Getting low latency in Vista64 is often important for real-time audio work. Unfortunately, converting a couple of Mac Pros presented a variety of challenges, several induced by Apple’s somewhat half-hearted approach to Bootcamp. (Who can blame them? They want to push OSX and making their hardware super-friendly to OSX isn’t exactly on their agenda . . .)
My motivation for Vista64 was pretty straight forward–first, I needed to run apps that simply aren’t available on the Mac and no good equivalents existed. Second, most application are better tested on Windows than Mac due large user bases. Third, I find that Apple’s pricing strategy isn’t going to work for me in the long run, especially on notebook systems. (I use relatively high powered notebooks.) But I digress . . . getting to low latency Vista 64.
First, getting Vista64 on older Macpros is itself a challenge. Why? Because Apple’s EFI firmware on systems minted before mid-2008 is not EFI 2.0 compliant, but an older version. Apple doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to bring these systems into compliance like other vendors nor does it seem fully compliant with older BIOS-base techniques. Being niether here nor there creates a problem for Vista 64 SP1 as distributed. It expects either a pure BIOS solution or EFI 2.0 solution and Apple really offers neither. Put the Vist64 SP1 disk in and you’re going to see a boot error. How to get around this?
It turns out it’s a pretty straight forward operation, you will need to copy the Vista64 SP1 DVD to a new DVD and remove all the “;1″ stuff at the end of file names. That’s it. With those “;1″ markers (e.g. versioning) off the disk (from the current ISO 9660) standard. You’ll be abe to boot and install Vista. If you have a system running parallels or bootcamp, or another Windows system handy, a nicely detailed blog entry here (http://jowie.com/blog/post/2008/02/24/Select-CD-ROM-Boot-Type-prompt-while-trying-to-boot-from-Vista-x64-DVD-burnt-from-iso-file.aspx) can walk you through doing it with the free imgBurn utility. OK so much for the “U” in UEFI . . .
Once you have Vista you’ll need drivers. Apple has published 64-bit drivers with Bootcamp 2.1 so you’d think that’d be a skate. You’d be wrong. While Apple published drivers, they only published them as an “update” and you guessed it, Apple’s installers won’t let you install 64-bit drivers on hardware minted before mid 2008. Not willing to buy more Apple hardware to run 64-bit Vista on my allegedly 2006 and 2007 64-bit hardware (Xeon and Core2 for those who are interested), nor was I willing to wait for the class-action “you said it was 64-bit but you did nothing to let us use it” case to kick in, a bit more investigation was order.
The net-net is that the drivers are available, but you’ll have to have a “new” version of the Leopard install disk (not the original distribution, but the Leopard disks that came with the post-mid-2008 systems.) They have a the current drivers and you can grab them from there and run them individually. Alternately, there are torrents out there that have the drivers if you can’t lay your hands on them. This will get you to Bootcamp 2.0 and then you can apply the Bootcamp 2.1 patch from apple, which is available here (http://support.apple.com/downloads/Boot_Camp_Update_2_1_for_Windows_Vista_64). One might ask Apple why we have to go to Pirate bay to get the working drivers for the 64-bit hardware we paid a premium price for, but I digress . . .
At this point you should have a 64-bit Vista system up and running. It may need some bedding in, so let Windows Update do its its job and get your OS up to code, get yourself a good antivirus program (I like Symantec Norton or McAffe), and you perhaps update your Video drivers (nVidia has updated Vista-64 drivers on their web site, for example.)
Now that your up and running on Vista64, the next step is to get latency under control . . . solutions coming up in Part II