installation and the Mini had to boot from the CD to continue...(sigh).

I'm going to let this XP installation wrap up and then try to set the Startup Disk using the OSX utility and see what I get...but it doesn't look promising so far.

Question jhyiesla: When you said you've installed XP on a Mini a number of times...were you installing it as the SOLE operating system or on another partition using Bootcamp?  On what model Mini were you able to successfully do this?  Mine is model number MC239LL/A.
I've done it both ways, but I was specifically talking about installing it as the only OS on he disk.  The specific part number I have is MB138LL/A.

The only thing that seems off is that it needs to boot from the CD to continue. Once XP is installed I wouldn't think there would be any need to do anything with the Startup settings from the OS X install disks... it's gone... Do you set anything out of the norm when installing OS X?

I would think that in the course of the install every time that the XP install reboots the Mac you would get prompted for the CD since it sees it and does not see a fully installed OS...just like I would on any computer.  If you just don't press any key, it should continue with the install.  When the XP install is done, you should be left on the XP desktop at which time you would insert the OS X install disk for the bootcamp drivers.  Just make sure that when you are done installing the drivers that you remove the OS X install disk before rebooting or it will attempt to install OS X again and that usually messes everything up. From that point on it should just boot to XP without issue and without you having to set any startup setting with the OS X disk.
guruerrorAuthor Commented:
Yeah I'm perplexed.  After XP finished completing this installation, I removed the XP CD, and rebooted and now am back at the blinking gray folder again.

I changed no settings in OSX...I basically installed OSX, removed the OSX DVD, inserted the XP CD and rebooted (holding C) which jumped the XP installation off.

Ya know...I initially ruled out the SSD as the problem, since it should be treated as a normal SATA drive, and given that both OSX and XP see the drive fine when installing...but I've found several sites where people report that their SSD drives are not compatible with Bootcamp and booting from Windows' partitions (specifically Intel X-25 drives).  They indicate that OSX installs and runs fine but they cannot install XP or Vista.  Their results are a bit different then mine but their process is different then mine as well.  I'm currently wrapping up another install of OSX and them I'm going to try to just use Bootcamp to make a seperate partition and see if Windows will work that way...if I end up with the same results as the others do I'm going to test a blank mechanical hard drive using my initial setup steps (just a straight XP install) and see what I get.

If the straight install on the mechanical drive succeeds then I'll conclude that the SSD is indeed the issue (which would surprise me).
That's also a valid point. I know that I have done this very thing many times on the drive that comes with the mini on multiple machines without issue.  
guruerrorAuthor Commented:
The SSD was the problem (Model: Emphase FD25s Industrial SATA).

The mechanical drive worked like a charm.  I'll just continue my build with it until I can find a compatible SSD and then clone my drive to it for the final product.

QUESTION jhyiesla:  Do you typically leave the EFI partition or remove it?  Some posts say leave it, some say remove it...in my case I removed it.  

From what I've read Apple only uses the EFI partition for firmware updates and I plan to have an OSX external that I can connect to the unit for such updating.

When running only XP on the Mini do you find that the POST process (gray screen) takes longer then usual?  Mine sets for about 30 seconds before proceeding to XP?
Because I bought these Mac Minis specifically to house XP, I do just as I outlined above the completely nuke what ever the XP formatter can see. If the EFI partition is hidden so that XP formatter doesn't see it then I suppose that it's still there. If not, then it's been deleted. I have also successfully reinstalled OS X without incident, but have not needed to do any firmware updates so not sure if that would be an issue or not. Not sure how often Apple does those. I have been using Macs for about two years including several iMacs, a Mac Pro, several minis and a Mac Book Pro and as far as I can remember the only one that has ever had a firmware update is the MBP
Sorry forgot the rest of your question. Yes the "post" is longer and the gray screen stays there an extended time before the XP boot screen appears.
guruerrorAuthor Commented:
jhyiesla:  You're probably already aware of this, since you've been working with Macs and alternate OSes for a while, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

I was able to cut down my 'post' delay from 34 sec. to 5 sec. by booting the OSX DVD and 'blessing' the Windows partition via Terminal.

Once in Terminal I ran 'diskutil' to find out the exact reference for the Windows partition (/dev/disk0s1 in my case); then ran 'bless /dev/disk0s1 --setboot --legacy'.

Now it flies right though the post.

Thanks for all your help.

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