I have one of these plastic unibody Late 2009 MacBooks. Like many, I’m stuck with it because the plastic cracked like crazy… something that the whole unibody redesign was supposed to fix. Apple continues to slowly play cat-and-mouse in fessing up to these older cracks as machines die off and others march on…
Anyways, I decided to load Windows 8.1 on mine. One of the (only) benefits of Windows RT, is that Microsoft was forced to make Windows 8 as minimalist as possible. With iOS and OS X, Apple has actually driven OS X upmarket in terms of horsepower, which means Core 2 Duo systems struggle to run them without their fans roaring.
In my MacBook, I have an ancient 64 GB SSD and swapped the SuperDrive out with a 500 GB 7200 RPM HDD. I moved all my OS X stuff to the HDD, saving the SSD for Windows 8.1.
Part of the problem with running Windows 8.1 on an older Core 2 Duo Mac, is Apple abandoned Boot Camp support long ago. They even stripped 32-bit drivers from Boot Camp 4.1 and above. While you can run 64-bit Windows on these machines, I opted to use 32-bit to save disk space.
In hindsight, I would do it over again with 64-bit, as getting the drivers assembled was more of a pain. The only driver that doesn’t work perfectly is audio, which is too quiet to be usable. Had I installed with 64-bit, I could have force fed a newer Apple Cirrus Logic driver.
Here are the steps I took, cliff notes style:
* I had to remove the second HDD. The Windows 8.1 installer errored out, refusing to install on HDD 0 with HDD 1 present. After installing, I put the HDD back in and have no issues. I even have a BitLocker To Go partition on the second HDD working great.
* The latest Boot Camp drivers for Core 2 Duo Mac models is this version. For some reason the download link on that page 404’s on Internet Explorer, but works in Chrome. Don’t know why that is happening.
* The final Boot Camp 4.0 driver branch is this version, but it may not have all the NVIDIA and Intel drivers for Core 2 Duo models. I did not use it personally, but some drivers may be slightly newer. The audio driver from it did not fix the audio level issue.
* Again if your Mac can install 64-bit Windows, I would use that and try Boot Camp 5.0 drivers for audio.
* The Broadcomm BCM43xx driver that Microsoft ships with Windows 8.1 is terrible for Macs. I get 1.5 mbps downlink max. The Boot Camp Broadcom driver does work, but this one tested even better, and is a year newer.
* If you have a GeForce 9400M-based Mac, you’ll probably see a Coprocessor item in Device Manager under Unknown Devices with no driver. Go to Update Driver and have it sweep the NVIDIA folder (including subfolders) from inside the Boot Camp driver tree. It should pick up the NVIDIA SMBus driver. This will net you the ability to put your Mac to sleep in Windows 8.1, as that driver handles power management. You really should take the effort to do this step, it may also improve power consumption.
* Make sure you manually run all the drivers in the Apple folder. That will update the keyboard and other specifics so certain keys work properly.
* Trackpad++ is an essential driver for using Apple’s trackpad with Windows 8. Apple should hire the author or at least license it.
In the end, it was a time-consuming experience, but not a merit-less one. For everything from watching Netflix to having MS Office box, my MacBook has a new life as a capable low-end machine.
Mountain Lion is great for Sandy Bridge and higher machines, and is tuned to do amazing stuff on them. But, for older Macs, I strongly encourage a switch to either Linux or Windows.