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

TextSoap 8.4.1 - Automate tedious text d...
TextSoap can automatically remove unwanted characters, fix up messed up carriage returns, and do pretty much anything else that we can think of to text. Save time and effort. Be more productive. Stop... Read more
TextSoap 8.4.1 - Automate tedious text d...
TextSoap can automatically remove unwanted characters, fix up messed up carriage returns, and do pretty much anything else that we can think of to text. Save time and effort. Be more productive. Stop... Read more
Backblaze 4.3.0.44 - Online backup servi...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Numi 3.15 - Menu-bar calculator supports...
Numi is a calculator that magically combines calculations with text, and allows you to freely share your computations. Numi combines text editor and calculator Support plain English. For example, '5... Read more
EtreCheck 3.3.3 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is an app that displays the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support Communities to... Read more
BusyContacts 1.1.8 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
TunnelBear 3.0.14 - Subscription-based p...
TunnelBear is a subscription-based virtual private network (VPN) service and companion app, enabling you to browse the internet privately and securely. Features Browse privately - Secure your data... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.3.4 - Professio...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
Hopper Disassembler 4.2.1- - Binary disa...
Hopper Disassembler is a binary disassembler, decompiler, and debugger for 32-bit and 64-bit executables. It will let you disassemble any binary you want, and provide you all the information about... Read more
Slack 2.6.2 - Collaborative communicatio...
Slack is a collaborative communication app that simplifies real-time messaging, archiving, and search for modern working teams. Version 2.6.2: Fixed Inexplicably, context menus and spell-check... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

The best new games we played this week
We were quite busy this week. A bunch of big mobile games launched over the past few days, alongside a few teeny surprises. There're lots of quality games to load your phone with. We've gone and picked out five of our favorites for the week. [... | Read more »
Magikarp Jump beginner's guide
Magikarp Jump is a mystifying little game. Part Tamagotchi, part idle clicker, there's not a whole lot of video game there, per se, but for some reason we can't help coming back to it again and again. Your goal is to train up a little Magikarp to... | Read more »
Goat Simulator PAYDAY (Games)
Goat Simulator PAYDAY 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICES **iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better Goat Simulator: Payday is the most... | Read more »
GRID Autosport delayed until autumn
Sorry mobile racing fans -- GRID Autosport has been delayed a few months. The game is now expected to launch this fall on iOS. Feral Interactive announced that they wanted more time to work on the game's UI and overall performance before launching... | Read more »
Zombie Gunship Survival Beginner's...
The much anticipated Zombie Gunship Survival is here. In this latest entry in the Zombie Gunship franchise, you're tasked with supporting ground troops and protecting your base from the zombie horde. There's a lot of rich base building fun, and... | Read more »
Mordheim: Warband Skirmish (Games)
Mordheim: Warband Skirmish 1.2.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.2.2 (iTunes) Description: Explore the ruins of the City of Mordheim, clash with other scavenging warbands and collect Wyrdstone -... | Read more »
Mordheim: Warband Skirmish brings tablet...
Legendary Games has just launched Mordheim: Warband Skirmish, a new turn-based action game for iOS and Android. | Read more »
Magikarp Jump splashes onto Android worl...
If you're tired ofPokémon GObut still want something to satisfy your mobilePokémon fix,Magikarp Jumpmay just do the trick. It's out now on Android devices the world over. While it looks like a simple arcade jumper, there's quite a bit more to it... | Read more »
Purrfectly charming open-world RPG Cat Q...
Cat Quest, an expansive open-world RPG from former Koei-Tecmo developers, got a new gameplay trailer today. The video showcases the combat and exploration features of this feline-themed RPG. Cat puns abound as you travel across a large map in a... | Read more »
Jaipur: A Card Game of Duels (Games)
Jaipur: A Card Game of Duels 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** WARNING: iPad 2, iPad Mini 1 & iPhone 4S are NOT compatible. ** *** Special Launch Price for a limited... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Memorial Day savings: 13-inch Touch Bar MacBo...
B&H Photo has the 2016 Apple 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB... Read more
Apple refurbished 13-inch MacBook Airs availa...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook Air: $... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished 11-inch MacBook Ai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 11″ MacBook Airs (the latest models recently discontinued by Apple), available for up to $170 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each... Read more
12-inch 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for up...
B&H has 12″ 1.2GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 12″ 1.2GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1449.99 $150 off... Read more
15-inch 2.7GHz Silver Touch Bar MacBook Pro o...
MacMall has the 15-inch 2.7GHz Silver Touch Bar MacBook Pro (MLW82LL/A) on sale for $2569 as part of their Memorial Day sale. Shipping is free. Their price is $230 off MSRP. Read more
Free Tread Wisely Mobile App Endorsed By Fath...
Just in time for the summer driving season, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company has announced the launch of a new Tread Wisely mobile app. Designed to promote tire and vehicle safety among teens and... Read more
Commercial Notebooks And Detachable Tablets W...
Worldwide shipments of personal computing devices (PCDs), comprised of traditional PCs (a combination of desktop, notebook, and workstations) and tablets (slates and detachables), are forecast to... Read more
Best value this Memorial Day weekend: Touch B...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros available for $230 to $420 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 15″ 2.6GHz... Read more
13-inch MacBook Airs on sale for up to $130 o...
Overstock.com has 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for up to $130 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MMGF2LL/A): $869.99 $130 off MSRP - 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (sku... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $973 with free...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $973, $16 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Media Products - Commerce Engineerin...
Apple Media Products - Commerce Engineering Manager Job Number: 57037480 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Apr. 18, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**509643BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Location Number:** 001482- Apple Valley-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Read more
*Apple* Media Products - Commerce Engineerin...
Apple Media Products - Commerce Engineering Manager Job Number: 57037480 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Apr. 18, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Read more
*Apple* Mac and Mobility Engineer - Infogrou...
Title: Apple Mac and Mobility Engineer Location: Portland, OR Area Type: 12 month contract Job: 17412 Here's a chance to take your skills to the limit, learn new Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions, White P...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.