Saturday, 5 March 2011

How to set up a triple boot machine - Windows 7 + Mac OS X + Ubuntu

Hey guys!
Recently I successfully set up a triple boot machine. I know, There are already plenty of tutorials on the internet to set up Triple boot machine i.e. Windows + Mac + Linux.  I read many of them. But Everytime I went through a tutorial some questions always remained rogue.

Eventually I found out a unique and sure solution of installing 3 Operating Systems into a single hard drive, ie

Windows 7 x64 ultimate + iATKOS Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.3 + Ubuntu 10.10 x64.. Which wasn't followed from any tutorial on the internet.

1) It's ok if you use XP or Vista instead of Windows 7. And....
2) It's also ok if you install ANY other linux distro instead of Ubuntu.
This solution will work just fine.

My Hardware Specs:
  Processor   Intel C2D E7300 2.66 Ghz
  Motherboard   MSI P45 Neo
  Memory   4GB DDR2
  Graphic Card   NVIDIA 9600GT 512MB
  Hard Drive   160 GB (7200 rpm)

Things I Used:

iATKOS S3 Snow Leopard 10.6.3 intel installation DVD 
2) Windows 7 Ultimate x64 DVD 
3) Ubuntu 10.10 x64 Bootable USB
4) iBoot ( Just ISO... No need to burn it on CD )
5) EasyBCD ( Freeware, for windows ) [because rEFIt has never worked for me on installing it in hard drive.. & trust me This is the most easiest way. Even a kid will set up triple boot machine from this software. ]

Check your hardware's compatibility for iATKOS from here.

Through out the tutorial, I have neglected the information about “how to” install the operating systems. There are already plenty of videos on YouTube about it.

Alright then, Let's get started!

Phase 1: Installing Mac
1) First I chose iATKOS operating system as to install to get Snow Leopard. Because this is the only way that allowed to install Mac under the MBR partition table driven partitions into hard drive. 

2) MBR was real necessary, because Windows doesn't play a fair game when it is installed under the GPT. It has problems reparing windows, taking backup, making restore point and even plenty blue screens for me.

3) First Format whole hard drive under MBR partition table through iATKOS DVD, Then install Mac in any parition. I created in total 3 paritions to install 3 operating systems. I didn't make 4 partitions, Because if you'd done so, windows will not recognize the 4th partition because of limitation of 4 Paritions max. & MBR Table parition (30 MB approx) is considered as one partition.
I have 160 GB Hard Drive. I chose 78GB for windows 7, 44GB for Ubuntu and rest ~33GB for Mac.

4) I didn't choose or change anything under the customise menu just before hitting the install button and beginning the iATKOS installation. This means no bootloader was customised either. In fact, it's best if you don't install any boot loader now!

5) It took about 27 minutes to install iATKOS Mac Snow Leopard v10.6.3. Just when Mac installation was completed, I did not insert any kind of iBoot NVIDIA disk into Drive. I kept Mac as it is and left it to start for the first time!

Phase 2: Installing Windows 7
6) Just after concluding the installation of Mac and when computer reboots for the first time, I inserted the Windows 7 DVD into drive.
(At this phase, if you wanted to boot into Mac, you'd needed iBoot CD.. But don't worry, we'll come back on starting mac for the first time later!)

7) Here, I chose 1st parition to install Windows 7. and waited here to complete the installation. In between, windows will reboot computer several times to complete installation.

8) Here, make a note that windows 7 will install 'windows boot manager' in MBR, which will overwrite every other operating system's boot loader.  (here, in our case, nothing) It took about 16 minutes to complete the installation.

Phase 3: Installing Ubuntu (Or Any other linux distro)
9) After completing the installtion of Windows 7, insert ubuntu 10.10 bootable USB and start installation. Make sure you select GRUB installation target as ubuntu installation partition. This will obviously prevent GRUB 2.0 from over writting Windows Boot Manager.
eg. If you're installing Ubuntu in /dev/sda2 then selection GRUB installation target to /dev/sda2
PS: Do not select /dev/sda (ie only HDD here, It will install GRUB into MBR). I said select the partition instead of whole hard drive.
Ubuntu took nearly 4 minutes to complete the whole installation! and It asked to reboot the computer again.

Phase 4: Able to boot only in Windows For Now
10) Now reboot the computer, Obviously.. you won't be able to get into any other operating system except windows at this point. Now here the magic begins!

11) Download EasyBCD. It's freeware.. Google it you will find it easly.

12) Install it in windows.

13) Get iBoot iso of your gfx kind's. & put it in somewhere where you won't change it's location. eg. C:\users\XXX\iBoot.iso
(No spaces allowed in the path or name of iso file)

Phase 5: Adding Mac entry into Windows Boot Manager...
14) Start EasyBCD.
Go to Add New Entry > ISO Boot > 'choose that iBoot iso here' > Give appropriate name for your Macintosh os > Choose Mode: Load from Memory > Click Add Entry

Go to Edit Boot Menu > Save Settings

Phase 6: Adding Ubuntu entry into Windows Boot Manager...
15) Start EasyBCD.
Go to Add New Entry > Linux/BSD > Choose Type: GRUB 2.0 (if ubuntu later version from 9.10) or GRUB (If any other version like Fedora, FreeBSD, BackTrack, RedHat etc) > Give appropriate name for Ubuntu entry > Click Add Entry

Go to Edit Boot Menu > Save Settings.

Note: Ubuntu 9.10 onwards all ubuntu distros uses GRUB 2.0 & All other distros use old GRUB ie 1.0.

Phase 7: Starting Mac for the 1st Time!
16) Now, reboot PC, insert iATKOS DVD into drive. choose Mac entry from windows boot manager & Start your mac for the first time! configure it according to your keyboard, location etc.

Phase 8: Enjoying your Triple Boot Machine! 

Voila! you're done! :) Now whenever you will start your computer, Windows Boot manger will be prompted and You are perfectly good to go to boot into any OS you like.

Easiest way to make triple boot ever! :)

1) When you need to clean format just ubuntu partition and reinstall fresh distro.. Like generally I do every 6 months. You just need to format that old partition and install new one into same partition including GRUB. Then follow step 8 to get Ubuntu's entry into GRUB (if old one doesn't locate properly.)
2) If you need to reinstall Mac, follow the same as ubuntu.
3) If you need to reinstall Windows, Then no problem again! Just follow Part 4, 5 and 6..
In short, all Operating systems are independent. And No need to enter commands to recover anything. Even a kid can do it!

~ If you're more ubuntu/mac user than windows, then if will take at least 5 seconds more to forward to GRUB 2.0/iBoot Selection screen from Windows Boot Manager in every boot.

Suggestion, Feedbacks & Questions are always welcomed... :)


  1. I use a notebook HP ProBook 4421s, hm57 intel express chipset, how to install triple boot Snow Leopard 10.6, Windows 7, & Ubuntu 10.04 ?
    Reply please !!

  2. All same as above! There is just one thing I'm not sure whether 10.04 gives option to install grub into which partition or not.. So if it gives then follow above instructions.
    If not then just install as the usual way and still you will be able to boot into all OS. The change will only that you will be prompted GRUB first.. instead of WBM.

  3. Nice guide, I hope this can work for my new PC. I'll attempt this process in a couple days. All my OSes are on USB sticks though so I'm not sure what kind of problems I will run into.