Triple-Booting Intel Macs

Apple Logo As I haven’t had anything to write about lately, I decided to pull up an old entry on one of my other blogs that seems better suited here. This was written back in May, way before the big Novell Sell-out. I wouldn’t recommend Suse now, but it’s still the only distro I know that allows you to NOT create a swap partition.

I’ve probably spent a total of 24 hours on making it work, but I finally got the Mac triple-booting between Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Suse Linux 10.1. Why? Because I can.

The thing that absolutely threw me for a loop was the fact that Apple’s Disk Utility program does NOT list the appropriate system type for Linux. If you use the terminal app diskutil, it’s there, but you can’t change anything about a partition that Mac OS X currently has mounted except for its size. Even dumber, diskutil can’t do squat during the installation routine. Argh! Here’s what to do:WARNING: This is the preferred method for people with with new Macs, those picky about giving each OS even space, those with no important data to lose, or those for whom diskutil cannot resize their existing volume to leave enough room for two more operating systems.

  • Insert your Mac OS X Install Disc 1 DVD and restart the computer.
  • When you here the Apple “bong” hold C down to boot from the Mac OS X Install Disc.
  • Once the GUI is up, select Utilities from the menu bar and select Disk Utility.
  • Select the drive, then Partition, then 3 partitions. Disk Utility automatically sets up three partitions as evenly as it can.
  • Select the first partition as format it as Mac OS X Extended (Case Sensitive, Journaled)
  • Select the last partition and format it as MS-DOS FAT32.
  • Leave the middle partition as is — Disk Utility can’t format it correctly and diskutil can’t do anything while installing.
  • Install Mac OS X as normal. It’s suggested that you use Customize to install a minimal system. This is just in case you foul things up and have to start again. You can install extras later.
  • Once you have Mac OS X set up, Cancel the Software Updater and go to and grab the Mac OS X 10.4.6 update for Intel. Burn the disc image to CD or copy to an external hard drive. Again, this step is a safe-guard against having to download the update over the internet each time you may or may not foul up.
  • Install the update and reboot back into Mac OS X.
  • Run Terminal (under the Utilities folder in Applications) and run sudo diskutil eraseVolume Linux [name] nonbootable disk0s3.
  • Run diskutil list and verify that the 3rd partition reads “Microsoft Basic Data”. If it does, you’re good to go. (Yes, the label is wrong — trust me, you’re heading in the right direction.)
  • If there are no errors, go to and download rEFIt. Open the disc image and copy everything over to your Mac OS X drive. Then run /efi/refit/ in Terminal.
  • Insert your Windows XP SP2 installation CD and reboot the computer.
  • When rEFIt comes up, select the Disk Partition tool and verify that the GPT data for the thrid and forth partitions both read “Basic Data” and that the MBR data for the third and forth partitions reads Linux and FAT32, respectively.
  • Exit out of the utility and select the Windows XP SP2 installation CD.
  • Install XP as normal. You can choose to use FAT32 Quick or NTFS Quick, it doesn’t matter which. Don’t go crazy setting up XP, though, in the event you foul things up.
  • When you’re done installing XP, and while in windows, right-click the DVD drive and click Eject. Insert your Linux installation CD and reboot.
  • in rEFIt, select your Linux install CD.
  • Set up your Linux distro as usual. If your distro gives you the option to use GRUB or LILO, use LILO — GRUB won’t work.

This journal entry written in Linux on a Mac that triple-boots.