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

Sound Studio 4.8.11 - Robust audio recor...
Sound Studio lets you easily record and professionally edit audio on your Mac. Easily rip vinyls and digitize cassette tapes, or record lectures and voice memos. Prepare for live shows with live... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.291 - 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
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.1.18 - Easy-to-use...
Carbon Copy Cloner backups are better than ordinary backups. Suppose the unthinkable happens while you're under deadline to finish a project: your Mac is unresponsive and all you hear is an ominous,... Read more
Hopper Disassembler 4.2.14- - Binary dis...
Hopper Disassembler is a binary disassembler, decompiler, and debugger for 32- and 64-bit executables. It will let you disassemble any binary you want, and provide you all the information about its... Read more
VOX 2.8.30 - 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
Default Folder X 5.1.6b3 - Enhances Open...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on... Read more
CleanMyMac 3.8.6 - $39.95
CleanMyMac makes space for the things you love. Sporting a range of ingenious new features, CleanMyMac lets you safely and intelligently scan and clean your entire system, delete large, unused files... Read more
Postbox 5.0.17 - Powerful and flexible e...
Postbox is a new email application that helps you organize your work life and get stuff done. It has all the elegance and simplicity of Apple Mail, but with more power and flexibility to manage even... Read more
Amazon Chime 4.6.5852 - Amazon-based com...
Amazon Chime is a communications service that transforms online meetings with a secure, easy-to-use application that you can trust. Amazon Chime works seamlessly across your devices so that you can... Read more
coconutBattery 3.6.3 - Displays info abo...
With coconutBattery you're always aware of your current battery health. It shows you live information about your battery such as how often it was charged and how is the current maximum capacity in... Read more

The best 2v2 card combos in Clash Royale
2v2 is making it's grand return toClash Royalequite soon. 2v2 has quickly become one of the game's most popular gameplay modes, though they still have yet to make it a permanent fixture in the game. 2v2 is exciting and adds some new flavor to... | Read more »
The best games we played this week - Aug...
Another busy week has come to a close. We played a lot of excellent games this week and now it's time to look back and reflect on some our favorites. Here are our picks for the week of August 18. [Read more] | Read more »
War Wings beginner's guide - how to...
War Wings is the newest project from well-established game maker Miniclip. It's a World War II aerial dogfighting game with loads of different airplane models to unlock and battle. The game offers plenty of single player and multiplayer action. We... | Read more »
How to win every 2v2 battle in Clash Roy...
2v2 is coming back to Clash Royale in a big way. Although it's only been available for temporary periods of time, 2v2 has seen a hugely positive fan response, with players clamoring for more team-based gameplay. Soon we'll get yet another taste of... | Read more »
Roll to Win with Game of Dice’s new upda...
Joycity’s hit Game of Dice gets a big new update this week, introducing new maps, mechanics, and even costumes. The update sets players loose on an exciting new map, The Cursed Tower, that allows folks to use special Runes mid-match. If you feel... | Read more »
Bottom of the 9th (Games)
Bottom of the 9th 1.0.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Play the most exciting moment of baseball in this fast-paced dice and card game! | Read more »
The best apps for viewing the solar ecli...
If you somehow missed the news, many parts of the United States will be witness to a total solar eclipse on August 21 for the first time in over 90 years. It'll be possible to see the eclipse in at least some capacity throughout the continental U... | Read more »
The 5 best mobile survival games
Games like ARK: Survival Evolved and Conan Exiles have taken the world of gaming by storm. The market is now flooded with hardcore survival games that send players off into the game's world with nothing but maybe the clothes on their back. Never... | Read more »
Portal Walk (Games)
Portal Walk 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Portal Walk is adventure and relaxing platform game about Eugene. Eugene stuck between worlds and trying to find way back home.... | Read more »
Technobabylon (Games)
Technobabylon 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: City of Newton, 2087. Genetic engineering is the norm, the addictive Trance has replaced almost any need for human interaction,... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Weekend sale: 13-inch MacBook Pros for up to...
Amazon has new 2017 13″ MacBook Pros on sale today for up to $200 off MSRP, each including free shipping: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXV2LL/A): $1599.99 $200 off MSRP – 13″ 3.1GHz/... Read more
Back To School With The Edge Desk All-in-one...
Back to school is just around the corner, and the ergonomically correct Edge Desk all-in-one portable kneeling desk is ideal for students living in dorms and small apartments, Edge Desk features:... Read more
Norton Core Secure Wi-Fi Router Now Available...
First introduced at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Norton Core, a secure, high-performance Wi-Fi router, fundamentally changed the concept of Wi-Fi routers by making security the primary... Read more
ViewSonic Adds New 27-inch 4K UHD Monitor to...
ViewSonic Corp. has introduced the VP2785-4K, a 27-inch 4K UHD (3840×2160) monitor that delivers precise and consistent color representation and performance to ensure incredible image quality. Built... Read more
Apple now offering Certified Refurbished 2017...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished 2017 27″ iMacs for up to $350 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: – 27″ 3.... Read more
13-inch 2.3GHz MacBook Pros on sale for $100...
Amazon has the new 2017 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pros on sale today for $100 off MSRP, each including free shipping: – 13″ 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXQ2LL/A): $1199.99 $100 off MSRP – 13″ 2.... Read more
Clearance 2016 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available for up to $200 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (MMGF2LL... Read more
Clearance 21-inch and 27-inch iMacs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 21″ and 27″ Apple iMacs available for up to $500 off original MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: – 27″ 3.3GHz iMac 5K: $1799 $500 off... Read more
New iOS 11 Productivity Features Welcome But...
The iOS community is in late summer holding mode awaiting the September arrival of the iPhone 8 and iOS 11. iOS 11 public betas have been available for months — number six was released this week —... Read more
Samsung Electronics Launches New Portable SSD...
Samsung Electronics America, Inc. has announced the launch of Samsung Portable SSD T5 – its newest portable solid state drive (PSSD) that raises the bar for the performance of external memory... Read more

Jobs Board

*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
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.