Windows Server 2012 on a Macbook

Server Manager, Windows Server 2012After the failure of an old computer running Windows Server 2003, I setup Windows Server 2012 on a Macbook.

Years ago, I set up a Sony Vaio PCG-Z505HS running Windows Server 2003 at home so I could keep up with Macs and Active Directory. When I recently experienced problems with DHCP and DNS, I discovered that the Vaio had died. There was no LED power indication. My troubleshooting consisted of jiggling the power connector and checking the power supply voltage. When I measured voltage from the AC adaptor, I gave up, using the rationale that it had lived its useful life. The Vaio, with a Pentium 3, 500 MHz CPU, was introduced in January 2000.

Coincidentally, I had a hardware failure in my Macbook (late 2006), so I decided to repurpose it as a domain server using an evaluation version of Windows Server 2012.

The Windows Server 2012 installation was simple using the Server with a GUI mode installation. The Server Manager and configuration tools greatly simplify the setup. With Windows Server 2012 on a Macbook running silicon introduced in 2006 – an Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T7200 that has Intel® Virtualization Technology (VT-x), the next step is to try virtualization. As a Macbook running OS X, I successfully ran VMware Fusion VMs running Ubuntu and Windows 2000, though I forsee the 3 GB of RAM in the current system will be a limiting factor.

The best part about running an Active Directory domain at home is joining computeres to the domain. The welcome message says, “Welcome to the lower_slobbovia domain.

Macbook in a Mini-ITX Case

Macbook (late 2006), disassembled

My Macbook (Late 2006) has gone through many modifications and operating systems. Recently, it decided to stop responding to keyboard or trackpad input. Instead of trying to replace the trackpad/keyboard cable (which I’ve done once already), I decided to put logic board of the Macbook in a Mini-ITX case and try an evaluation version of Windows Server 2012.

ifixit’s MacBook Core 2 Duo Logic Board Replacement guide was helpful with the disassembly. After removing the logic board, I stripped the bottom case of the remaining parts (SSD, hard disk, speakers, display, etc). The MacBook logic board was short enough to fit in the case with the ports and connectors lining up with the opening for the Mini-ITX backplane.

Macbook in a Mini-ITX Case

I thought using the Macbook bottom case would be the best way to mount the system board because the case helps to align the MagSafe connector and the fan/heatsink assembly. I also wouldn’t have to mount other stand-offs in the Mini-ITX case. I used Dremel cut-off wheels to cut down the case bottom. To mount the logic board in the Mini-ITX case, I used double-sided foam tape.

The wiring for the ancillary devices – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and speakers – were routed around the inside of the new case. The Mini-ITX case came with a bracket to mount 3.5″ hard drives internally but with non-standard headers on the logic board, I abandoned that idea. There was also a power supply, which I removed. I wired the power switch on the front of the case to the trackpad/keyboard connector on the logic board.

I had already removed the DVD drive when it stopped working in the summer of 2011 and replaced it with an SSD. I used double-sided tape to mount the SSD and the second hard drive to a bracket mounted above the logic board. Eventually, the short cable for the second hard disk failed and when I replaced it, the connector on the logic board failed from too many insertions.

When I first powered it on, it actually worked. The Mini-ITX case is slightly larger than a Mac mini (200 x 225 x 56mm vs 197 x 197 x 36mm) and slightly less attractive but it works. My only regret was breaking the circuit board for the system LED when I was disassembling the case.

Macbook + OCZ Agility 3 SSD

OCZ Agility 3 SSD PackagingOn my nearly five year old Macbook (Late 2006), I’ve upgraded the RAM to 3GB and replaced the original 120 GB 5400 rpm hard drive with a WD Scorpio Black 320 GB 7200 rpm hard drive. When I managed to break the internal DVD drive, I decided to put in a SSD, the last performance upgrade for a computer that should be near the end of its useful life. The main reason that I decided to do a $225 upgrade was that it doesn’t feel like the computer has slowed down that much over the years, so I’m able to squeeze some more time out of it.

The SandForce controllers are starting to mature – the OCZ Agility 3 I bought on Amazon uses a second generation SandForce controller and falls more in the budget/midrange performance SSD category. Considering that my Macbook uses an Intel ICH7-M ACHI controller that is SATA revision 1.0 (SATA 1.5 Gbit/s) – the Agility 3’s SATA 6 Gbit/s throughput capability is way beyond this old Macbook. Maybe I can use it in my next computer too, he rationalized.

I bought a $99 (USD) MCE Technologies Optibay, a caddy that replaces the DVD and will hold a 2.5″ drive. Had I done more pre-purchase research, I might have purchased a $15 (USD) version on eBay. MCE Tech did include a case for my damaged DVD drive so it can be used externally connected by USB. And their tech support did promptly answer a question when I phoned them about the DVD interface using PATA – so my former SATA boot drive was now going to be using a PATA interface.

Macbook (Late 2006) with OCZ Agility 3 SSD

I dual boot into OS X and Windows 7 using rEFIT as a boot manager. With a new SSD as a boot drive, I wanted to do clean installs of OS X and Windows 7. The latter was a major hurdle. I could boot Snow Leopard from the external DVD drive or USB flash drive to install OS X, but I couldn’t find a way to boot the Windows 7 install DVD from the external DVD or a USB flash drive. I found some convoluted solutions that involved making a Windows VM but it was way too much work.

Instead, I took the computer apart and put the DVD drive back in the internal bay and booted the Windows 7 disk from the DVD drive. I had to try this a couple of times and ended up breaking the flex cable from the DVD to the motherboard. An eBay purchased fortunately solved that problem, though in frustration, several times I thought Ice-T’s Mac repair method would have been way more satisfying. If you’ve been able to boot your Macbook with a Windows 7 install DVD in an external DVD or flash drive please let me know how you did it.

The only other question I haven’t solved with this setup is the second hard drive (non boot drive) needs the Windows bootmgr file or Windows 7 on the SSD will not boot. Disk Manager sees the SSD as Disk 0. The NTFS partition on the second hard drive is marked Active, Primary Partition and I get the feeling that has something to do with it. Figuring out this problem is a back burner operation right now.

The end result was worth it. I managed to pare down my applications so I can have all of them installed on the SSD in both operating systems. Movies, music, photos and virtual machines are on the 320 GB hard drive.

I’ve since installed OS X Lion (Lion problems in a future post) and the computer boots to the iOS-like linen login screen in about 25 seconds. In OS X, Chrome and Firefox launch with less than one bounce in the dock. Windows 7 boots in about 45 seconds and applications are similarly snappy compared to the rotating media.