April 6, 2012

How to install Windows XP SP3 on Mac OSX Mountain Lion and get drivers, too. [updated 3/2/16]

By Daniel

This has been far and away my most-read article ever. Thanks for reading! If this saved you a couple bucks of your time, consider donating via Paypal or via Bitcoin to 16FCWbn1wSpgn3a5mcjXRAYGYRQ5MW3qv5.

I considered various triple and quad boot options for my new (to me) MacBook Pro, but eventually decided on a simple dual-boot, OSX Lion and Windows XP.  If you’re reading this via a Google search, you likely ran into some problems too.  If you have been trying to do this without involving Boot Camp at all, bear in mind that even with all the drivers technically working you’re not going to be able to do things like use the multi-touch trackpad, use the function keys on the keyboard, etc.  Don’t worry though, this is an end-to-end guide on what to do to get XP running on a machine running Lion, complete with download links.

5/2/2012 Edit: From the comments I can pretty safely say this doesn’t work on  2011 Macbook Pros. Sorry, it’s likely due to them using new hardware not accounted for in the Leopard driver pack. If you can find a way to make it work, please leave a comment.

9/7/2012 Edit: It sounds like this works for Mountain Lion as well, as it should. This should work for all OSX releases for the foreseeable future, but will likely not work on newer hardware. We’re using hardware profiles from Leopard, and many chips and cards used since simply didn’t exist then.

3/2/2016 Edit: Hoo boy, this thing still gets traffic. Since Windows XP is no longer supported, and is a positive magnet for malware now, I really don’t recommend you do this anymore. Only if the XP installation is not going to access the Internet. However, the links to the driver packs and such aren’t going anywhere. This probably won’t work on anything newer than 2010 gear.

Things you will need:

  • Bootable Windows XP disc.  I’m using a TechNet XP SP3 disc, but any full, non-OEM option should work.
  • Access to Disk Utility from something other than your active partition.  This can be via your Mac Install Disc, Install USB drive, etc.  I had a Lion USB drive.
  • Boot Camp 2.1, i.e. the version that shipped on Leopard retail discs.  Use Leopard install disc 1 or download it here.

Quick Guide:

  1. Use Disk Utility from your bootable media, partition off however much space you want to use and make sure the format is set to “MS-DOS (FAT)”  (which is actually FAT32)
  2. Install Windows  on your new partition.  You can choose to re-format your partition as NTFS if you want, which is more efficient than FAT32 but only allows read access to the Windows partition from OSX, where FAT32 is read/write.
  3. Download the Leopard version of Boot Camp here. (same link as above)
  4. Run setup.exe, don’t bother trying to drill-down into the Drivers folders manually.  The setup catches it all.
  5. Reboot; if you have sound, you’re finished!  If you don’t have sound,  go to Device Manager, expand System Devices, disable “Microsoft UAA Bus for High Definition Audio”, then uninstall it.  Verify Realtek High Definition Audio is also gone from Sound, video and game controllers (disable and uninstall if it is still there).
  6. DO NOT REBOOT, run WDM_R268.exe provided in the driver 7z file or here.
  7. Done, reboot to finish audio driver install.

Step-by-step Guide:

  1. Boot to your OSX bootable media by inserting the disc (or plugging in the flash drive) and holding down the Option/Alt key once you hear the startup chime.
  2. From the Install Menu, choose Disk Utility and hit continue.
  3. Click on your hard drive, usually the top-most item in the list of devices, and in the main pane hit the Partition button.
  4. On a default Lion install, it takes up the entire hard drive.  Provided you aren’t using all of it, select the partition and click the + button beneath it to create a new partition.  Name it what you want, set the size in GBs that you want to give to your Windows installation (I set mine to 120 out of 500, so I have room for XP-friendly games.).  In the details on the right side of the main pane, change the format of your new Windows partition from Mac OS Extended (Journaled) to MS-DOS (FAT).  This is actually FAT32, not standard FAT with it’s 4GB file limits and whatnot.  FAT32 has a downside here in that it makes 32KB clusters, which can be wasteful at large sizes (partitions above 32GB).  The advantage to formatting as FAT32 and not NTFS (which is possible later on) is what you’ll have read AND write access to your Windows files when booted into OS X.  NTFS is read-only to OS X.
  5. When everything looks correct, hit Apply and wait for your partitions to be modified.  If you get an error at this point, select the Mac partition (not the hard drive itself), select First Aid (losing your changes to the partition table, unfortunately), then hit Repair Disk.  If you still have errors, repeat this step but choose Repair Disk Permissions.
  6. Once your partition is set, put your Windows XP disc in the Mac and reboot, again holding down the Option/Alt key to choose your boot device.  You should see the typical Windows XP setup process begin.  After a few minutes of loading, you should be able to begin the installation.  Hit Enter to begin the installation and F8 if you agree to the license terms.  At this point, you should see your Windows partition, two [Unknown] partitions and possibly some unallocated space.  Make sure you install to your newly created partition.  You’ll be given the option to format to NTFS.  Again, NTFS only allows Read-Only access to your files from OS X, but is more efficient space-wise than FAT32, which you can read and write from in OS X.  Make your decision according to your needs and proceed with the installation.
  7. If you’re used to installing Windows XP on computers, bear in mind this is not an unattended installation; every time the machine reboots you’ll need to be there to hold down Option/Alt and tell it to boot to your Windows partition (NOT the disc, which would start the setup process over again). So hold your computer’s hand through the installation process.
  8. When setup finishes, you now technically have a working dual-boot setup.  But there are a lot of missing drivers and a lot of things you won’t be able to do.  The big one would be your lack of network drivers, which means no way to get online to get your other drivers.  So now grab Boot Camp 2.1, with it’s sweet cache of Windows XP drivers, here.  You will need 7zipto unpack it.  The files in that archive are copied directly from my Leopard Install Disc and 7z’ed with Ultra compression.  Be patient.Again, download the driver pack for getting XP working on Lion here. Get 7zip here if you don’t have it.
  9. Once you have the driver pack downloaded and unpacked to your XP installation, run setup.exe to begin the Boot Camp installation process.  It will ask to install the Apple Software Updater first, which I went ahead and did because iTunes is going to install it anyway.  Watch as the Boot Camp installer finds and installs all the drivers for you.  Once it’s done, it will ask to reboot.  Don’t forget to hold down Option/Alt to get back in when it does.
  10. When XP comes back up, you may find that your video looks like it didn’t install.  On nVidia systems, Go to Start -> Control Panel and double-click nVidia Control Panel.  It should immediately ask to adjust your resolution.  While you’re in here you can make any changes to the color, etc. that you need.
  11. Test if you have sound by clicking the speaker icon in the system tray on the bottom right, dragging the volume slider all the way to the top and releasing.  You should hear a tone.  If you do, go to Start -> Control Panel -> System -> Hardware -> Device Manager.  If there are no exclamation points, red Xs or anything of the sort then you’re done, enjoy your XP-on-Lion goodness.
  12. If you do not have sound, Boot Camp has probably installed a Realtek audio driver that is incompatible with Service Pack 3 of Windows XP.  Go to Start -> Control Panel -> System -> Hardware -> Device Manager.  Expand System Devices by clicking the + next to it, find “Microsoft UAA Bus for High Definition Audio” in the list of entries, right-click it (on a Mac laptop, you can now right click by placing two fingers on the trackpad and clicking the mouse button over what you want to right-click on) and click Disable.  It will ask to confirm you want to disable it, click Yes.  Right-click it again, and click Uninstall.  Hit yes to confirm uninstallation.
  13. In the big driver download there is a file in the root called WDM_R268.exe.  If you didn’t download the pack (because you already had Leopard Discs, for example), download just the audio driver here.  Run that exe and it will install working audio drivers.  You should hear the “fwop” of a Windows message in the system tray on installation saying a reboot is needed to complete installation. At this point, everything should be working on your system.
  14. You’re done, Boot Camp now sits in the system tray as a gray diamond.  You can use it to determine which OS gets run by default.  If you see a boot selection prompt when you’re booting to Windows, having you choose between Windows XP and “Unknown boot on drive C” or something to that effect, go to Start->Control Panel->System->Advanced->Settings under Startup and Recovery.  Make sure Microsoft Windows XP is your default Operating System in the dropdown list, and uncheck the box immediately below it that says “Time to display list of operating systems”.  I leave the second box checked in case I do want to boot to Safe Mode after a loss of power.

Hopefully that’s all it takes to get you up and going, please comment if this helped you out, or if this doesn’t work for you (likely if you have a 2011-2012 machine).

9/7/2012 Edit: Commenter Mark writes: “I can confirm that I have boot camp installed with Windows XP and Mountain Lion. Everything is running smoothly on my late 2009 24″ iMac. The only problem I experienced was with windows update installing an incompatible nVidia driver which prevented my wired ethernet from working. Rolling back to the previous driver cured this and hiding the offending updated driver from windows update should prevent future issues.”

Daniel Tharp