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Thursday, October 22, 2009, 05:00 pm PT (08:00 pm ET)

Apple's Boot Camp will not support Windows 7 on some 2006 Macs

In a memo to retail partners, Apple has announced that it will deliver support for Windows 7 in Mac OS X Snow Leopard's Boot Camp utility by the end of the year via a software update, but exclude support for some Macs sold in 2006.

Boot Camp is a two-step utility designed to setup Intel Mac computers to dual-boot both Mac OS X or Windows. The first component, which runs under Mac OS X, partitions the user's hard drive in place to prepare the system for an installation of Windows. After that step completes, the user is directed to install Windows from an authentic DVD copy provided by the user (Apple does not license or sell copies of Windows).

After Windows installs itself, Boot Camp provides a secondary package of drivers that the user must install from within Windows. These drivers provide native support for Mac-specific hardware under Windows, such as a backlit keyboard, built-in iSight camera, trackpad, Bluetooth, graphics, networking, audio, and so on. Snow Leopard's Boot Camp 3.0 also installs read-only HFS+ support for viewing Mac volumes under Windows.

According to the announcement, a series of Mac models "will not be supported for use with Windows 7 using Boot Camp," specifically:

  • iMac (17-inch, Early 2006)
  • iMac (17-inch, Late 2006)
  • iMac (20-inch, Early 2006)
  • iMac (20-inch, Late 2006)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2006)
  • MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2006)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2006)
  • MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2006)
  • Mac Pro (Mid 2006, Intel Xeon Dual-core 2.66GHz or 3GHz)

The reason for not officially supporting these models is not stated. Because of how Boot Camp works, the only reason specific Mac models would not be supported is because compatible drivers are not available. This would not prevent Windows 7 from being installed on these machines, but could result in certain devices not working as expected while running Windows.

Third party drivers for the unsupported devices (if they exist) could solve any issues, and Windows 7 may offer to install drivers for devices it recognizes but does not have built in support for; it may even identify and download the drivers automatically.

Of the unsupported machines in the supplied list, the Early 2006 iMacs and MacBook Pro models have 32-bit Core Duo CPUs, but the other models specified all use 64-bit Core 2 Duos or Xeon processors, and no other 32-bit Macs (MacBooks, mini) are excluded. Apple also makes no comments about providing support for the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 only, so the support issue does not appear to have anything to do with these models' CPU or firmware.

The only other common thread between these machines is that they all originally shipped with either no or disabled support for 802.11n wireless networking. However, late 2006 MacBooks also shipped with disabled support for 802.11n, and no Mac minis supported 802.11n until 2009, so this does not appear to be a factor either.

Apple is expected to clarify the issue when it releases the Windows 7 driver update for Boot Camp users.