El Capitan Collateral Damage


“Almost 1 second remaining,” said the progress bar for installing El Capitan aka Mac OS X 10.11, but I should know better. Over ten minutes since I last checked and the cheery but inaccurate message remains on the screen. Finally it changes to the oxymoronic “Almost 0 seconds remaining” before finally getting on with being installed.

It would have been better if I hadn’t seen the message at all, at least on Marion’s Macbook Air. Marion, for good reasons that I won’t go into here, uses her Macbook as a Windows computer. She started out to use the Macbook as a Mac, but for complex reasons, it didn’t work out for her, so I set up her Macbook as a Boot Camp dual boot computer.

Every so often, just to keep the Mac side up to date in case she ever needs it, I would boot it up as a Mac and install updates and changes. I’d already installed El Capitan on my Macs and liked it so I upgraded Marion’s Macbook in good faith.

The problem came when we tried to boot back up the Windows half of the computer. Uh oh. It wouldn’t boot Windows. A search through Google revealed that others were starting to report the same problem, in the Apple Support forums. There was no reply from anyone at Apple but users were complaining that El Capitan dinged the Windows partition somehow and there was no fixing it. Moving back a release to Mavericks didn’t help because the damage was already done.

Marion is a heavy computer user and is especially busy right now preparing materials for the annual art show at the Cawthra Seniors Centre so I had to do something to get her back up and running. My first thought was to reinstall Mavericks and create a new, fresh Windows instance using Boot Camp Assistant. To do this I had to make an ISO file of the Windows 7 boot DVD and put it on a stick. Then the installation started. It didn’t get far because when Windows tried to boot, it failed on a critical driver Apple had forgotten to sign: appleSSD.sys. Search as I might, I couldn’t find a working solution. I tried some but they didn’t work for me.

So, going for broke, I created an ISO file for El Capitan and put it on a boot stick. I had to blow away the entire Macbook drive in order to reformat it for El Capitan. Boot Camp Assistant wasn’t able to delete the Windows 7 partition.

I thought perhaps I’d try Boot Camp Assistant under El Capitan, but when I got to the point of trying, it said I needed Windows 8 or higher, otherwise there were some tech files available on how to install Windows 7. By this time I had worked the problem for over 24 hours and was feeling a bit testy, so I looked for an alternate approach.

I installed Parallels for Mac v. 11, then installed Windows 7 into Parallels, then began to restore Marion’s data files, a long job. Fortunately we kept up to date backup but it takes a long time to restore.

So far, Parallels seems to be working, but it hasn’t been put to any hard work yet. Fingers crossed that it works out okay. If it doesn’t, I may have to purchase a copy of Windows 10 to install on the machine, trying Boot Camp again.

All in all, 48 hours of fix and restoration, with minimal sleep. El Capitan is causing some serious collateral damage for some users and the snag hasn’t even hit the news yet. Let’s hope word gets out there and doesn’t trip up more users into an experience like mine. The irony is that, in general, I really like El Capitan. Ah, the joys of computing.