Triboot Saga Continues: The New Discoveries

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In my excitement, I posted a triboot process for the MacBook Pro that worked. Unfortunately, as I continued through the process on additional MacBooks, I couldn't get GRUB to install. What? How could that be? It worked just fine on the first machine! Incredulous, I started on another mac, and had the same problem. Bugger, I needed to start all over again and find out what went wrong.

The good news is that both the Mac and Windows partitions worked just fine, so I simply configured them properly for lab use. Now, to the Linux partition.

I started by backing up the working partition in a tar ball. I figured that if all else failed, I could at least restore everything from there. Then, I looked at the original machine closely to see if there was anything different on this machine than on the others. And there was! I used the ext3 file system on the original machine, and ReiserFS for the additional machines. Not having used Linux for three years, I'm not aware of any issues that GRUB may have with ReiserFS, but then I had always used Lilo, since I'm familiar with it. So, that was easy enough to fix: I reformatted the partition as ext3, and Ubuntu (and GRUB) installed just fine. There was much rejoicing (Yay!).

Then, in that process, I realized I forgot to back up and restore the original MBR! Oh no! My Windows partition will be bound to GRUB! I rebooted quickly and checked the partition, and Windows booted without a hitch. Sighing in relief, I realized that particular step was unnecessary. This, of course, caused me to revise my process for tri-booting the MacBook, which is below:

Needed Equipment:

- 1 Mac OS X Install DVD, with companion DVD
- 1 Windows XP SP2 Install CD
- 1 Ubuntu Linux Install CD v 7.04 for X86-64 processors
- 1 disk image of rEFIt
- 1 Boot Camp Driver install disk
- 1 Intel-based Macintosh machine

Step 1: Make your partitions
- Boot from the Mac OS X Install DVD, and under Utilities, select Disk Utility.
- Select the drive (not the volume), and click on the Partition pane.
- Split the drive into three partitions, in this order:
Partition 1: Macintosh HD (For the Mac OS)
Partition 2: LInux (as a Unix partition)
Partition 3: WIndows (as a FAT 32 partition). This is because Windows XP needs to be on the last bootable partition on the drive.
- Click on "Partition" to begin the partition and formatting process.

Step 2: Install Mac OS X
- Begin the Mac OS X installation, as normal.
- Once finished, boot into the Mac OS X environment, and install the rEFIt utility.

Step 3: Install Windows XP SP2
- Insert the Windows XP install CD, and reboot the machine.
- From the rEFIt start menu, select the Windows CD for your Boot volume.
- Begin the Windows install process.
- Select the 4th partition. Why 4th partition? Because the EFI partition is created automatically as a boot partition for the Macintosh. The 4th partition is the partition you set aside for Windows. You can choose to format the partition in NTFS, or continue to install it in the FAT 32 environment.
- When it reboots, be sure to select the newly created Windows boot volume in rEFIt. Finish the setup process as normal.
- Once it reboots again, hold down the mouse button to eject the Windows Install CD before rEFIt offers it as a boot option.
- Boot into Windows, and then insert the Boot Camp drivers disk.
- Run the installation. At this point, if you need to add additional accounts, you can do so during the installation.
- Reboot when it has finished, and asks you to reboot. Hold down the mouse button as it boots up, in order to eject the Boot Camp CD.

Step 3: Install Linux
- Insert the Ubuntu Feisty install CD, and reboot the machine.
- Select the Linux install disk from the rEFIt boot menu.
- Allow the machine to boot into the Ubuntu Live environment.
- Double-click on the Install option.
- Select your Location and Keyboard layout.
- When asked to Partition the disk, select the 3rd partition, format it as ext3, and set the root mount point on that partition. Click continue.
- It will give you a warning about not creating a swap partition, at which case you can still continue. With enough RAM on your machine, you do not need a swap partition.
- Create your user for Linux, setting the computer name as well.
- On the final pane, click on the "Advanced" button at the bottom right-hand corner.
- Change the (hd0) to (hd0,2), to install GRUB on the 3rd partition. This avoids any conflicts with the Windows partition.
- Start the installation.
- Reboot when it has finished.

You should now have a machine that will boot in Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Ubuntu Linux.

Again, I hope this is helpful to anyone out there that is looking to triboot their Intel Mac. After all, that is the greatest strength of the Mac platform: being able to boot multiple operating systems. For a lab deployment option that deals with these environments, I can't think of a better platform (other than virtual machines).