Posts Tagged ‘fan noise’

Too Good to Be True? My MacBook Pro: First Cool, Now Quiet

Friday, May 15th, 2009

This will be a brief coda to a couple of recent posts in which I related how I finally solved an ever-worsening (OS changes?) problem of overheating on my first generation MacBook Pro. See “What a Relief! MacBook Pro Overheating Problem Cured—Really” and “Can’t Boil Water With Vista on My MacBook Pro Anymore” for the details. The solution turned out to be undervolting—setting cpu operating voltages at values (determined by experiment) below the overly conservative ones set at the factory. A great little ambien piece of software called CoolBook enables one to do that on the Mac. A similar program (RMclock) is available for Windows.

I can report that I have encountered neither high temperatures nor computer instability since adjusting voltages lower with CoolBook. After a couple of weeks of stress-free lower temperatures, I realized that the previously necessary evil of the constant droning of the MacBook Pro’s cooling fans was no longer necessary. In my earlier efforts to control temperature I had installed a System Preferences utility called Fan Control. This allowed me to set the minimum temperature at which the fan speed would start ramping up and the rate at which it would increase with temperature. This was not a solution for sustained operation at the highest default voltage used when the cpu was running at maximum speed, but I think it did keep things cooler than what Apple’s normal fan speed algorithm did.

It may seem funny that Apple would have such high operating voltages coupled with such puny fan cooling; but I think we have reason to believe that Steve Jobs hates fan noise (I’m with you there, Steve), perhaps beyond reason. I remember buying a third-party fan that sat on top of my first Mac, the mighty one-megabyte-RAM Macintosh Plus. Word was that it was needed to prevent premature death of the convectively cooled Mac. I can imagine Steve telling the engineers to get rid of that fan noise on the MacBook Pro, or else.

The fans on my machine, even though one of them was relatively new, having been replaced under AppleCare when my original hard drive croaked (Fatal But Survivable: A Hard Drive Transplant Story), seemed to have gotten noisier over time, from overuse I suppose, so they were annoying me more. Why not get rid of Fan Control? Removing it from the System Preferences Panel wasn’t hard (Ctrl-click and make selection), but this merely put the fan speed versus temperature profile out of my control, while leaving the last one set by Fan Control in effect. I saw one unfortunate on MacUpdate warning people not to install Fan Control because it permanently changes the fan settings. This is fortunately not true, but the folks that make Fan Control should probably do a better job of letting people zithromax know how to completely uninstall it. Here is the rest of the procedure: remove the following files and folders (both on your start disk)— /Library/StartupItems/FanControlDaemon and /Library/PreferencePanes/Fan Control.prefPane.

In order to have a way of monitoring temperature and fan speed I went back to running smcFanControl, a program that only allows one to set the minimum fan speed. I used it to set the minimum speed back to 1000 rpm, down from the Fan Control minimum of 1600 rpm I’d been enduring. This is really quiet!

Having smcControl running enables me to step in to raise the fan speed if necessary. Shades of the past: yesterday I was reinstalling the iPhone SDK as part of a long battle (probably not to be related here) to be able to test my in-development iPhone app on an iPod Touch, when I noticed the smcFanControl temperature reading said 90° C, while the fans were still whirring away at less than 2000 rpm. I used smcFanControl to raise the minimum speed much higher manually, which had the desired result. When that taxing installation procedure was over, I set the fan antabuse speed back to 1000 rpm.

Now that I finally have what I thought I was getting modafinil when I bought the MacBook Pro, this should be the last I’ll have to say on the subject of temperature control and fan noise. Peace.

Fatal But Survivable: A Hard Drive Transplant Story

Monday, July 14th, 2008

OK, here goes another computer (Mac) problem and tech-support story. It could be useful for a few people that wonder what they would need to do if they had to replace a hard drive that had both Mac OS X and a Boot Camp Windows partition installed on it. Other than that, it is a story of persistence in the face of frustrating hardware and human error, ultimately resulting in a successful restoration—improvement even—because the customer support came through in the end. Some people evidently like such stories, and this is for them as well. Those only interested in procedural details of restoring a Windows partition on an Intel Mac should feel free to skim.

My previous efforts in the Pournellian genre of computer problem personal narrative (Boot Camp? I Was Ready to Punt and Vista on My MacBook Pro Is Hot—Boiling Hot!) continue to be the most frequently read (or visited, who knows if they are read?) of all the posts to this blog. There are evidently quite a few people out there searching the web for “hot vista macbook pro” and such each day, presumably because they have encountered the same problem or, let’s say, unexpected behavior I did.

This story begins with my decision to go ahead and upgrade the Mac OS version running on my MacBook Pro from 10.5.2 to 10.5.4. I’d waited a while and hadn’t seen any horror stories not connected with exotic configurations, so I figured it was safe to upgrade. Following my usual procedure, I launched Disk Utility in order to repair any file permissions that had somehow been altered. I don’t know how file permissions get changed, but some do, and everyone says you’d better repair them before you upgrade your system software.

Uh-oh. Major uh-oh. Disk Utility literally used red letters to impart the following message: Fatal hardware error detected. It also advised me to back the disk up pronto (if it was still working at all) and replace it. Except for being a little bit noisy, which was nothing new, my hard drive had not shown any signs of going bad. Well, maybe those files that couldn’t be copied at the time when I was first installing Boot Camp were a sign I hadn’t recognized. Still, I was hopeful that a google search on the message would bring up some well-documented cases of that message having been bogus due to some known fixable cause. No such luck. I tried booting from my original Leopard installation disk and running Disk Utility from there and obtained the same alarming message.

I immediately backed up what seemed my most crucial files onto three DVDs. When I say immediately I mean I started immediately. Anyone that backs up to DVDs will know it is a time-consuming process. The files seemed to copy all right, so I shouldn’t be facing total disaster if the hard drive totally stopped working.

Merely having those crucial files backed up would not be enough to get me back to normal though. I needed a complete copy of my hard drive with all applications and user setup info just as they were. I used to use Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) when I had a smaller hard drive on a PowerBook, but I didn’t have an external drive big enough to back up my MacBook Pro’s hard drive and I wasn’t completely sure about how I would use CCC to restore my drive’s contents to a new drive anyway.

It was clearly time to buy a new external hard drive and start using Time Machine, Apple’s own backup and restore solution, which was supposedly the greatest thing about Leopard (OS 10.5) anyway. I learned online that I could restore from a Time Machine archive to the internal hard drive after booting from a Leopard installation DVD. Not wanting to wait even until the next day, I drove to the Cambridge Micro Center and got there about fifteen minutes before closing time. After a quick walk through the generic PC areas, I decided I should just go see what the Mac section had. Sure enough, there was an external hard drive section which included boxes proclaiming Time Machine compatibility, which probably wasn’t an issue anyway, but eliminated any doubt. I grabbed a 500 gigabyte Iomega drive, which only cost about $170 and headed for the cash register, forgetting I’d sworn years ago never to buy anything from Iomega again after the trouble I’d had with their cartridge drives.

As promised, the drive box included a Firewire cable, albeit a rather short one. I connected the drive to my MacBook Pro, started it up, and then clicked on the Time Machine icon on the Dock. This allowed me to choose the new external drive as my Time Machine backup drive. So far, so good. The spacey Time Machine user interface was annoyingly mysterious, and backing up and restoring a hard drive is not something I want to experiment with. So I haven’t even looked at the big-screen Time Machine interface again, but I’ve been able to use Time Machine without it. There’s a good old-fashioned menu that drops down from the Time Machine icon on the menu bar, and that enables me to choose Back Up Now, which is all I’ve needed it for.

I can’t remember how long the backup took, but it was pretty fast for 65 gigabytes or so. I was now realizing that the Time Machine backup did nothing for my Vista system in the Boot Camp Windows partition. OK, that’s what Winclone is for, right? I ran Winclone again and used it to make a new image of the Windows partition. To save space, I trashed the old one. Then I ran Time Machine again, so that I would have the latest state of the Vista partition backed up.

Since the full Time Machine procedure had been completed without any complaints, I felt pretty confident that I had a full backup in place. Now I had to face the reality of my need to get a new internal hard drive installed, First step: call AppleCare. When I entered into the Apple Lease on the MacBook Pro, I decided I had better get AppleCare. After more than two years, this was the first time I was having to use it, not counting the time I called for advice of what to do about the Boot Camp Setup bug in 10.5.2 related here. Based on my recent experience with a number of machines, I’d say that the lifetime of the hard drive in a Mac laptop (Sorry, Apple, notebook—so it’s OK to be hot) is only a couple of years, which hasn’t always been the case. Better get AppleCare with a MacBook or MacBook Pro and back up your data regularly. Anyway, I called AppleCare, and the guy I got assured me that the Disk Utility message was infallible. He assigned me a case number and recommended I take it to an Apple Store, though he couldn’t say whether they would do the work on-site or not.

I just wanted it done quickly, since my backup computers were missing the latest apps and data, and I didn’t want to fool with new installations and data transfer if I could avoid it. I called the Cambridge Apple Store (annoying menu of options—mainly trying to get you to hang up and go online instead—you have to listen to when you call an Apple Store) and the person I finally reached said they did not do repair work on-site. It seemed they would send it off to Apple. I asked if she knew whether the big new Apple Store in Boston did the work on-site, but she didn’t.

I remembered a small Mac repair shop in Roxbury. They had done good work in installing a hard drive in my wife’s iBook after its hard drive had failed. That work hadn’t been covered by AppleCare, but I had noticed they were an Apple certified repair shop. I sent them an email asking if they did AppleCare and if so how long a hard drive replacement would take. The reply was succinct: “Apple cut us when they opened up the big Boston Apple Store…we are dead!” I was sorry to hear this since the place seemed one that might have opened in the days of the original 128K Mac, or at least the Mac Plus, and looked like a Mac repair shop right out of Dickens if you can imagine such a thing.

That news strongly implied that the Boston Apple store did repairs on-site. But Micro Center does Mac repairs too, and a hard drive replacement is a straightforward operation with no diagnosis required. Micro Center was a little more convenient for me (I knew how to get there), so I thought I’d check them out. First I called AppleCare again just to make sure Micro Center could handle the job. Yes, they could, though they would not be able access the case number; but the serial number would be enough to verify AppleCare coverage.

Then I called Micro Center and asked to speak to the service department. Rather than transferring me there, the guy on the other end of the line asked me what I wanted to know and answered my questions himself. His answers were yes they did AppleCare work on-site, and a hard drive replacement would probably take about twenty-four hours. Great! Off to Micro Center. After a fairly long wait in line I reached a person who heard my story and then took the MacBook Pro out of sight into the repair area. She came back after several minutes to tell me that it would take a few days because they would have to send the computer to Apple, as they didn’t do the hard drive replacements themselves. She suggested that I take it to the Apple Store, where they would do the work on-site. As they say in Italy: pazienza! Since the person I was talking to was not the one that had misled me, I managed to walk back out to my car without blowing my top, having learned this lesson: consider no one else but Apple for AppleCare repairs.

Back home, I called the Apple Store in Boston. The person I talked to wasn’t sure about the turnaround time, but I would have to make an appointment with an “Apple Genius” in any case. Just go online and sign up. Fortunately my computer still worked despite the fatal diagnosis. I made an appointment and then, after one last incremental Time Machine backup, jumped on the “T” (the MBTA subway/trolley system in the Boston metropolitan area) to head for the Back Bay store. The online map indicating the location of the Boston Apple Store was a little misleading, so the walking part of the trip took longer than it should have, but I was only a few minutes late and got to see a Genius pretty quickly. The last hard drive of the right size in the shop had been allocated to another repair, so they would have to order one but should get Saturday delivery of the drive (this was Thursday afternoon) and have the replacement done by Monday. Not bad, since I was going to be out of town until Monday afternoon. Taking advantage of the fact that the MacBook was going to be cracked open anyway, I asked if they could also take a look at the fans since I had a lot of fan noise when they really got going.

Sure enough, when I returned to OnScreen Science, Inc’s Intergalactic Headquarters Monday, there was a phone message waiting to tell me the computer was ready for pickup. Just to be certain about the procedure, I called the store before going to get it. No Genius appointment necessary. Good news at the Apple Store: not only did I have a brand new hard drive; they had determined that one of the fans was bad and had replaced it! I would probably never have brought it in just for a fan replacement, so this was a big bonus for someone that hates unnecessary computer noise.

Back home with my MacBook Pro, I followed the procedure outlined for restoring the old system. Connect and turn on the external drive serving as the Time Machine archiver. Start the computer up with the letter C key held down and the Mac OS X install disk in the drive slot in order to boot from the DVD. Pretend I’m installing the system software, but at the earliest opportunity switch over to restoring from a Time Machine archive. Wait while the long transfer takes place, then restart and cross my fingers. It worked! The next step was to once again make a Boot Camp Windows partition.

Uh-oh. What happened to my empty disk space? I’m showing only about 8 gigabytes as free, when before I had about 12 free after 17 had been allocated to the Windows partition. I’m short 20+ gigabytes. My first thought was that somehow everything had reverted to the ghost of my original attempt to partition my old drive into Mac and Windows parts. This didn’t really make sense, but the Boot Camp hangup was my only prior experience with disappearing disk space.

The answer turned out to be more straightforward. The AppleCare folks had replaced my original 100 gigabyte drive with an 80 gigabyte one. There were evidently two editions of the machine, and I had leased the top-of-the-line one with the bigger drive and more VRAM. Perhaps the Boot Camp partition had thrown them off. I called AppleCare again to see how to proceed. The AppleCare guy I’d talked to in my initial inquiry had had a very strong Southern “country” accent, I’d call it, but he was loud and clear and easy to follow. This second guy spoke without sufficient variation in pitch and inflection for me to be certain whether he was muttering while he thought out loud or giving me instructions on things to do on the computer. I eventually determined that they were all instructions, but I still had to ask him to repeat them most of the time. It seems he just wanted to verify what I had actually gotten installed. It was clearly a mistake, and he gave me a new case number.

I went through the now familiar process of making a Genius appointment online, backing up with Time Machine again, and heading to the Back Bay with my MacBook Pro. The “Genius,” who by chance happened to be the same one I had seen before, was apologetic, and I vaguely remembered having heard him say 80 gigabytes, which means I should have been on my toes more also. One piece of good news was that, since there was nothing wrong with the drive currently in my computer, they could just make an image of it and then transfer it onto to the new drive, saving me the long step of restoring by means of Time Machine.

By the time I got home, having left the computer in Apple’s care once more, someone had already called from the Apple Store with a question, which turned out to be would I rather replace my original 100 gigabyte, 7200 rpm hard drive right now with a 120 gigabyte, 5400 rpm drive or wait a couple of days to get a 200 gigabyte, 7200 rpm drive. The question was being asked because the 5400 rpm drive would represent a step down in speed from what I’d had before. Having no immediate critical need for the machine, I opted for the bigger drive, which took a day or two longer than I’d thought it would, but was installed about nine days after my original bringing in of the computer for the first try. The Apple Store was open on the Fourth of July, and that was when I got it.

As an aside, let me say that four visits to the three-storeyed Boston Apple Store left me feeling a bit like I’d been inside the headquarters of a cult, some kind of cool technology cult. I’ve been mainly a Mac user for over twenty years, but there was something a little disconcerting about the large numbers of young (non-genius) Apple employees walking around the store wearing color-coded tee shirts (dark blue shirts for “Creatives,” light blue ones for “Specialists,” and orange ones for “Concierges”) and continually asking you if you were finding what you needed etc. I mean service is great compared to what Apple used to get in retail stores it didn’t operate, but the combination of the smiling kids and the colored tee shirts made me half-wonder if Apple hadn’t hired one of the Rev. Moon’s organizers as an adviser. Just joking—Steve Jobs doesn’t need advice on cult creation and maintenance. Let’s just be careful not to start worshiping these machines, no matter how powerful and elegantly packaged they may be, nor buying them just to be part of the cool technology cult.

With my new hard drive installed I felt I was in good shape to make a Windows partition, as there were over 120 free gigabytes to play with. First I used Boot Camp Setup to partition the drive, allotting 32 gigabytes for Windows. With all that hard drive space available this was not really a test of whether Apple has eliminated the bug that made disk partitioning impossible with Boot Camp Setup on a fragmented disk. Now came the big test. Would simply using Winclone to copy the old Windows partition’s contents into the new one be enough? I fully expected it would not, having read many tales of users having to go to Microsoft for permission to install Windows again if the system it was running on changed in any way, including the use of a new hard drive.

I launched Winclone and set it to restoring from the saved image to the Windows partition. It seemed to work OK. Now to start up under Windows if possible. This is where I expected Microsoft storm troopers to intervene. Windows seems to get underway properly. Now chkdsk wants to check everything about the Windows file system. That doesn’t take too long, and soon I am looking at the Vista login screen. I enter my password and everything is totally normal (allowing that running Vista on a Mac can now be considered normal). It worked! Winclone is a great solution. I owe them another donation, and I mention that here so I won’t forget.

In summary, with the help of Apple personnel, the Mac system software, and the very useful program Winclone, I was able in about nine days to move in an indirect path (with some backtracking) from a doomed hard drive to a new one with twice the capacity, while incurring no data loss nor additional monetary cost. In addition, I now have quiet fans. No more model airplane propeller noise! I was able to reinstall my Windows system without any headaches and with almost twice the original amount of disk space allocated to it. I should add that Disk Utility alerted me to the problem (always assuming there really was one) before it had started to cause data loss etc.

So, despite some unhappiness with the unreliability of Apple notebook hard drives these days and one or two Apple employee errors along the way, since rectification was prompt, and the end result was very good, I am satisfied. AppleCare and the Mac’s disk-maintenance and backup software came through very well. Human error can never be completely eliminated. The support system works efficiently, and that’s pretty impressive.

Vista on My MacBook Pro is Hot—Boiling Hot!

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

I recently told the long story of how I installed Windows Vista on my MacBook Pro by means of Apple’s Boot Camp technology. To make that story short: it was difficult and took a long time because of a bug in the Mac OS 10.5.2 version of Boot Camp Assistant, but I did eventually succeed. See the earlier post for details.

Once I had Vista set up and running, the first thing I did was to test the science education programs I sell, since that was my main reason for wanting access to a Vista machine in the first place.

Both programs installed and launched without any problem. I had expected OnScreen Particle Physics, which used standard “old-fashioned” Windows routines for its drawing to the screen, would work smoothly, and users had reported success with it under Vista, but I had not tested it myself, so I was glad to see that everything I could think to try worked without a hitch.

OnScreen DNA was the one I had more concerns about. I had been advertising it as being for Windows XP, since I knew that its use of Open GL for three-dimensional graphics might be an issue for some configurations under Windows Vista. All the software that OnScreen Science sells has a sixty-day guarantee of customer satisfaction, so no one was in danger of losing any money by buying it to run on Vista, but I wanted to get a clearer answer about Vista compatibility, especially since new PCs all have Vista installed unless the buyer makes a special effort to get Windows XP instead, which some companies are actually doing.

When Vista was first released I did a very quick test of OnScreen DNA on a machine running Vista Home Premium. The software installed and launched without difficulty, but had a major problem showing animations (its whole basis, really) under Vista’s new Aero look. Once I switched into Vista’s “Windows Classic” theme (which has a pre-XP look to discourage its use, I suppose), all went well however.

I was almost certain that the animation problem with Aero was due to Microsoft’s having provided no default support for Open GL under Aero. Open GL, which I’d used to program the three-dimensional interactive graphics of OnScreen DNA, is a software interface to accelerated graphics hardware available for Macintosh and Linux as well as Windows. Its use had meant that the hardest part of the OnScreen DNA coding needed to be done only once, which had shortened development time by untold weeks. While it seems evident that Microsoft wants to discourage the use of Open GL, preferring instead to lock people into using DirectX, which is only for Windows, I knew that they had left the door open for graphics card manufacturers to provide their own custom drivers for Open GL. Since a substantial number of Windows games and screen savers etc. have been programmed using Open GL, I had assumed that providing Open GL drivers would become in time standard practice for graphics card makers, but this was a little bit of a gamble.

An online reviewer for PC World, who was taking a look at OnScreen DNA Lite, the free edition of the software which mainly deals with details of DNA’s double helical structure but lacks the simulations of how DNA works found in the advanced editions, encountered the Vista animation slowdown and queried me about it. I told him what I knew, and he proceeded to run the software either in Classic theme or under XP, then gave the software a favorable review but with a caveat about Vista Aero. I had in the meantime had some positive reports from users running OnScreen DNA under Vista and imagined that others must be running without problem on Vista as well, though I continued to advertise it as being for XP.

I was certainly curious to see what would happen running OnScreen DNA for Windows on my Intel Mac. It was gratifying to see that it was snappy and without any issues that I could uncover running with the full-blown Aero look. So the drivers that Apple was providing for running Vista on a Mac must support Open GL, which I took as more evidence that the driver support I’d been counting on was likely to be there on new machines.

So everything was OK, right? Well, pretty much everything except that my MacBook Pro sounded like a twin-engine model airplane trying to build up enough speed for takeoff against a strong headwind. I’d never heard such noise from the cooling fans. They seemed to be going full blast once they got started. I remembered that when the MacBook Pro first came out, a number of people had complained about excessive fan noise, but I had not encountered it. Apple laptops have a reputation for running hot—so much so that Apple will correct you if you call them laptops (they’re notebooks) to prevent you from complaining about a hot lap—but this seemed a good bit more than what I was used to.

I was especially concerned since the higher temperature and fan revving seemed to be associated with running the 3D animations of OnScreen DNA. I decided I should get quantitative about it and downloaded a free Windows program called speedfan, which promised to display computer temperatures, as well as letting you set the fan speed according to temperature in order to better control how hot it would be allowed to get.

I was shocked to see that the cpu temperature was going as high as 100°C. That’s 212°F, the boiling point of water! I hadn’t ever given the temperature of my laptop much thought, figuring that, although it might feel pretty hot to the touch, it was probably nothing to worry about. This high a temperature just didn’t seem reasonable though.

Some online research led me to an article in which the reviewer was concerned about the “excessive” 60°C temperature he was seeing on his MacBook Pro. This really made my temperature sound bad, but a little more research produced a less alarming assessment. The machine in the review just mentioned had a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo cpu, which supposedly is OK at temperatures up to 73°C, so the concern should not be great at 60°C. My MacBook Pro, however, is from the first generation Core Duo models. Those are supposed to be OK up to 100°C, so I am not really in the kind of danger zone that my first reading of the Core 2 Duo machine review had led me to fear. Nonetheless I am right at the margin on occasion.

A number of articles I found made it seem that Apple’s overuse of thermal paste was a well-documented cause of high temperatures in the early assembly runs of MacBook Pros. Some sites had instructions on how to crack your laptop, remove Apple’s paste, and put on a little bit of a better kind. I’ve installed RAM and a hard drive or two, but I don’t think that is something I want to attempt.

I had never monitored temperature under OS X, so I had no way to compare it to Vista, though I felt Vista must be running hotter. I downloaded the Temperature Monitor app from the Apple download site, and used it to monitor my Mac temperatures. The temperatures I mention in the rest of this piece are those from the cpu monitor. Unless it was in a quiescent state, the MacBook Pro was always hotter than 60°C. Running OnScreen DNA in an uninterrupted animation of DNA replication, I once saw the temperature climb to around 90°C. However, the same test at a different time saw the temperature peak at 80°C, with the fans bringing it down to around 75°C, where it would be maintained.

Similarly, running Vista, monitor readings on a day different from that when the 100°C had been measured found a peak temperature of 90°C. I speculated hopefully that some intervening Microsoft upgrades to Vista (they install some without giving you a choice) might have improved things. This brings me to my next Jerry Pournelle type adventure: installing Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1).

Although Microsoft had earlier said Vista would not need service packs to fix bugs etc. in Vista, they had had to issue one if only to sell Vista to the holdouts that always wait for the first service pack before upgrading. I hoped that SP1 might lower the operating temperature further. Plus there was a vaguely worded promise of improvement in running games “not really designed for Vista” (not using DirectX, in other words, is my guess), which I hoped meant better Open GL performance.

Vista SP1 was made generally available March 18. Microsoft strongly recommended ordinary users upgrade through the standard Windows Upgrade program, which performs the same function as Software Update does for the Mac. But Windows Upgrade found nothing new for me. Microsoft online documentation had said that Windows Upgrade would just pretend you hadn’t asked if it detected a problem driver on your system—this without so much as giving you a hint that SP1 was available at all, never mind the specific reason you were not going to be allowed the upgrade. Thinking it might help to install a few optional upgrades I had skipped, I went ahead and did that. Windows Upgrade did then offer me something new, but it was a small upgrade. Installing it and restarting did not change things.

I wondered if an Apple driver might be causing me to get the cold shoulder from Windows Upgrade. A message I left on Apple’s Boot Camp forum brought replies from others that had successfully installed SP1 via the Windows Upgrade utility, so I knew it was possible on a Mac if not necessarily one with my exact configuration. But after numerous failed attempts to get the word from Windows Upgrade that SP1 was ready and waiting for installation on my Mac, I decided to go against Microsoft’s strong advice and download the 440 megabyte SP1 installer to do it myself. Once it was downloaded and launched, the SP1 installer informed me I needed 3 gigabytes of hard drive space in order to carry out the installation. I had been afraid my 1.75 gigabytes of free space on the Windows partition would be too meager, and it was.

Contrary to what I mistakenly said in my earlier post about Boot Camp, I had actually created a Windows partition of only 12 gigabytes. I was surprised to see after installing Vista that I only had about 300-400 megabytes free on the Windows partition. There really wasn’t much in the way of program files to get rid of. Most of the space was taken up by the Windows folder and a couple of humongous (2 gigabyte) files, one obviously for virtual memory paging and the other (hiberfil.sys) that turned out to be for “hibernating” or storing the contents of memory for quick return to your computer’s state without rebooting and relaunching programs. Since I had never known about hibernation, I figured I could live without it. I found instructions online for ditching the hibernation file through the Windows command line, since a drag to the recycling bin wouldn’t do the trick. That had bought me a little space, but not enough to install SP1. I could see no way to free sufficient space.

I already knew that it was impossible to just expand the Windows partition because of the different formats used by the two operating systems sharing the hard disk. I would have to start all over with Windows installation, as far as I could tell. But then a little more research made me aware of a very useful program that anyone using Boot Camp should know about: WinClone. It saved me a lot of trouble. It is donationware, and I was happy to make a donation after having used it successfully. Using WinClone, which runs under Mac OS X, but can read from and write to a Windows partition, I made an image file of everything that was on my Windows partition. Since I was going to have to get rid of the partition anyway, I wasn’t too worried about whether WinClone would work.

Next I used Boot Camp Assistant to eliminate the Windows Partition. I then rebooted using the iDefrag boot dvd I had made earlier, thinking I would need to defragment to make sure I could make a new and larger partition for Windows using Boot Camp Assistant. However, the visual evidence of a very defragmented drive shown by iDefrag (and of course the 12 gigabytes of the just wiped out Windows partition would be empty) convinced me I could stop the defragmenting and proceed directly to making a new Windows partition. Boot Camp Assistant successfully created a 17 gigabyte partition in a fairly short time without any problems. I then quit the program and relaunched WinClone, this time using it to “restore” the new larger Windows partition.

I then restarted Windows. It made some complaint about something having changed, so that it needed to check everything. I told it to go ahead and check. It was eventually satisfied and launched Vista. I logged in and started the SP1 installer again. This time it ran, warning me that it might take an hour and would restart several times in the process. It worked.

Now I had Vista with SP1 installed. Would it help keep the temperature lower? The answer was no. Even worse, I was now seeing the 100°C temperatures again. However, based on subsequent tests, which have measured the peak temperature under Vista once more at 90°C, and even brought below that by the fans, I have to conclude that there is some other factor that raises the floor of the temperature, and I think the ambient temperature can be ruled out.

In any case, Vista with Boot Camp consistently runs 10-12°C hotter than OS X on my machine. Running my graphics intensive program OnScreen DNA, the temperature peaks somewhere between 80-90°C, under Mac OS 10.5.2 and can usually be reduced a few degrees by the fans as they rotate faster. Running the same software under Vista on the same machine sees peak temperatures of 90-100°C, which can also usually be reduced a few degrees by the fans. I don’t have the data to back it up, not having monitored temperatures under Mac OS 10.4, but, based on my increased awareness of fan noise, I have the feeling that 10.5.2 may run hotter than 10.4.

Even if I could forget about the temperature, the fan noise is not something I’d want going in the background if I were trying to demonstrate the Vista version of my software, which militates against using the MacBook Pro for demos. Actually, I don’t think I could stand working with the fan noise for long anyway, as it is louder than my old Dell box. These high temperatures are occurring in March, where the ambient room temperature is 22-24°C. It will be considerably hotter in the office during the summer. This has not been a problem in the past, but that was before Leopard and Vista, so I can’t be sure what will happen.

All in all, my hopes of getting a topnotch Vista machine out of my first-generation MacBook Pro using 10.5.2 Boot Camp have so far been disappointed. I think I know Apple well enough not to expect any sympathy or direct help from them (though the Apple user forums are helpful). Not to be disloyal or anything, but Apple does not like to acknowledge it has been the cause of any problem you encounter with its products. If only my audience were a little bigger… Maybe I should try to get some conservative talkshow host to go on the air with my problem. Would that work? Too crazy!