Thursday, October 04, 2012

Windows 8 works great on an old MacBook

MacBook running Windows 8

Getting Windows 8 to work well on an older Macbook is unfortunately a challenge, but once you do get it running things work pretty nicely. There are a number of challenges to overcome, here I'd like to document the most annoying of all my challenges.

Installing Windows 8 on an older MacBook when Boot Camp claims it "doesn't support" x64 Windows

*****UPDATE: Fixed for breaking changes in the latest Boot Camp driver from Apple.

I wanted to upgrade my late-2008 Macbook unibody to Windows 8 running 64-bit Windows 7 with Boot Camp. There's no official support from Apple who ended Boot Camp support on this machine after version 3.2, and the latest 64bit windows requires at least Boot Camp 4.0. Trying to install version 4 gives this error:

Boot Camp x64 is unsupported on this computer model

I decided to ignore the issue and upgrade Windows 7 to 8 with Boot Camp 3.2 installed. I started the upgrade to Windows 8, and used the options to "keep all my applications and files". Windows installed, but the trackpad doesn't work. I couldn't move, I couldn't click, I couldn't do anything! I had to use a wired USB mouse just to do anything.

Manually installing Boot Camp drivers

First extract the drivers from the Boot Camp setup files, and install them manually.

But first, some things I learned:

  • The trackpad drivers cannot install normally, they need to be installed using a special process. The other Boot Camp drivers should be fine.
  • Some Boot Camp drivers in Windows depend on each other. If you remove or change one, it can break another.
  • The latest video drivers from the manufacturer breaks support for the brightness control, so I stick with the older Boot Camp video drivers
  • Once the trackpad is working, it doesn't work very well. Apple's implementation is buggy and unsatisfying. Luckily, Vladimir Plemskiy has a replacement driver called Trackpad++ which does a beautiful job of enabling multitouch scrolling and gestures, but first it requires that the Apple trackpad drivers are installed and working normally

Ok, Now Download and Install the Boot Camp Drivers

1. Download Boot Camp 4 from Apple either using the Boot Camp app in OS X Lion, or using this link: BootCampESD.pkg

*****UPDATE: The Drivers folder may fail to extract with the latest Boot Camp drivers on Apple's servers. You expect to see 641 MB of files, and only 7.4 MB is extracted, but no error appears. A workaround is provided below.

2. Use a program to unzip the package, I suggest 7-Zip, as other programs seem to have difficulties reading the strange format that Apple uses. Using 7-zip, open the .pkg file and navigate to the folders containing the apple drivers:
BootCampESD.pkg\Payload\Payload~\.\Library\Application Support\BootCamp\WindowsSupport.dmg\0.Apple_ISO\Drivers\Apple
Extract everything in that folder by dragging and dropping it to somewhere on your computer.

*****UPDATE: To workaround the bug with extracting the Drivers folder:
    1. Extract the 0.Apple_ISO file from from BootCampESD.pkg
    2. Change the file extension to iso by renaming it to 0.Apple_ISO.iso
    3. Open  0.Apple_ISO.iso in 7-zip and extract the Drivers folder
3. You end up with a bunch of .exe files and a folder called x64 containing their 64-bit counterparts. These exe's are self-extracting archives, unpack them using 7-Zip to get the driver files, or run them directly to install the drivers.

4. Instead of running the exe's directly, extract them with 7-zip and use the Windows Device Manager to manually install each driver. Everything should install without any error except for the apple trackpad drivers. Just in case there's a dependency issue (I mentioned this above) install all of the drivers anyway and work on the trackpad after that.

To install the drivers in Windows 8, press command-X on the keyboard and open the Device Manager, double click on device's with asterisks in the icon and update those drivers.
When asked, you should Browse my computer for driver software, and point the driver update wizard to the file location where you extracted the apple drivers in step 3. If that fails, then run wizard a second time using the automatic option instead. Do this for each device and driver.

Force the trackpad drivers to install

5. Finally after you've attempted to install all of the Boot Camp drivers the trackpad drivers will need to be manually copied into the Windows DriverStore, then you can use automatic driver detection in the device manager to complete the installation. For detailed instructions on how to complete this process, see my post on the TechNet support forums. Remember to up-vote my answer if it helps you.

Once you're done, it's multitouch magic in the Windows 8 Start Screen.


  1. Thank you so much. This post helped a lot!

  2. Macbook pro 2008 5,4 A1286 OSX 10.10.4 Yosemite bootcamp with Win 8.1
    Dreamspark Win 8.1 iso to usb drive
    daemon tool mount "win7" image as DVD ( trick Boot Camp)
    execute Boot Camp, when restart insert usb w/ win 8.1
    delete, new, format BootCamp drive
    (MUST DO otherwise Win 8.1 fail for some reason [cannot prepare to boot error])

    Download BootCamp 5.1 support software
    navigate and execute BootCamp/Drivers/Apple/BootCamp.msi as Administrator
    (MUST be Administrator may need CMD, execute .msi avoids the .exe system check for valid computer)
    Win 8.1 will deny invalid drivers no need to worry when it tries to install incorrect ones
    coprocessor driver: Alienware 17x laptop motherboard (MCP79?)

    add registry for EnableBrightnessControl"dword:1 as described above.

    May the lord help you continue keeping your old machine from obsolescence

    1. Thanks for the extra details, I'm happy that it worked for you too.