Running Windows 7 Nativity on a Macbook Pro

Windows 7Ever since Windows 7 Beta was released a few months ago, I’ve been hearing great things. So, I decided to try installing it through VMware Fusion and see what all the huff was about. Much to my surprise, it really looks like Microsoft got this one right.

Me, like most others, had decided against moving to Windows Vista because of speed and usability issues. With Windows 7, however, Microsoft it seems has finally finished what it started.

After the collapse of Windows Vista I was snared by the sexiness and speed of the Apple Macbook Pro. Having had some experience with Apple machines back in the mid-90’s I decided to go for it. For a while, I ran bootcamp so that I could use Windows XP and Leopard at the same time, which eventually turned into just Leopard. But Microsoft’s latest release, and the invariable need to run Windows applications, have corralled me back into the world of Windows.

Deciding it was time to run Windows nativity again, I started looking into Bootcamp. Reading several sites, I became aware that Windows 7 was going to be slowed down a little by the bios emulation required to run it. Relentlessly venting this fact my colleagues, and doing some digging, we found that Microsoft had quietly slipped in support for Apple bios replacement, EFI.

Hallelujah! Windows 7 can run native on a Macbook Pro!

So, if you’re like me and want the most performance out of your high end Apple machine and need to run Windows. Go ahead and throw a Windows 7 disk in and get started. Just like with any Windows install, you can delete the drive partitions, even the OSX partition, and format them as NTFS.

Several days of running this configuration have revealed EXCELLENT results. My Macbook Pro has an experience score of 5.0! Much higher than those running Windows 7 via Bootcamp.

Good luck! Please send me any feedback you have with the process as well.

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22 Responses to “Running Windows 7 Nativity on a Macbook Pro”

  1. Brandon Says:

    How is the battery life considering your not using the BIOS emulation?

  2. Andrew Durstewitz Says:

    Good point, the batter life is not as good as OSX, but within reason. Instead of three hours, I get around two with Windows 7.

  3. Joe Says:

    I am running windows 7 RC now, previously 7077 on my macbook pro 2.6 4gig ram and get an experience score of 5.3, what model macbook pro are you using? I am trying to decide if running native Windows 7 is worth it.

    • Steve Says:

      I am running WIN 7 RTM on my MacBook Pro 2.8gig, my experience score is a 5.5. I boot into windows via bootcamp. Amazingly fast machine, must faster than those WIN based laptops in any store.

  4. Andrew Durstewitz Says:

    I have a slightly older Macbook Pro, mine has the 2.16GHz processor and 2GB RAM. Unfortunately, the early generation has a 2GB limit.

    My experience score is 4.6, held back by only by my graphics card, which is much better with the new model.

    Here are the score stats, with my older machine. I would assume that yours should be much better:

    Processor: 4.7
    Memory: 4.9
    Graphic: 4.9
    Gaming Graphics: 4.6
    Hard Disk: 5.5

    Regardless, if you’re using bootcamp you are running an interpretation layer between the operating system and the hardware to emulate BIOS. In any case, this is going to slow things down a little.

  5. Dan Says:

    Does CPU scaling work properly in Windows this way? (I had read some things about the Boot Camp BIOS emulation causing Window’s CPU scaling not to work properly.)

  6. peterj Says:

    Hi Andrew, last year I tried running Vista on a Macbook and sold it 4 weeks later because the Bootcamp BIOS emulation didn’t provide CPU and GPU fan control – the aluminum unibody ramped up to 50+ degrees celsuis within 30 minutes of operation under bootcamp and could literally burn your wrists and hands. At that time the only solution was to cold boot into MacOS, use SMC Fan Control to ramp up the fans, then softboot into bootcamp while the fans were still spinning.

    Can you confirm that with native EFI support under Windows 7 you can boot into Windows *and* control both the CPU and GPU fans to keep the temperature under control?

  7. bigcat Says:

    Interesting. I assume this is a windows only setup, correct? In other words, no dual boot with OSX?

  8. Tim Says:

    I think you were going for Natively. Nativity has to do with Christmas and the birth of Christ.

  9. Hans Ulrich Kunz Says:

    You really mean: I install windows7, delete all mac files and partitions and have the beautiful macbook pro machine running windows like every pc? with full functionality of the new mac wireless keyboard and the magic wireless mouse? without any fiddling at startup: press the button, the win desktop appears? As soon win7 is out, I run to the Mac shop…
    Thanks in advance for comments…

  10. Frommel Says:

    Wondering if you had any further thoughts about this? Are you still running Windows 7 natively on your MBP? I am about to do the same and was wondering whether things like the keyboard light, the screen brightness etc all work. Do you actually use the drivers from the Bootcamp disk that came with Snow Leopard?

    • Cotton Says:

      Andrew-

      Any further updates on functionality of the hardware? Do you know if the new touch/click and gesture enabled trackpad works? Keyboard lighting and other hot keys for changing system parameters? Any knowledge whether the final version of 7 will improve battery life? I have heard this is true for Windows 7 run using BootCamp.

  11. Kieran Says:

    I’ve recently installed a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate on my 13.3″ Macbook Pro (2.26GHz, 4Gb RAM). I’m seriously surprised and stunned at the speed, and quality of Windows 7. The precision engineered hardware of the Macbook Pro has also greatly added to the experience of running and using a laptop running Windows.

    Windows 7 boots native, and installs without a hitch. As Andrew mentioned above – “the only thing you need to do” is format your hard-drive or parition to NTFS. Once this has done and Windows 7 has been installed – just pop in your Leopard or Snow Leopard disc. This installs Bootcamp for Windows, which installs all the drivers needed to run your Macbook Pro hardware flawlessly (this includes the multi-touch trackpad, backlit keyboard, all the function keys like screen brightness and keyboard brightness, iSight webcam, graphics, the lot).

    Once this is done… your done. You now have the precision, beautifully built hardware of a Macbook Pro, and the “we got it right” of Windows 7. No problems since installing.

  12. marcyspark Says:

    I have to ask about the heat issues though. What is the fan control like in Windows 7? These 15inch 2009 MBPs get hot in windows compared to OSX. They were built to run OSX and its optimized low battery consumption.

    I would love some reassurance on this before I make the leap back to windows – I gave Snow Leopard 3 months but windows has too big a user base to ignore. Feels like betrayal but even the iphone has better support in Windows!!!

  13. JeanSebastien Says:

    Just installed Windows 7 OEM on a White Macbook mid or end 2007, after screwing up my leopard partition without having my snow leopard disk with me… So I made a test and gave it a try after I heard it was possible.

    For the moment, with Boot Camp 3.0 drivers for all hardware to work ok (I had a copy of the drivers I extracted from my snow leopard DVD with me). Surely, battery usage is quite higher, not so bad though… But I would carry my wire with me all the time. I already do, so whatever.

    Everything’s perfect for the moment. I love it. I got bored with Mac Os X after a while, I feel the UI is to “eye-candy”, I feel a lot less productive under OS X than under Windows. With this new version of windows, stable like vista never was… Why not.

    The only thing I have to complain about, is that the boot takes forever, don’t ask me why. Maybe has something to do with the fact I installed W7 32Bit… Does it has support for UEFI?

    • JeanSebastien Says:

      Just to add some info, I work with audio software as audio ingenier, installed Cubase 5, Addictive Drums (for tracking) and EzDrummer, with a couple of VSTs and RTAS plugins, all working correctly so far. Seems to be pretty nice. And I get a 5.1 and over in Windows Experience Index (except graphics, but I guess it’s normal for a Mac with chipset integrated graphic card), that is not too bad compared to my desktop PC, getting a 5.9, and I never experienced any problems with my software.

  14. Runi Says:

    You say that you bypassed the BIOS Replacement. How did you do that?

    I have been trying to get AHCI (and thereby SATA2 speeds) to work on my Unibody MBP 17” in Windows 7, but with no luck.

    SATA gives you 3 GB/s speeds which is really nice when you have a SSD (Intel X-25m)

    If I understand it correctly this is what is going on: When the MBP boots into MAC OS the IDE controller will be in AHCI mode, but booting any other OS, EFI will load the emulated BIOS and put the IDE controller back to IDE mode (so you can boot and install legacy OS systems such as Win XP).

    It is therefore not possible to enable AHCI in Windows (or any other OS for that matter). Mac Pro owners that are using the Intel chipset (not nvidia as the MBP does) have solved the problem by adding some hack to the MBR forcing the IDE controller back into AHCI mode.

    I have been searching for a solution for two weeks now, without result – so if you can tell me if you are running AHCI in you windows 7 installation I would love to hear how you did that.

  15. chief Says:

    hi, no one of you is running native win on his mac!!!

    the bootcamp assistent in osx is just a simple partitioning tool, not more. if you format the whole disk with ntfs, your windows install is also emulated! this happens automatically, because windows vista sp1 or windows 7 needs uefi (>= version 2) and on every mac u have efi (version 1.x)

    so you can do what you want, dual boot or not, guid or mbr, you will end up with bios emulation!

    regards, chief

  16. Jer Says:

    After reading through some of the comments here I must say I am very intrigued! I converted to Mac OSX in 2006 and thought I was never going to look back. Truth is I need to use a lot of programs that run on Windows and switching between OS’s using bootcamp is not a great way to do it.

    I am running the 2.16GHz Macbook Pro (2005/2006) model. I am aware of the 2GB RAM limit. Has anyone installed the 32 bit version of Win7 on this MBPro model?

    I would really appreciate feedback from anyone with any insight on this. The other option is go and spend another 2G’s on the unibody or something like that start all over. I personally believe this machine has a ton of life left in it though, and I don’t want it to go to waste!

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

  17. (null) Says:

    Confirming what chief says: you guys are still booting Windows 7 with the bios emulation. (You can check this by looking at the drive properties, which will indicate that the OS is booted via MBR.)

    As for the shorter battery life on mbp: that’s all because Apple supplied you with a crappy bios emulation. This only enables the discrete video card. The less consuming integrated card is disabled in this bios.
    The same goes for the AHCI support (better drive performance and energy efficient): disabled by Apple when you boot anything but OSX.
    They even screwed the trackpad driver over (way too sensitive, impossible to do a rightclick drag).

    There’s no such thing as booting Windows 7 natively on a MacBook Pro! All you get is a castrated bios and some pathetic drivers.

    If you want to run Windows 7: get a PC. You’ll get more performance, a longer battery life, better driver support and for less money!

  18. Vince Says:

    Hello there!

    Nice to find a forum like that because it seems that running Windows on a Mac is Heretic! 😉 Like a lot of people I bought a MacBook Pro because of the design. Configuration was good to so, why not? Moreover, it is said that Windows is now FULLY Supported…
    First deception: Boot Camp! I wanted to install Windows natively because I’m working in IT and I really need Windows. And as I said to my friends, I’m not fed up with Microsoft & and don’t want especially to go for something else. Windows does everything I want & need so… I launched Boot Camp & Windows installation and… Damn’! I can only have 1 partition! Crap! I really hate to have only one big garbage partition. OK, it is a Windows Limitation to have 4 primary partitions but sorry, it is not then fully supported for me! As I wanted to give a chance to MacOSX (people say that it is soooo marvellous so…) I tried to run Windows with Parallels and even Fusion but I quickly realized that OSX was just installed to use my Windows Env. Stupid though… I decided to get rid of all that MAC Stuff and install Windows like on a pc. Moreover, I got plenty of Keyboard Problems when using CITRIX Clients. No a good deal for me as this laptop is my business machine.
    I’d like also to say that I’m not for or against MS, Apple or whatever. Working in IT led me to evaluate and take the best solution according to different parameters. I work with Linux when working on VM Ware, Windows, CITRIX everyday! I had an iPhone 3GS (now I’m using it as an iPod and have a Windows Phone 7), an iPad2, some PCs & an iMac27 that I keep in OSX to sync my iDevices & also for iPhoto which is just great! 🙂 I’ll probably go for a dual boot as I’d like to play games on it! 😉
    Well let’s go back to our matters! 😉
    I ran the installation like on a PC. Once installed, I launched bootcamp driver CD. Everything is working. That’s cool… Now let’s play a lil bit!
    First thing I noticed, I could not have a third primary partition. Why? I don’t know. he created me an extended (logical). Perhaps if I had prepared my partitions during Windows setup, it would have worked.
    Second thing, still have strange keyboard mapping behavior with CITRIX. Hopefully, it is ok to work with it but I have to change the language even if I don’t have multiple keyboards set. Weirdo…
    Third thing, the boot! Damn! So SLOOOOW! My old DELL XPS M1330 which is 4 years old boots twice faster… Why? I don’t know. I’ve a white screen when I power on my machine. It looks like it does nothing. But once the windows logo appaears, then it’s fast as hell! And once in Windows, it is perfect… I looked for some ideas, opinions or solutions but could not find anything interesting so far so, if someone has one, it is welcome! lol
    I still hesitate to resell my MacBook but I don’t really want it. I like it! It is unfair from Apple to claim that their machines fully support Windows. This is not really true. They’re blocking some stuffs somewhere probably to give a bad windows experience and to push people to use OSX. Well, it is only a feeling I have….
    For info: Windows Experience index is pretty high except for the HDD.
    CPU: 7.6 / RAM: 7.6 / Graphic: 6.9 / Gaming: 6.9 / HDD: 5.9
    Config is Core I7 2860QM – 8GB of RAM – Win7 Ultimate x64 SP1.


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