I just got a Mac Mini Server at work, primarily to replace my very aged, six-year-old PC. I will also use it for mac (web) development because it is more powerful than my other mac, but running Windows on it was really the reason I got it. Actually, my boss chose it for me. I thought it was a good choice at first since the hardware specs on it are better than the regular client version of the mini. But little did I know the challenges that awaited me.
Mac OS X Server doesn’t include the Bootcamp Assistant app or the boot camp Windows drivers, so getting Windows on it proved to be a bit of a challenge. And even before that consideration—the thing doesn’t have a DVD/CD drive!
So the first step was to visit the Apple store to buy a Superdrive, a USB external optical drive. But surprise, the actual product name is the “Macbook Air Superdrive”. This drive says it only works with the Macbook Air and nothing else; that’s because all other Apple computers have an optical drive included… well, except the Mac Mini Server. I couldn’t believe that this drive would only work with one particular computer, so the salesman checked in back, and yep, sure enough, it will work with the Mac Mini too. So after paying $79.99, I was on my way.
The next step was partitioning the drive. I first tried to copy the Bootcamp Assistant from the client version of Snow Leopard and run on the server. No dice; the app won’t run. Then I tried booting from the client Snow Leopard DVD to run it from there. No dice. Ok, that’s alright, I’ll just partition the thing myself. So I booted from the server’s install DVD (by holding C at startup) and ran the Disk Utility. I figured out how to resize the existing partition rather than recreating a new one and then added a partition for Windows to use. The first time I did it I forgot that the partition must be 32GB or smaller since it is formatted with the fat32 file system. Then I also learned that you have to let windows format the partition before the install even though you just created and formatted it with the mac. If Windows doesn’t do the formatting, then it won’t work. So I rebooted and held C to startup from the Windows install CD and installed Windows XP.
Now, the next step was getting the boot camp windows drivers installed for all this mac hardware. Since the drivers aren’t on the Mac OS X Server DVD and are not available from Apple’s web site, the only legal way to get them is from a copy of the client version of Snow Leopard. And ideally it would be from the most recent client version of the Mac Mini since some of the hardware is the same.
I didn’t have a the DVD from the mini, but I did have a Snow Leopard client DVD, so I inserted that while booted into Windows and installed the boot camp drivers. Then I downloaded the 2 updates to the boot camp drivers from apple’s web site (3.1 and 3.2) and installed them. After all that, there were still a lot of missing drivers, most importantly, the video card driver. The video performance was terrible, so that really needed a resolution. Google helped me discover that the video card is actually an Nvidia GeForce 320M card. I found the driver on their web site and installed it and the video was fixed.
The next driver I tackled was the ethernet driver. This turned out to be a Broadcom NetExtreme Desktop card and I downloaded the drivers from their site. Ethernet solved.
After all this the remaining missing drivers were for the “coprocessor” and the “SM bus controller”. I haven’t gotten these working yet, and I’m not that motivated to spend time on it since everything I need seems to be working.
My next step will be to install Parallels on the Mac side and hook it up to my windows partition. Then I am also planning to convert my two 500GB drives into a RAID0 setup to increase disk speed in Mac OS. Once this is all complete I expect this to be a very performant system.
So was it worth it? It’s hard to say. I wish I had known the work involved before going into it, but I’m satisfied with the result now that it’s done. I considered just replacing the server OS with the client version of Snow Leopard (so I could use Bootcamp Assistant, etc), but reading online showed me that this was just as hard (or harder) than just installing Windows the way I did it. Hopefully this will help someone out there.