Windows 8.1 on the 2008 MacBook

Windows 8.1 on 2008 MacBook

For a while now I’ve been wanting to get myself a new PC, but I haven’t found one that really captures my attention. I tried looking at Vizio, Apple and Samsung – but nothing seemed worthy of the investment. Plus I must admit I have been holding out to see if Microsoft brings an Ultrabook to the Surface family.

Most of the time I actually use my Surface RT for doing every day stuff, but there are some things that are much faster using a larger keyboard, a proper track pad and the ability to be used on the lap. I have been using my 2008 MacBook running Windows 7 for these tasks, as well as pretty much all of the development I do for my personal projects.

Last week – when trying to get the MacBook to boot from a VHD file – I managed to mess up the boot configuration, and two of the three operating systems (OSX, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1) didn’t work at all – the only one that worked didn’t really provide me any way to fix the issue.

So for the first time in what seems like forever, I actually burnt a DVD and got a copy of the Windows 8.1 Preview installed fresh on the NTFS partition. This worked much better than the Windows 8 Preview I had previously tried, and I decided to try and get things up and running properly by following a guide (slightly modified to get the new version of Boot Camp) and lots of hacking around.

To my amazement, not only did all the Apple specific drivers (the backlit keyboard, multi-touch track pad etc.) all work for the x64 version of Windows, but the operating system itself felt a lot faster than Windows 7. It also seemed the Apple’s Boot Camp software wasn’t hammering the CPU as much as it used it.

Thanks to some of the changes in Windows 8.1 – like being able to use Snap view on lower resolutions – I’m actually able to complete most of the tasks I wanted a new computer for. Sure there are a few down points:

  • No hypervisor – meaning I can’t run the Windows Phone Emulator.
  • No touch screen – yes I have tried to swipe content on the screen by mistake!
  • Not very speedy – hey it’s a 2008 machine, it’s not going to be fast.
  • Hacky configurationthe third party drivers sometimes feel like they’re held together with luck. And they are.

But these negatives aside, I’m actually able to get most of my development tasks complete on the new operating system, and I’m going to upgrade to the final version of Windows 8.1 when it comes out in the fall. This means I don’t need to buy a new computer right away, and I’m going to try to get at least another year out of this one.

Windows 8.1 on 2008 MacBook

I still hope that Microsoft will enter the Ultrabook market, and if they do I’m sure I’ll be glad that I waited. But for now I’m going to try to continue to use this 2008 MacBook as long as I can.

My hat goes off to Apple – this has definitely been the best machine I have ever owned.

Update

While my MacBook still works with Windows 8.1, I don’t use it anymore as I’ve upgraded to a Surface.

  1. Did you get a chance to install Windows 8.1 on your 2008 MacBook? I own a 2008 MacBook Pro and was thinking of upgrading after running Windows 7 for a while. I know I won’t get BLAZING speeds but is the boot up time quicker? I just know when starting Windows 7 from cold boot it takes a while. Well, let me know how the real 8.1 works if you get a chance to install.

  2. Yes I did indeed install the full, final version of Windows 8.1 Pro on my 2008 MacBook. It certainly runs faster than Windows 7 did – and the boot time is certainly acceptable. Probably faster, but it’s hard to tell now it has been so long.

    I would definitely recommend it, it’s just a matter of getting the Apple drivers to play nice :)

  3. Very cool! I may need to try this. I have the same Macbook. At least I beleve it is the same. Mine is the late 2008 aluminum unibody without firewire. It’s been a great machine. I’ve got 8GB of ram in it and will eventually add an SSD. I’m running Mavericks on it but there is some Windows software I would like to try out.

  4. that is so cool julian kay! i just wanted to install windows 8.1 pro 64 on my macbook pro 15inch late 2008 aluminum body form windows 7 but i had no luck installing it. bootcamp assistant is telling me that “THIS MAC ONLY SUPPORT WINDOWS 7. can you give me a detailed instruction on how to install windows 8.1 pro on my macbook? PLEASE HELP

  5. Hey there, I am trying to run windows 8.1 properly on 2008 Unibody MacBook.
    USB ports, LAN and Bluetooth work just fine. However, my keyboard, sound, display setting (screen brightness), etc do not work. I tried installing the drivers one by one from the bootcamp package (excluding the ‘bootcamp4′ driver since it does not recognize windows 8.1; ‘bootcamp5′ driver refuses to be installed in my MacBook aluminum unibody.

    How did you make yours work? Any special ‘hacking’ that I have to do?

  6. Hey Julian.
    Thanks for sharing this. It gives me hope. I need to install windows before tomorrow (for work) on my Macbook 2008. I think I have the same one as Mike. Here are my specs. I’m not uber technical, do you think it will work?

    Processor: 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo
    Memory 2 GB 1067 MHz DDR 3
    Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 9400m 256 MB
    Software OSX: 10.9.2.

    Thank you for any advice you can give me :).

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