Easy multi-boot for Macs, no Bootcamp hassle, no rEFIt.

If you wish to simply see the steps required, please skip to the installation mini-guide.

I’ve recently received my new internal hard drive for my late 2008 MacBook Pro. For the last few months, I probably hit OWC every single day, waiting for a 7200 RPM, 750GB 9.5mm drive that would fit my laptop. The WD Scorpio Black 750GB recently became available, and I ordered this very nice drive with an external enclosure and the little screwdriver kit. What an awesome overall product idea, plus the enclosure is USB3!

So after doing lots of looking around and googling here and there, I came to a quite simple but sad conclusion about multiple boots on a mac; Boot Camp is a tool for toddlers and multi-booting a heavily partitioned drive is extremely tedious. I was wrong!

My intended setup totals 5 partitions. One for my main Mac OSX boot, one for Windows 7 64bit (games), another Mac OSX boot for audio, a user data partition (documents, downloads, music etc… this could logically be shared between my two Mac boots, more experiments on this in a future post) and finally an audio data partition. Ouch.

Most forums I read explain how to do this by tricking Bootcamp, partitioning after the initial 2 partitions are created, and using a bit of magic with a salt of luck you might just get it working… that’s if your skill level is at 60 and you have much HP left 🙂

Natively installing Windows 7

The main reason for all this Bootcamp stuff is XP doesn’t support EFI, and Vista seems to have a limited support (source needed). 7 on the other hand (I tested 64bit) supports installation in an EFI environment out-of-the-box. My little guide describes installation on a new hard drive, you might want to tweak this a little bit if you’ve resized a partition for windows. So, here goes.

    1. Boot into Mac OSX Snow Leopard disk, select the disk utility tool and create your partitions. Make sure you create a Fat32 (Dos) partition for Windows. This partition must be one of the first three partitions (I think the first 4 might work, but lets not take any chance).
    2. Install Mac OSX in your first partition. You can then update your mac, do what you wish. Some people install rEFIt. I tried it but the tool didn’t work for me. rEFIt is not required for this setup to work. It might be if you want to install Linux though, I haven’t tried that yet.
    3. Insert the Win 7 64bit DVD in your mac. Reboot and hold the “c” key when you hear a chime. This will launch the Windows setup.
    4. At setup, you will be asked to choose a partition for windows. Make sure you select the right partition as it will be formatted. The installation had serious trouble reading most of the partition names, so I chose my Fat partition by size… Very scary moment. Once you select the partition, you need to click format. It will format in NTFS, then continue with normal installation.
    5. The installer will reboot 3 times (IIRC), whenever it does, hold the “option” key (alternative names: “alt”, “saucepan”, ⌥) when the chimes play. Then select the windows partition and boot it to continue installation. Don’t worry if you miss the boot screen, just restart you mac. The installer restarts where it left off.
    6. Now when you are asked for a password, do not create one with any special characters! Actually, I would recommend to wait until later before creating a password. Why you ask? Because your current keyboard setup is most probably wrong, and all your keys will change when you install the Mac drivers. This happened to me, simply because I used “/” in my password. I had to reinstall Windows, because when booting up, I couldn’t recreate the symbol at login screen. Stupid thing.
    7. When rebooting for the third time (the last reboot), at the OS selection screen (OSX’s boot loader), remove the Windows DVD, and pop in the Snow Leopard DVD.
    8. Once in windows, your volume keys, brightness keys and screen resolution will be all wrong, plus other stuff. Launch the Bootcamp setup in the OSX DVD you inserted earlier. Reboot again. TADAM!

You now have a native dual-boot setup, without rEFIt (even though rEFIt looks really nice, it doesn’t work for me and troubleshooting help is scarce), without the hassle of Bootcamp partition resizing and voodoo partitioning.

Hope this helps someone, and now go play some video games 🙂

Note: Windows 64bit will not work on all MacBook models, if the Mac drivers complain about it, you should install 32bit. Also, I have yet to install my third Mac OSX boot, this might screw things up. Rest assured I will blog about it or correct any information if things go wrong. Finally, I do not know if the OSX boot-loader supports Linux, you are encouraged to post any comments about such a setup (it will work using rEFIt). I personally think it would be fine if you install GRUB inside your Linux partition.

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