Want to install Windows 7 from a retail DVD, buy the optical reader, and then for all of these efforts, your computer gets as far as "Windows is Loading Files" with a white bar frozen 1/2 way across your screen.
If this sounds familiar, please read through - I spent many hours over the past two days resolving this with Apple Care and want to help save someone else the same pain. I am also writing this as the reps from AppleCare told me this is a very new issue to them as BootCamp 4.0.1 has some changes and now there are Mini Macs with no internal optical drives and with Lion freshly installed.
First: The solution is very easy and quick if you know the steps - NO coding a special USB drive from an existing Windows 7 computer, NO ReFits, and especially - NO need to reformat your hard drive. Multi Restarts will NOT work; Waiting several hours will NOT work..
Root problem: After going through everything here is the problem - if you have a Windows 7 DVD, you need an optical reader to read it. Mac Mini doesn't have an internal one, so you are forced to purchase an external unit if you don't already have one. Problem: Windows 7 will NOT install from the external optical drive no matter what you try and reformatting the disk is a painful waste of time - I fortunately didn't get that far..
Solution: You need to take the step to create the install disk (first stamp in Bootcamp) from an .iso download. Fortunately there is a way to create the iso from the Windows 7 DVD.
Tools required: Sorry but in addition to the Optical reader you just invested in, you will now need to purchase a thumbnail drive - 8GB is enough.
1) Please make your copy of the Windows Support Drivers - it is a timeconsuming download but totally necessary. Do it on a thumbdrive, cd, whatever you want. Set it aside - you will only use after Windows 7 is installed. Exit Bootcamp
2) Load your Windows DVD into your external optical drive.
3) Go into Applications - Utilities - Disk Utilities
4) Select the Windows DVD on the left, then at the TOP of your screen, click + New Image
5) Save to your Desktop - use any name you want - I used "WINDVDBit64" - again just make up anything you want.
6) Note the file will be saved as a .dmg - just slow click the name and change ".dmg" to ".iso" and when the warning sign about changing extensions pops up, confirm using ".iso".
7) Plug in your 8GB Thumbnail Drive
8) To be on the safe side, at this point eject and physically remove the optical drive altogether from your computer - take it completely out of the equation!!
8) Start Bootcamp again
9) Now choose the top option to create the install disk from an .iso file, choose the file on your desktop you just created, choose the 8GB thumbnail drive as your destination and continue
Now, be REALLY patient - seems to hang about 90% through, but it WILL finish. Take the dog for a walk or enjoy some coffee.
10) Now, just follow the remaining steps. And if you have been trying this before, you will have that sigh of relief when you see the Windows is loading creep across your screen and go into install.
11) Remember to select "Bootcamp" as your destination, then Advance Options.. Format - this will format your Bootcamp Partition into NTFS which will save you another series of headaches as Windows 7 will not run on FAT32 - which is how Bootcamp initially formats the new partition.
12) After the install is completed, now connect your CD or thumbdrive having the driver updates you created before. After this runs and reboot, your screen will look pretty good again - looks like garbage up to that point - that's normal.
13) Now,.. enjoy the next 2-3 hours of clicking Windows Updates - theres a bunch of em!!!
Hope this helps - cheers!