I don't know what happened. But something did.
This is my fourth MacBook Pro and my seventh Mac computer. In all of these machines I have always been able to set up Boot Camp without an issue doing the exact same things each time. For some reason though, all of a sudden I am unable to on my 2011 MacBook Pro 17". Works fine on my 2010 27" iMac, but not the 2011 MBP. For the record, I am using Windows 7 64 bit, but at this point I really don't care what OS I use, because none of them are working. It's not the Windows disks, it's the MBP.
- Open up Boot Camp Assistant.
- Don't need the software downloaded, I have the Snow Leopard install disc.
- Tell it to partition the drive. I select 20GB, because Windows 7 will use approximately 7GB of that storage. I don't need to store anything directly in Windows and don't plan to keep it for the long term as I use VMWare/Parallels.
- Asks me to insert the install DVD and then restart. I do so.
- On restart, it sits at a gray screen for 1-3 minutes. I hear the drive spinning during this time, then slows, then the screen starts flashing the folder with the question mark, which I understand to mean that it can't find an operating system. Well, that's because I haven't loaded it yet.
- Force power down with the power button, power back on while holding Option. The Mac OS drive comes up, then the SuperDrive spins up and two other opticals show up: "Windows" and "EFI Boot". If I select Windows it repeats step 5. If I select EFI boot it freezes and does nothing. I can boot into Mac OS normally and the partition is configured correctly in Disk Utility - FAT32, properly named, etc.
So for some reason the Mac does not know how to boot the DVD even though I confirmed it IS a properly bootable DVD by attempting to load it from one of my Windows VMs, and was able to do so without a problem. Mac OS is all patched up so I know it's not a missing firmware update.
Question is what do I need to do to fix it? Note, I am not interested in workarounds like USB or Terminal commands. I want it to work via the standard method because there's no reason it should not work.
I have solved my own issue. Boot Camp IS broken. I just don't know why. I suspect it has something to do with the new AHCI limitations and/or EFI strategy Apple has used that effectively forces the use of Windows 7.
Before, you could choose Vista or 7 it was a different interface for Boot Camp completely. It never asked you about downloading anything. It just worked when you selected the OS. Seems they excluded some stuff that should have been preloaded - and downloading/burning a disc doesn't help since you can't get the disc to boot without some of it.
Additionally, this whole SATA cable issue seems to also be part and parcel to the issue. Yanking my X-25M SSD and putting the garbage 5400 HDD back in and all of a sudden every DVD worked perfectly fine, including every burned DVD. That indicates a hardware issue, and it's not the X-25M, because I can drop that same SSD back into a 2010 MacBook Pro and do Boot Camp without an issue.
No...something is funky with the internals of the 2011 MacBook Pro. My next step is to buy a newer SSD - which should not be necessary - and retest. SATAIII one this time. If the newer SSD doesn't work it's definitely an issue with linking...and I will take it to Apple to swap for one of the newer ones that's been silently fixed.