TweetFollow Us on Twitter

How-to: Triple boot a Mac with Windows and Linux

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Triple boot

How-to: Triple boot a Mac with Windows and Linux

by Criss Myers

Preface

Apple Mac's migration to Intel's X86 Architecture in January 2006 presented a unique opportunity that, in theory, enabled any X86 OS, be it Solaris, Unix, Linux or Windows to run on Apple Macintosh hardware. Finally the barriers between Linux, Mac and Windows were broken down as each could be run natively on the same machine, allowing a like-for-like comparison of OSes and hardware.

Architectural differences between Apple's X86 machines and other X86 machines

There are, however, a few technical issues that need to be overcome to enable a Mac Intel machine to be dual or triple booted.

Firstly, Mac uses the Intel Core Duo chip which uses Intel's advanced EFI (Extended Firmware Interface) to boot the operating system, a system already used by Intel's Itanium systems and far more advanced than the much outdated BIOS developed in the 1980s. Microsoft's Windows XP and their Future OSes such as the long awaited Vista will not use EFI for some time. In April 2006 Apple launched a Firmware update to EFI for all Mac Intel Machines that allows the EFI's in-built chooser to see Windows legacy bios boot sectors and boot them. An open source project called rEFIt can see all legacy bios sectors and identify them as either Windows or Linux and even recognize boot sectors on external drives as well. This project can be either installed onto the Mac OS partition, and blessed so that it can be the default boot partition, or burnt on to a CD and booted from there. There is also now a "Start up Item" which keeps rEFIt active across Mac OS X updates and prevents problems with Safe Sleep.

Secondly, Apple opted to use the more advanced partition table called GPT (GUID partition table) as opposed to MBR (master boot record) that most other OSes use. Windows XP, Vista and RedHat Enterprise Linux use this MBR, the problem is therefore that these OS's will not be able to read or mount the partitions if the Mac hard drive is formatted as GPT. OS X is not able to read MBR tables. From release 10.4.5, Apple's Disk Utility can format and create both MBR and GPT but not both together. Windows partition tool can only create MBR, Linux's fdisk can only create MBR and Linux's Parted (alternative partition tool) can only create GPT. Therefore a Mac machine can be formatted for single boot of OS X 10.4.5, Windows XP SP2 or a Linux/Unix distribution, but to create a GPT / MBR dual boot machine would be a problem. To solve this problem Apple updated their Disk Utility in OS 10.4.6 to create a GPT table and then mirror it to an MBR table, so that both OS's could read it. They incorporated this into their BootCamp beta, which will later be incorporated into OS 10.5 Leopard.

Apple created BootCamp to enable the installation of Windows XP on to a Mac as a dual boot setup. BootCamp firstly creates a Windows Driver CD for the particular hardware it is running from, then it allows the user to partition the Mac hard drive into 2 partitions without reformatting the drive (via a GUI to the command line diskutil). It then reboots the Mac from the Windows XP SP2 disk. BootCamp can also restore the drive to a single partition again.

A Mac machine cannot be dual or triple booted straight out of the box. Some of these technical issues, however, have been solved by Apple in response to the customers desires to dual boot their Macs. There are also a few Linux distros that have been adapted to work on Mac Intel, such as Debian and Ubuntu. However until the next version of RedHat Enterprise Linux is released there is no current version adapted for Mac Intel.

So to dual boot a Mac for OSX Tiger and Windows XP is easy, Apple has done all the work and created all the tools to do it, the problem comes when you need to triple boot.

There are plenty of resources online to guide you through dual booting a Mac with OSX and Windows XP, Apples BootCamp section of their site has lots of information.

<http://www.onmac.net>

<http://www.maconintel.com>

<http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/FedoraOnMactel>

All of these have information on dual booting a Mac, but very limited information on triple booting.

As pointed out by the fedora project:

"Right now, we've only tested Dual Booting with OS X. If you want to Triple Boot, you're going to have to do some investigation on your own."

There follows a step-by-step guide to triple booting a Mac Intel with any distribution of Linux.

Hardware and Software Required

Here are the items we need to accomplish this:

This guide presumes that the reader will have a basic knowledge of Linux, the command line, and how to boot from non Mac install CDs.

Step 1: Preparation

Install 10.4.5 that came with the Mac, connect it to the internet and download the following from the above links :

Firmware update for your particular model. NOT the SMC update.

    - Keyboard update 1.0

    - 10.4.6 Intel Combo Update

    - BootCamp Beta 1.1

Download the following files and them burn to CDs:

    - Ubuntu LiveCD

    - Linux - I am using RedHat Enterprise Linux 4, Disks 1-4

    - rEFI Tools 0.7 ISO

From the Linux install disk 4, copy lilo.rpm to the USB pen drive.

Install any required firmware update, then install 10.4.6, do not install 10.4.7 otherwise you will not be able to install the Keyboard Update. Install the Keyboard Update, which will prevent the Keyboard from being unresponsive when booted from the Linux CDs.

We will now create an XP Drivers CD. To do this, install BootCamp beta and then create the drivers CD for your particular hardware from the BootCamp menu. If BootCamp doesn't recognize your Firmware update, Apple suggests you install 10.4.7 Combo or reinstall BootCamp.

Step 2: Creating a working Linux system

We are now ready to begin the triple boot process. Even though we can partition the drive into 3 partitions we cannot install Linux directly onto the second partition. This is due to the fact that when we partition the drive it will create a GPT record and an MBR mirrored record. Windows XP will simply ignore the GPT record as it has no understanding of what a GPT record is. RedHat Linux's installer Anaconda, however, is more sophisticated and will recognize the GPT record, but because it cannot install onto a GPT drive it will then try and reformat the drive. This maybe a problem with many other distributions of Linux and Unix. As we know that the only formatting tool that can support both MBR and GPT together is Apple's diskutil we have to format the drive under OS X. We will work around this problem as follows.

Boot the Mac from the Linux install CD1 and when asked to partition the drive do so manually and create a single root "/" partition with the same size as that which you intend to use for your final setup. I am using an 80GB hard drive so I will use 15GB for Windows, 15GB for Linux and the remaining for OSX, this means I will create a 15GB root partition which will be called sda1 (Mac Intels use Serial IDE drives so they get the names sda1, sda2 etc rather than hda1.) Do not create any logical volumes or swap partitions.

When prompted, do not install any boot loader, as we cannot use GRUB on Mac Intels: it will hang at Stage 2 of the boot process. LILO is the only boot loader that works. LILO is not a default option under RedHat's Anaconda, and therefore, we will install the bootloader later. If your distribution of Linux allows you to install LILO then install it on to the root partition not the MBR, finish the installation and skip the next part and go straight to rebooting from the rEFIt disk.

Install the rest of Linux to your requirements as per normal.

We will now install LILO. Boot the Mac from the Ubuntu LiveCD, connect the USB pen and copy lilo.rpm from the USB pen drive (sdb1) to the Linux partition sda1. Reboot from the Linux install CD and enter the rescue mode, chroot to /mnt/sysimage, then install the LILO RPM. Reboot again from the Ubuntu LiveCD, mount the Linux partition /dev/sda1 as mnt/linux and create the following LILO configuration file in /mnt/linux/etc/lilo.conf :

boot=/dev/sda1
map=/mnt/linux/boot/map
install=/mnt/linux/boot/boot.b
default=Linux
LBA32 
image=/mnt/linux/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.9-34.EL
initrd=/mnt/linux/boot/initrd-2.6.9-34.EL.img
label=Linux
root=/dev/sda1
read-only

Install LILO with the following command :

/mnt/linux/sbin/lilo -C /mnt/linux/etc/lilo.conf  -v

You should get confirmation of the LILO install without any errors.

For RedHat Enterprise users, change the fstab file in /etc , the first part of the first line should be changed from:

LABEL=/ 

To:

/dev/sda1/

Reboot the Mac from the rEFIt boot CD and you should now get the Linux partition as a boot option.

We now have a single boot Linux Mac, we will transfer this data onto an external drive for later use.

Boot the Mac from the Ubuntu LiveCD, mount an external DOS formatted USB drive. Copy the raw data from the Linux partition to this drive as follows :

dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/dev/sdb bs=512 

This will take sometime. Many, many long hours, so go make a coffee.

Step 3: Install OSX and Partition the drive

Reinstall OSX from the install DVD that came with the Mac as per normal, creating 1 standard partition. Connect to the internet and run software update to install all the latest updates, this will install 10.4.7.

GPT supports up to 128 partitions, but MBR can only support 4 primary partitions, and GPT cannot read extended / logical partitions. Windows XP wants to install only on to C:\ which is the last partition, and the first partition will be the EFI boot partition, therefore there are only 2 left, 1 for OS X and 1 for Linux, thus you cannot create a Linux swap partition. This should not be a real problem.

Boot camp can only make 2 partitions, so we need to run the diskutil command via terminal to create the new partitions.

The following command will repartition an 80GB hard drive (disk0s2) into 15GB for Windows, 15GB for Linux and the remainder for OS X.

diskutil resizeVolume disk0s2 44.2G Linux RedHat-EL 15G MS-DOS WindowsXP 15G

Step 4: Install Windows XP

Boot from the Windows XP Service Pack 2 Install CD. Install Windows XP as usual on to C:/ (the fourth partition). Apple recommends that you format as Fat32 rather than NTFS but I have had problems with both formats. If you format as NTFS you will not be able to write to this drive from within OS X.

Reboot into Windows XP, insert the drivers CD and install, then most of the hardware will work under XP. You now have a dual boot Mac.

Step 5: Install Linux

Boot from the Ubuntu LiveCD, mount the USB external hard drive and copy the Linux system back to the third partition, sda3,as follows :

dd if=/dev/sdb of=/dev/sda3 bs=512

Once transferred we will need to make minor changes to the LILO bootloader and the file system table fstab, so that we can load Linux from sda3 rather than sda1 as previously.

    1. Edit the fstab file and change sda1 to sda3.

    2. Edit the LILO configuration and change sda1 to sda3.

    3. Install the new LILO configuration with the following command :

    4. /mnt/linux/sbin/lilo -c /mnt/linux/etc/lilo.conf -v

    5. Reboot from the rEFIt CD, select the Linux partition and it should load normally.

You now have a working triple boot Mac running OS X 10.4.7, Windows XP SP2 and RedHat Enterprise Linux 4. These will all run normally as if they were running from any standard X86 hardware. You can either boot using the rEFIt CD or you can install it onto the Tiger partition. Then each time you boot you can select the appropriate OS, or wait for it to time out and boot into OS X.

Conclusion

In this guide we installed RedHat Enterprise Linux but the same process should work for any version of Linux booted via LILO, the same should also work for Solairs and Unix but may need tweaking to resolve the change in bootup from sda1 to sda3.


Criss Myers is a Senior Mac IT Technician for the Faculty of Science and Technology, at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom. He has been a Systems Server Administrator from the very first version of OS X Server. He Works with Macs as well as Linux, Unix and Windows.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

WhiteCap 6.7.1 - Visual plug-in for iTun...
WhiteCap is a sleek and sophisticated music visualizer and screensaver that features futuristic, wireframe mesh visuals with dynamic backgrounds and colors. WhiteCap contains thousands of visual... Read more
DiskMaker X 6.0 rc5 - Make a bootable OS...
DiskMaker X (was Lion DiskMaker) helps you to build a bootable drive from the official OS X installer app (the one you download from the Mac App Store). It detects the OS X Install program with... Read more
Lyn 1.9 - Lightweight image browser and...
Lyn is a fast, lightweight image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists, and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it delivers... Read more
MacFamilyTree 8.2.1 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: modern, interactive, convenient and fast. Explore your family tree and your family history in a way generations of chroniclers before you would have loved.... Read more
LaunchBar 6.9 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
LaunchBar 6.9 - Powerful file/URL/email...
LaunchBar is an award-winning productivity utility that offers an amazingly intuitive and efficient way to search and access any kind of information stored on your computer or on the Web. It provides... Read more
MacFamilyTree 8.2.1 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: modern, interactive, convenient and fast. Explore your family tree and your family history in a way generations of chroniclers before you would have loved.... Read more
Spotify 1.0.57.474. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
VOX 2.8.26 - Music player that supports...
VOX just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all audio formats you should ever need.... Read more
beaTunes 5.0.1 - Organize your music col...
beaTunes is a full-featured music player and organizational tool for music collections. How well organized is your music library? Are your artists always spelled the same way? Any R.E.M. vs REM?... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

This War of Mine gets a new ending and m...
This War of Mine just got a big new update, featuring free DLC that adds a new ending to the game, among other exciting changes. The update is celebrating the game's two-year release anniversary. Apart from the new ending, which will be quite... | Read more »
Summon eight new heroes in Fire Emblem H...
Nintendo keeps coming at us with Fire Emblem Heroes updates, and it doesn't look like that trend is stopping anytime soon. The folks behind the game have just announced the new War of the Clerics Voting Gauntlet, expected to start next Tuesday. [... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
iOS publishers are pulling out all the stops this week -- there's a huge number of seriously great games at discounted prices this week. Let's not waste any time and get right down to business. [Read more] | Read more »
The House of da Vinci (Games)
The House of da Vinci 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Enter The House of Da Vinci, a new must-try 3D puzzle adventure game. Solve mechanical puzzles, discover hidden... | Read more »
Solve the disappearance of history’s gre...
Blue Brain Games invites you to indulge in an immersive hands-on 3D puzzle adventure in similar vein to The Room series, with its debut release The House of Da Vinci. Set during the historic period of the Italian Renaissance (when Leonardo himself... | Read more »
Age of Rivals (Games)
Age of Rivals 3.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 3.3 (iTunes) Description: Deep civilization-building strategy in a fast-paced card game! | Read more »
Panthera Frontier (Games)
Panthera Frontier 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Angry Birds Evolution beginner's gu...
Angry Birds changes things up a fair bit in its latest iteration, Angry Birds Evolution. The familiar sling-shot physics mechanics are still there, but the game now features team-based gameplay, RPG elements, and a new top-down view. With all of... | Read more »
Sega Forever is for the retro game fans
Sega is launching a new retro games service titled Sega Forever, in a move that's sure to delight games enthusiasts with a bit of nostalgia. Sega's releasing five classic games for free. The titles include Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star II,... | Read more »
The Little Acre (Games)
The Little Acre 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

ABBYY TextGrabber 6 for iOS Implements Instan...
ABBYY has announced the release of TextGrabber 6.0.0, an important feature update to the company’s productivity app developed for iOS and Android devices. TextGrabber 6.0 now offers Real-Time... Read more
vPhone, First Smartphone That Can’t Be Lost,...
Austin, Texas based Hypori has introduced the vPhone, a virtual smartphone that affords every business user the benefits of separate work and personal phones, conveniently delivered on a single... Read more
Save this weekend with 2016 refurbished MacBo...
Apple has dropped prices on Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros by as much as $590 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
New 27-inch 3.4GHz iMac on sale for $1699, sa...
MacMall has the new 2017 27″ 3.4GHz iMac (MNE92LL/A) in stock and on sale for $1699 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Clearance 2016 MacBook Pros available for up...
B&H Photo has clearance 2016 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $400 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple Ranks 9th In comScore Top 50 U.S. Digit...
comScore, Inc. has released its monthly ranking of U.S. online activity at the top digital media properties for May 2017 based on data from comScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform. * Entity has... Read more
10.5-inch iPad Pros available for up to $20 o...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 10.5″ iPad Pros available for up to $20 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 64GB iPad Pro WiFi: $649 - 256GB iPad Pro WiFi: $749 - 512GB... Read more
Three Off-The-Beaten-Track iOS Apps That Dese...
One of the great things about using iPads and iPhones is the vast selection of apps available for most anything you want or need to do. The three outlined in this article have been in my core app... Read more
Apple No. 1 Spot In Gartner Top 100 Vendors i...
Gartner, Inc. has unveiled the top global 100 vendors in IT in 2016 based on their revenue across IT (excluding communication services) and component market segments. In the Gartner Global Top 100:... Read more
Clearance iMacs available for up to $300 off...
B&H Photo has clearance 21″ and 27″ Apple iMacs available starting at $949, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $1999 $300 off original MSRP - 27″... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* News Product Marketing Mgr., Publish...
…organizational consensus on strategy and vision for publisher tools, authoring, and Apple News Format.Carries this strategy and vision across the organization to Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Security Data Analyst - *Apple* Information...
…data sources need to be collected to allow Information Security to better protect Apple employees and customers from a wide range of threats.Act as the subject matter Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple I...
…integrity, and trust.Success Metrics/Key Performance Indicators:Quantitative* Year over Year growth in Apple Product and Beyond the Box sales in the assigned Point of Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant till v%u00E5r...
…ethics, integrity, and trust.Success Metrics/Key Performance Indicators:QuantitativeYear over Year growth in Apple Product and Beyond the Box sales in the assigned Point Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.