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

Apple macOS Sierra 10.12.3 - The latest...
With Apple macOS Sierra, Siri makes its debut on Mac, with new features designed just for the desktop. Your Mac works with iCloud and your Apple devices in smart new ways, and intelligent... Read more
Lyn 1.8.5 - Lightweight image browser an...
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
iClock Pro 3.4.7 - Customize your menuba...
iClock Pro is a menu bar replacement clock for Apple's default clock. iClock Pro is an update, total rewrite and improvement to the popular iClock. Have the day, date and time in different fonts and... Read more
Opera 42.0.2393.137 - High-performance W...
Opera is a fast and secure browser trusted by millions of users. With the intuitive interface, Speed Dial and visual bookmarks for organizing favorite sites, news feature with fresh, relevant content... Read more
Apple Security Update 2016-003 Supplemen...
Apple Security Update is recommended for all users and improves the security of OS X. For detailed information about the security content of this update, please visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/... Read more
Apple iOS 10.2.1 - The latest version of...
iOS 10 is the biggest release of iOS ever. A massive update to Messages brings the power of the App Store to your conversations and makes messaging more personal than ever. Find your route with... Read more
BetterTouchTool 1.992 - Customize Multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
Viber 6.5.5 - Send messages and make cal...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device, so... Read more
Lyn 1.8.5 - Lightweight image browser an...
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
Apple iOS 10.2.1 - The latest version of...
iOS 10 is the biggest release of iOS ever. A massive update to Messages brings the power of the App Store to your conversations and makes messaging more personal than ever. Find your route with... Read more

Clash Royale gets some serious balance u...
| Read more »
Ironhide Game Studio prepares for a busy...
Kingdom Rush breathed fresh life into the tired tower defense genre way back in 2012. The game was a robust challenge that somehow managed to lift you up, rather than leaving you feeling crushed and hopeless. The rich array of unit types and... | Read more »
Collect pets and sling arrows in Arcane...
Mobile gaming is a crowded market, but regular updates are a good way to keep us attention-short players keen. The brand new content in Arcane Online is a prime example. Published by Japanese developer Gala, Arcane Online is a fantasy MMO that... | Read more »
Super Mario Run dashes onto Android in M...
Super Mario Run was one of the biggest mobile launches in 2016 before it was met with a lukewarm response by many. While the game itself plays a treat, it's pretty hard to swallow the steep price for the full game. With that said, Android users... | Read more »
WarFriends Beginner's Guide: How to...
Chillingo's new game, WarFriends, is finally available world wide, and so far it's a refreshing change from common mobile game trends. The game's a mix of tower defense, third person shooter, and collectible card game. There's a lot to unpack here... | Read more »
Super Gridland (Entertainment)
Super Gridland 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Match. Build. Survive. "exquisitely tuned" - Rock Paper Shotgun No in-app purches, and no ads! | Read more »
Red's Kingdom (Games)
Red's Kingdom 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mad King Mac has kidnapped your father and stolen your golden nut! Solve puzzles and battle goons as you explore and battle your... | Read more »
Turbo League Guide: How to tame the cont...
| Read more »
Fire Emblem: Heroes coming to Google Pla...
Nintendo gave us our first look at Fire Emblem: Heroes, the upcoming mobile Fire Emblem game the company hinted at last year. Revealed at the Fire Emblem Direct event held today, the game will condense the series' tactical RPG combat into bite-... | Read more »
ReSlice (Music)
ReSlice 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Audio Slice Machine Slice your audio samples with ReSlice and create flexible musical atoms which can be triggered by MIDI notes or... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Deal alert! 13-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pros for $...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 13″ 2.0GHz non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $225 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro... Read more
Free LibreOffice Portable 5.2.4 Complete Offi...
PortableApps.com and The Document Foundation have announce the release of LibreOffice Portable 5.2.4. LibreOffice Portable is an Open Source full-featured office suite — including a word processor,... Read more
Apple Planning Three New Tablets For 2017 – D...
Digitimes’ Rebecca Kuo and Joseph Tsai say that unnamed insider sources report Apple having three new tablets in the pipeline for 2017 release: a 9.7-inch model with a friendly price range, a new mid... Read more
Roundup of 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro sale...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 15″ Apple Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Pros available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 9″ and 12″ Apple iPad Pros available for up to $160 off the cost of new iPads. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 32GB 9″... Read more
16GB iPad Air 2, Apple refurbished, available...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 16GB iPad Air 2s available for $319 including free shipping. A standard Apple one-year is included. Their price is $60 off original MSRP for this model. Read more
Apple iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ Apple iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $2199 $100 off MSRP - 27″ 3.2GHz/1TB Fusion iMac... Read more
Apple refurbished Apple TVs available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 32GB and 64GB Apple TVs available for up to $30 off the cost of new models. Apple’s standard one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
Save up to $350 with Apple Certified Refurbis...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
2015 12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple refurbish...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks available for up to $410 off original MSRP. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Manhattan, NY Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our most Read more
*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Stamford, CT We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our most well-known 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
*Apple* Site Security Manager - Apple (Unite...
# Apple Site Security Manager Job Number: 54692472 Culver City, California, United States Posted: Jan. 19, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The Apple Read more
*Apple* macOS Systems Integration Administra...
…most exceptional support available in the industry. SCI is seeking an Junior Apple macOS systems integration administrator that will be responsible for providing Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.