How to triple boot Mac Pro with OS X, Fedora, Windows

Here are some step by step instructions on how to triple boot a Mac Pro (and I guess any Intel based Mac) with OS X (Snow Leopard), Fedora 12 and Windows XP. I ran into trouble because of the Fedora 12 installer being clever and setting my Fedora partition to be bootable, which didn’t play nice with the MBR table and Windows.

Firstly, the Mac Pro I am using has a 500GB SATA drive, so the partition sizes that I choose reflect that fact. Your machine might be different, so adjust accordingly.

Step 1
Install OS X on single partition using the whole drive (insert DVD and boot with C key held down).

Step 2
Use the diskutil terminal command to resize the OS X partition and create one for Linux and Windows.

Open “Terminal” and then run:
sudo diskutil resizeVolume disk0s2 200G "MS-DOS" "Linux" 200G "MS-DOS" "Windows" 5G
(Note that the final number for the Windows drive doesn’t really matter, it will fill all remaining available space.)

Step 3
Under OS X, install rEFIt (a graphical EFI boot loader) and then bless the drive:
sudo /efi/refit/enable-always.sh

Step 4
Insert Fedora 12 disk and reboot, holding down the C key (or boot it from the Linux CD entry in rEFIt menu).
(Note: I had to install via FTP, because installing from DVD didn’t always work on my Mac Pro. If you have the same issue then at the boot menu hit the “Tab” key and add “askmethod” to the kernel line and boot the entry.)

Step 5
During the installer, select the 3rd partition for / (choose “Custom” partition), format ext4.

Next, switch to terminal 2 (CTRL+Alt+2) and toggle boot to off for the Linux partition, like so:
parted /dev/sda
toggle 3 boot
quit

Now sync the GPT and MBR partition tables:
gptsync /dev/sda
(Or you can do this step via rEFIt menu after the install if you prefer.)

Switch back to terminal 6 (Alt+6) and continue. Install the boot loader to /dev/sda3 (this is the default).

Complete Fedora install, reboot into OS X, eject disk, insert Windows XP install CD.

For reference, the GPT partition table should look something like this:

[chris@localhost ~]$ sudo parted -l

Model: ATA ST3500630AS P (scsi)
Disk /dev/sda: 500GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: gpt

Number Start End Size File system Name Flags
1 20.5kB 210MB 210MB fat32 EFI System Partition boot
2 210MB 200GB 200GB hfs+ OS X
3 200GB 400GB 200GB ext4 Linux
4 400GB 500GB 99.9GB ntfs Windows

While the MBR table should look like this:

[chris@localhost ~]$ sudo fdisk -l

WARNING: GPT (GUID Partition Table) detected on '/dev/sda'! The util fdisk doesn't support GPT. Use GNU Parted.

Disk /dev/sda: 500.1 GB, 500107862016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 60801 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0xcce7cce7

Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/sda1 1 26 204819+ ee GPT
/dev/sda2 26 24325 195181428 af HFS / HFS+
/dev/sda3 * 24341 48656 195311616 83 Linux
/dev/sda4 48657 60802 97556480 7 HPFS/NTFS

Step 6
Reboot, holding down C key (or choose the Windows CD entry from rEFIt menu), install Windows XP to 4th partition, format NTFS.
If the Windows installer sees a single partition and can’t detect the file system, re-sync the GPT and MBR partition tables via rEFIt or Fedora gptsync command. Also, ensure that the Fedora partition is not set to be bootable (Step 5, part 2). The installer should see multiple drive letters, with the 4th partition being the C drive. Yes, Windows has to be installed on the last partition.

After install, the rEFIt menu should see Windows on the hard drive. Boot it and continue your Windows install. Once installed, insert the OS X Snow Leopard DVD and install the system drivers, etc.

That’s about it.

61 Responses to “How to triple boot Mac Pro with OS X, Fedora, Windows”


  • Thought I just add, sudo didn’t seem to work when trying to run the parted command on the terminal window under Live Fedora. It didn’t recognise the sudo token.

  • Sorry ignore my last entry I used su -root to gain the required priveleges !
    Have a great weekend

    El

  • Hi El,

    You’re on the installer CD, which is running as root :-)

    -c

  • The Control-Alt-2 doesn’t bring up a terminal window so I can’t turn boot to off using parted. Don’t know how to do it from the rEFit menu. This must be a very important step (#3) because the fresh Fedora installation doesn’t boot.

  • Try Ctrl + Alt + F2 (the function key).

    If not, you can try and sync via the refit menu by pressing across arrow to the partition option.

    -c

  • Hi Chris,

    I have been spending a week trying to install a Linux Distribution on my Mac Pro 5,1. The main reason is that neither Fedora 18 nor Ubuntu12.04 recognize my Hard disk drives. First, I tried with only the main Hard Disk (That have Mac OSX10.7.5) in the system, then I tried with a new hard disk in the system and again the no disk detected or the no devices detected message appears while installing.

    I Have rEFit on the macOS system so I can boot both Fedora and Ubuntu even when I have onle the new hard disk(So refit no appears), but then no disk appears. I tried the frisk -l command but nothing was shown.

    Any suggestion of what I´m missing to achieve install linux on this mac. Or is it not possible to do it?

    Thanks,
    Gabe

  • Hi Gabe,

    It should be possible, but unfortunately I don’t have access to the hardware any more so it’s hard for me to test and keep up-to-date with it. So do you mean you booted the Fedora installer (or live CD) and couldn’t see any disks? If you can boot a Fedora or Korora live CD and post some results like dmesg it would be helpful to see what’s going on.

    Also, are you trying 64bit system? Is it a 64bit EFI?

    -c

  • Hi Chris,

    Sorry for not answer you earlier. I had a lot of work to do, and I thought that maybe your answer would be forwarded to my email. But didn’t.

    Anyway, here are the details:
    1. Yes I’m trying a 64bit system. How do I check if it is a 64bit EFI?

    2. I used a Mac Installation disk to remove the current system and the RAID set (I was wondering if it was a problem with the RAID). So right now there is no MAC OS installed on the Machine. However, when I trying to install the Linux OS, no disk appears again.

    3. In the link below you could find the result of the “dmesg” with the live OS. I attached some pics with the no disk message and the current mac os utilities. (you are able to edit and comment the doc file.)
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Lnzo-DAG_bRE_QVSmhQNyAvX4BfYJmkZCVgayPHzlD4/edit?usp=sharing

    Please let me know what else I can do in order to install linux on this machine.

    Thanks for your help,
    Gabe

  • Hi Chris,

    Sorry for insist a lot but, I will really appreciate your help. Do you have any news about this. Did you dislike the docs document. I can post the results here in the blog if you wish.

    Regards and thank you,
    Gabe

  • Hi Chris,

    I’ve successfully installed Windows, and then Linux. While the Windows works fine, rEFIt doesn’t see Fedora, probably because I didn’t install a bootloader. How do I fix this?

  • Sorry for delay in reply, didn’t see your comment there. Are you sure you did an EFI install under Fedora? Could be that it did a MBR install which EFI won’t see, in which case it’s easier to re-install. During install, you should confirm your partitions and make sure you have your ESP partition mounted to /boot/efi.

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