Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Mac BootCamp & VMWare Fusion with PGP

by Eric Stewart on Apr.04, 2010, under Computers, Technology

Some quick info for those who may not know:

  • BootCamp is a way to partition a Mac hard drive and install (typically) Windows operating systems.  It effectively makes your Mac dual-boot.
  • VMWare Fusion is software I’ve mentioned before that allows you to run another operating system (like Windows) virtualized (at the same time, say, in a window) on top of a Mac OS.  It is capable of doing this with BootCamp partitions as well, offering you the ability to run your BootCamp OS while the Mac OS is running, as well as providing you the alternative of rebooting fully into the BootCamp OS if you need the extra umph.
  • PGP, when I refer to it here, actually refers to PGP’s Whole Disk Encryption solution, which sets your hard drive up so that none of the data can be accessed from a cold start or reboot without a password.  It’s used by my workplace to protect laptop hard drives in the event that they get stolen.

I can’t tell you how to get all of it working together ideally – I’ve never bothered to work it all out.  It supposedly is possible to get BootCamped Windows working with PGP, but it’s never worked for me, probably because of how VMWare Fusion (which did work under PGP) works with BootCamp partitions (here’s a link to a forum article about suspending BootCamp partitions in VMWare Fusion that will may explain why this could be an issue).

I eventually used the “System Preferences” “Startup Disk” utility to attempt to get Windows to boot outside of the Mac OS/Fusion.  Thing is, I’d get a blue screen that the boot device was unmountable.  I could boot into Mac OS using the “Option” button at boot, and eventually used the “Startup Disk” utility to switch the preferred boot device back to Mac.

Next boot, I wasn’t prompted for my PGP password, and I got a gray circle with a slash through it during the boot process.  Windows still wouldn’t boot (even though it would prompt me to enter a password).  So, failing to boot into either OS, I figured I was screwed.

So, I was thinking “Oh well, it could use a wipe and a rebuild anyway.”  That still doesn’t mean I was looking forward to hours of feeding the laptop CDs, and the loss of any data I might have on the laptop.  I took an opportunity to use my girlfriend’s Dell to Google a few keywords, and ended up at a PGP knowledge base page that had a downloadable ISO (as it was Mac based, it was named something.iso.cdr, but it’s just a standard ISO so you can rename it and use any capable burning software to burn it to CD; I ended up using Active@ ISO Burner because the default software on the Dell wanted me to upgrade).  Boot from the CD, it will prompt you for your password, and you can either boot into your Mac OS or totally decrypt the hard drive.

I never did discover how to redo the Mac boot screen so it would prompt me on its own; I ended up just taking the (5 or so) hours required to decrypt the drive.  The Mac and Windows OS now boot properly.  And, I must say, it seems like the Mac runs cooler than it did with PGP running on it …

PGP is great if you’re worried about someone getting your computer and pilfering data off it (I was testing it for work).  But, if you suddenly find your Mac incapable of booting (and you remember your password), the PGP KB article linked above will help you get your computer back up and running.

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