Running a clean install of Windows 8 Pro on your MacBook Air via Boot Camp including Trackpad support

27 Oct

Wondering why I chose such a terribly long headline?

Well, there are many articles out there dealing with installing Windows 8 on MacBooks, however, most of them did not deal with exactly my situation. Before we move forward, you might want to follow me on Twitter for feedback and updates.

Here is a brief checklist. Compare it with what you want to do and find out, whether this article is for you:

  • I am using the Windows 8 Pro version released to market by Microsoft on October 26nd, 2012. Not any of the preview versions.
  • I am installing on the latest MacBook Air running Mac OS X Mountain Lion with all updates applied.
  • I use the downloadable version, without any optical media (DVD or so).
  • I only use an installed version of Windows 7 to get the Windows 8 Pro downloadable, after that, I remove it.
  • I’m doing a clean install, not an upgrade over an existing version of Windows 7.
  • I want to get the MacBook’s Trackpad fully working, including two-finger tap for right-clicks.
  • I want to activate my copy of Windows 8 Pro with the product key I purchased for US$ 39.99 even though I don’t have a previous version installed.

Sounds a little bit exhaustive but I really want to make sure, we’re on the same page as to the prerequisites. As always, you’re proceeding with the following at your own risk.

Getting Windows 8 Pro and creating a bootable USB

I purchased the downloadable version of Windows Pro 8 straight from the Microsoft website and ended up with the product key in my inbox. Note: With previous versions you purchased through the website and after checking out with your credit card got access to downloading the ISO images.

This has changed.

With Windows 8 Pro Microsoft forces you to download the Windows Upgrade Assistant and run it on an existing version of Windows, preferably on Windows 7. The application will prompt you for your credit card details and then allow you to download Windows 8 Pro. Once the Upgrade Assistant has completed, it’ll give you an option to download a Windows 8 Pro ISO image, which you would want to do.

Once the download has finished, move the ISO file to a removable USB memory stick or external drive. Boot into Mac OS X and move the ISO file from your external storage to the desktop. Launch Boot Camp Assistant. Select “Create a Windows 7 install disk” and deselect all other options. Choose the ISO file and confirm that you erasing the USB memory stick is fine for you.

Boot Camp Assistant will create a bootable copy of Windows 8 Pro from the ISO file.

Installing Windows 8 Pro

When Boot Camp Pro comes up with the suggestion for the to-be-created Windows partition, you might want to increase its size. I chose to go for 60 GB for the Windows 8 Pro partition. Let Boot Camp do the partitioning changes and restart. It’ll boot right into the Windows Pro 8 installer. Go through the Windows setup assistant. In case it rejects to install on the newly created BOOTCAMP drive, you might have to select Drive Options and Format before you can move on.

Let the Windows installer complete. This is really just a standard Windows install, so I spare step-by-step instructions. They can be found elsewhere.

Once the install has finished, you should have a fully working copy of Windows Pro 8 with two major issues:

  • The trackpad only works as a mouse, so you can’t do right-clicks.
  • You’re prompted to enter the product key but the one you’ve purchased gets rejected.
  • If you try to open the Boot Camp preference pane, you get an error: “An error occurred while trying to access the startup disk settings.”

Getting the trackpad to work

The next issue to address is the trackpad. Unfortunately, as of writing this post, Apple has not updated Boot Camp to support Windows 8 Pro. You should install the Boot Camp Window support tools, however, you will run into the above mentioned issue when trying to access the Boot Camp control panel.

Fixing it, requires a bit of low-level hacking.

  • You will need a system tool named mt.exe. To get it, install a free version of Microsoft Visual Studio Express for Windows 8 from here.
  • Once the install has completed, launch an elevated command prompt. To do so, go to the Start Screen, type CMD and press Ctrl-Shift-Enter.
  • Change the directory to your desktop. In my case, I had to run cd c:UsersRalfDesktop
  • Copy the AppleControlPanel.exe file from its location to your desktop via copy c:windowssystem32AppleControlPanel.exe .
  • Next run mt.exe -inputresource:AppleControlPanel.exe;#1 -out:exctracted.manifest
  • Open the extracted.manifest file with Notepad and replace highestAvailable with asInvoker
  • Save the modified extracted.manifest file and run mt.exe -outputresource:AppleControlPanel.exe;#1 -manifest extracted.manifest
  • Double-click AppleControlPanel.exe on your desktop and you will be able to adjust all your trackpad settings.
  • You might optionally want to move the modified .exe back to /windows/system32 replacing the AppleControlPanel.exe that’s already there. This will allow you to launch the control panel from the Windows taskbar icon.

Solving the product key issue

This one really drove me nuts and I still cannot believe, Microsoft screwed up on this, essentially ruining the entire experience for me. In essence, the US$ 39.99 product key you can buy online is an upgrade-only one. Microsoft actually does state this in the fine print but I still find the marketing around getting Windows 8 Pro for an introductory price misleading and confusing.

It’s not that I don’t agree with the low price for just the upgradeable version, it’s how they handle it technically what really is an epic fail. You have to have Windows 7 installed and install Windows 8 Pro on top of it for your product key to work. This is just stupid. They should have supported clean installs and just make the Activation Wizard ask for your existing Windows 7 product key and the newly purchased Windows 8 Pro one.

Completely disallowing clean installs is just dumb and a typical Microsoft-does-not-get-it.

However, it turns out there is a hack to use your upgrade product key. Obviously, this will very likely not be supported by Microsoft, but it lets you move forward:

  • Run the registry editor (regedit)
  • Find the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionSetupOOBE 
  • Change the value for MediaBootInstall from 1 to 0
  • Open an elevated command prompt
  • Run the following command: slmgr -rearm 
  • Reboot


That’s it

I know this was a bit of a tough journey.

If all of the above sounds too cryptic to you, you might want to wait until Microsoft allows you to purchase fully working product keys and Apple updates its Boot Camp utilities. On the other hand, the entire process – if strictly followed – takes only about 20 – 30 minutes and you end up having a clean installed, fully working, fully activated copy of Windows 8 on your MacBook.

Hope this helps.

28 replies
  1. Jon Busch says:

    I tried that work around on my rMBP. I gave me an error. Something about not running on a core? Are there fixes for that?

  2. Leslie Wong says:

    Were you able to resolve the error when opening the Boot Camp control panel?

  3. Daniel says:

    The way upgrade license (does not) work is indeed idiotic. I was tearing my hair out on this one, thinking I messed up something somewhere…

  4. Sri says:

    I’ve downloaded Microsoft visual studio express but the problem is “mt.exe” cannot be found.
    When I typed ” mt.exe -inputresource:AppleControlPanel.exe;#1 -out:exctracted.manifest” I get message that no such commant or executable program can be found.

    • Grac says:

      I have exactly the same problem. Visual Studio Express downloaded from the link above and installed. I have: mt.exe is not recognized as an internal or external command. Any ideas?

  5. Toddy T says:

    Thanks for this – I could access the apple control panel if I booted the bootcamp partition in VMware Fusion 5.0 but this boot required I activate Windows 8 again b/c of hardware changes. So little support for dual booting.

    Have you had any luck installing windows 8 to an external drive?

  6. Andrew Harris says:

    Thank you Ralf for a well detailed article. I went through all of the steps you mentioned & had great success. I must mention a typo “-out:exctracted.manifest” should be “-out:extracted.manifest”.

    I have gone a step further and installed Trackpad++, a free utility that enables most of the gestures available in Mountain Lion. This means you don’t even need to use the AppleControlPanel to set up your track pad.

  7. Brian says:

    Strange difference when I tried to step through your procedure and its got me stuck! I’ve repartitioned, bootcamped, etc. and when I try to boot off my bootcamp Windows 8 USB and the installation process begins, I am prompted for my Windows 8 Product Key before anything really gets going. When I enter the product key I got from Microsoft when I ordered Windows 8 it tells me the product key could not be verified and I am dead in the water. Any suggestions??? Please help!


  8. Wee-Giap Tan says:

    Hi Ralf, thanks for this article. Just wanna clarify something. If i purchase the retail copy of Windows 8 Pro off the shelf, would it work? Can i then assume that the part on creating a bootable usb would not be needed in this case? Thanks.

  9. John Albrektson says:

    Thanks a million, Ralf! On my MacBook Air (11″ mid 2011) I had no problem with trackpad or Boot Camp control panel. Your info on activation worked perfectly. It was a very successful day! I plan on looking into the Trackpad++ utility mentioned.

  10. james says:

    great post mate! everything works a treat, apart from having no sound and sound driver appear to have a yellow triangle indicating not working properly.

  11. DL Byron says:

    Save some time on the mouse. Instead go to the Bootcamp Window Support exe, right click, and choose to run it on a previous versions of Windows. Chose 7, Windows Support installer ran, and didn’t crash. Touchpad works like mouse.

  12. Joko Saputro says:

    Thank you Ralf for the guidance. But, I still have problem in executing the “mt.exe…” I always get the result : ‘mt.exe’ is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch.
    Did I miss something?

  13. SjH says:


    Thanks for posting this – it’s worked exactly as described on my 2012 Macbook Pro.


  14. Gregory says:

    thnx for great article. have you solved the yellow triangle on “HD audio device?”.

    I also have a mcbk pro for which the experience is a bit different, in that bootcamp is not allowed to install with a message that this software is not made for this version of windows. Any ideas how to solve this?

    Best, Gregory

  15. Michael says:

    Does anyone know if Windows 8 after clean install will be able to drive the thunderbolt display?
    This is key for me.
    Thank you all.

  16. Gama says:

    First of all, thank you for the lesson above. IT was very helpful except for one tiny detail that I cannot fix it. I am getting a error message after running slmgr – rearm “ERROR: The requested action requires higher privileges”

    How do I change that??



  17. John says:

    Just curious if you cant download a trial version of Windows 7 and then upgrade it??

  18. Wesley says:

    Thanks so much, that registry change has solved all my issues with the install.

    I created a win 8 ISO using disk util
    Downloaded the windows support drivers and created a boot thumb drive all using standard bootcamp tools
    Installed clean on a new partition
    Used my upgrade key when first asked
    Worked a charm, but no drivers of course
    Did the registry change
    Ran the cmd line script in cmd, run as admin
    Then ran the windows support driver program from the thumb drive
    All is working including trackpad on my MBPr 15
    Thanks again

  19. Chris says:

    I did the bootcamp clean install and had the product activation issue, although my key was accepted during the install process.
    I called microsoft and they helped me fix the problem with a couple of commands.
    The guy told me the problem would not have occurred should I have chosen update during the process of my clean install.
    As for drivers, I simply downloaded the windows 7 bootcamp drivers through the bootcamp assistant and installed them in one batch within windows 8.
    Everything working!

  20. steve says:

    This worked well for me – did a quick google to find mt.exe’s location then everything stated here worked. I also have this bootcamp install running in Parallels – this presents a new issue with the activation. The Parallels machine says the licence key is in use by another machine which, while I guess might be technically true, isn’t really the case. Do you know a work around for this?

    • steve says:

      on my comment – I found a thread on the Parallels forum which supplied an answer to Windows 8 activation under Parallels after having followed the bootcamp setup in this article – the thread links to this article as well.

      Follow the telephone activation process from the Windows activation screen after starting within parallels. Use the same license key. Its an automated service and will give you some numbers to enter into a dialog window. Both means of launching windows now reporting that they are activated.

  21. dot says:


    Thanks for the guide.

    I have followed the instructions, but I keep getting “no bootable drive” message on dos screen after the partition is created. Holding down the option key only allows me to boot from OSx 10.8.2 or recovery.

    To clarify, I have downloaded the Windows 8 upgrade ISO using upgrade assistant on my PC, and copied the ISO over to my mac, followed by bootcamp wizard to create bootable USB. My mac has no previous version of Windows installed.

    Hope you can help,


  22. Sebastian Paulke says:

    Man – this article is about as interesting as an article on the merits of putting an Audi 1.9 TDI engine into a Mercedes E63 chassis…

  23. ElFitz says:

    About the bootcamp panel access… You can simply type

    runas /trustlevel:0x20000 “C:\Windows\System32\AppleControlPanel.exe”

    (with the “)

    In an elevated command prompt. If you wish to have a shortcut to the control panel, just put this line in a new Notepad document, and save this one as “BootCampControlPanel.cmd”, right-click on it and launch as admin. There you go ! Nothing to install ;-)


  24. Guy Clark says:

    Many Thanks for the solution to the Activation issue. Worked like a charm.

  25. Ricardo says:

    I do not get the “Create a Windows 7 install disk” option. Is there a way around this? I have the iso on a flash drive already


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© Copyright 2017 by Ralf Rottmann.