How to: Install OS X, Windows Vista, Windows XP and Linux Ubuntu on a Macbook

How to: Install OS X, Windows Vista, Windows XP and Linux Ubuntu on a Macbook

Gregory Han
Nov 6, 2008

Now here's something that caught our eye: a MacBook with the option to boot into four different operating systems. Talk about options. We've barely even played around with Vista/XP on our Bootcamp setup, but now we're thinking 2 or 3 operating systems is just not enough after seeing foskarulla's quad boot Macbook. How-to directions below...

1) IMPORTANT: you will need to format and repartition the whole drive, so backup/Time Machine your data.

2) Insert OSX Leopard (Tiger also works). Install DVD. Reboot the MacBook while pressing the "C" key, forcing it to boot from DVD). From the "Utilities Menu", select "Disk Utility". From "Volume Scheme" tab, select 5 partitions and use this schema:

  • 0 EFI protected (which is invisible under Disk Utility)
  • 1 Name: VISTA Format: MS-DOS File System <--create this partition *even* if you don't plan to install Vista, XP partition *must* be the 4th one to avoid missing hal.dll trouble!
  • 2 Name: STORAGE Format: MS-DOS File System
  • 3 Name: XP Format: MS-DOS File System
  • 4 Name: OSX Format: Mac OS Extended (Journaled)
  • 5 - Format: Free Space (Linux partitions will be created here later)

Every partition will host its own OS. The STORAGE partition will be formatted in FAT32 to share files between the four OSes (optional, but very advisable). If you are installing a brand new hard disk, check boot loader type as "GUID Partition Table (GPT)" (remove MBR default or you will not be able to install OS X). Then click the "Partition" button, and all your data on disk will be destroyed.

Now you can close "Disk Utility", and start install OS X to volume "OSX". After reboot into OS X, hou have to install rEFIt boot loader (download it from here) into volume "OSX".

*If you have installed "MacBook EFI Firmware Update 1.1" (available via Apple Software Updater) installing rEFIt is no more compulsory if you plan to install Linux afterward onto your MacBook. This update will fix built-in keyboard issue with "legacy" bootloaders, so you can use grub bootloader included in Ubuntu to boot Vista, XP and Ubuntu. rEFIt offers a graphical boot compared to grub's textual one.

If you want to obtain a triple boot MacBook without installing Vista, don't create the VISTA partition on step 2), proceed to step 3a) and ignore 3b). If you do want to install Vista, jump directly to step 3b)

3a) You can use directly from OS X terminal the "fdisk" command, that handles an MBR-partitioned disk, to setup the XP partition suitable for installing that windows version. Open a terminal under OS X:

  • Type "sudo fdisk -e /dev/rdisk0"
  • Enter password and ignore the message "fdisk: could not open MBR file /usr/standalone/i386/boot0: No such file or directory"
  • type "p" to print MBR partition table
  • type "f " "4" to flag partition 4 active
  • type "q" to save and quit

3b) Insert Windows Vista install DVD. Reboot the MacBook pressing the "C" key. Install Vista onto partition 2 named "VISTA". You must format it as NTFS at this point. Installation finishes and you have a dual boot Mac.

In Vista, click the "Start" button, click "Control Panel", click "System and Maintenance", click "Administrative Tools", and then double-click "Computer Management". In the Navigation pane, under "Storage", click "Disk Management". Right-click the XP partition, and then click "Mark Partition as Active".

4) Insert Windows XP install CD. You can't install any XP version coming on 2 CDs (like Media Center Edition 2005), only version from a single CD or DVD. So if you want to install MCE 2005 you need the (single) DVD version. Reboot the MacBook pressing the "C" key. Press the "Enter" key when you will read "Press any key to boot from CD". If you boot Vista by mistake, you must mark active XP partition again (because rEFIt will flag Vista as active if you select it).

You will see the VISTA partition marked "D:" and XP partition "C:". Now install XP to "C:". You must format it now (in either NTFS or FAT32) or XP will not boot. At reboot, select the 2nd windows logo "boot from partition 4" to continue install. Installation finishes and you have a (dual)triple boot Mac.

5) Insert Linux Ubuntu install live CD or DVD, (I used Ubuntu Desktop 8.04b AMD64) reboot from it. Launch install from desktop.

  • At step 3, choose your keyboard layout as Macintosh.
  • At step 4, choose to manually partition the disk:
  • create a / partition and a swap partition at the end of the disk. (Swap must be larger than memory to be able to "hibernate". And one megabyte here is 1000*1000 bytes, not 1024*1024)
  • At step 7, before you go ahead with the install, click "advanced", and tell Ubuntu to install GRUB to (hd0,2), the FAT partition. (Yes, this is the right place. Installing GRUB into the MBR will let GRUB manage the windows booting, you will have to go through 2 boot manager to boot Windows or Linux, which is not what we want. Besides MBR, it seems GRUB can only be installed into among the first 4 partitions to be bootable, and the FAT partition right now doesn't contain a boot code so it's safe to have GRUB live there)
  • Update: If you don't want to use rEFIt, install GRUB into the MBR. Hold "option" key upon boot to select "Windows", then use Grub menu to boot between Ubuntu, Vista, or Xp.

Proceed with the install. Reboot and you will see four OS options from the rEFIt menu.

6) Almost done! Now install hardware drivers in each OS. In both Windows installation, insert Leopard Install Disk 1 and install Bootcamp drivers to make touchpad, iSight and so on perfectly working under both XP and Vista.

[Image and directions: foskarulla]

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