Recovering from boot nastiness

I recently went through the process of installing MacOSX on my Dell Studio laptop, eventually (with much swearing) getting a Dual-Boot system with Vista and OSX running.  Along the way I ran into some problems and their respective solutions, which I’ll list here:

Problem: Starting up from the OSX CD was freezing or only booting sometimes, and when it did work I couldn’t see my hard drive to install on.

Solution: The version of OSX install I was using (iDeneb 1.5) had an issue with AHCI SATA – setting the SATA mode in the BIOS to ATA (or IDE or whatever isn’t AHCI) fixed this quite nicely, and from what I read it should be possible to switch it back after installation (which is good because Vista wouldn’t work without the AHCI setting).

Problem: Once OSX was installed, the computer hung on a blinking underscore and wouldn’t boot anything.

Solution: The blinking underscore happens because the system can’t find a valid bootloader.  The OSX install over-rode Vista’s bootloader, but then didn’t actually install its own.  My solution was to stop trying to use iDeneb and switch to a different OSX86 release.  Booting into Vista and replacing the boot file on the Mac drive with a Chameleon or EFI release probably would have worked too.

Problem: I’ve given up on iDeneb and want to go back to Vista, but there’s no bootloader

Solution:  Getting the Vista bootloader back requires the Recovery Console (from a Vista Install disc go to Repair My Installation and skip all the Wizard crap).  Then in the recovery console type:

bootrec /fixmbr

To fix the master boot record, then

bootrec /fixboot

To fix the boot partition.  In my case, the /fixboot command returned an error, which turned out to be because the OSX install had also made my other partition the active one.  So in the recovery console type


Then use the following commands to find your Vista partition and make it active again

list disk
select disk 0

(in my case it was 0)

list partition
select partition 2

(again, in my case)

detail partition 

(this showed the partition was marked as Active:no)


After these steps the bootrec /fixboot worked successfully and the system booted into Vista without problems.

Problem: OSX installs and boots (finally!), but only into a White Screen of Death with the cursor smeared across the screen like a hot girl in a Saw movie

Solution: ATI drivers are baadfood when it comes to the Mobility HD 4570 in my particular model of Dell Studio 15.  Deleting the ATI driver Kernel Extensions (kexts) from System/Library/Extensions on the max drive forced software rendering, which I’m happy with at the moment.

Most of these instructions should also apply for Windows 7 systems.  I recommend downloading and installing EasyBCD to run a dual-boot system using the Vista bootloader.  It’ll also give you a much easier way to restore the Vista bootloader if you’re luckier than I was and OSX installs successfully.