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Triple Boot Issues (Vista, XP, OSX)


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So I have been experimenting around for the past few weeks on trying to get all three Vista, XP, and OSX booting on the same maching off the same HDD. I have gone through many issues and am very close I believe.


The current order in which I installed the OS'es (all fresh installs) was Vista, XP, then OSX. I have stuck with this order due to effects Vista has on other OS's booting properly. The partitions on the HDD are also in the same order they are installed. Right now I can boot OSX and XP out of the Darwin bootloader and not VISTA (I boot XP by selecting the Vista partition) and selecting the XP partition itself gives an NTLDR is missing error. In OSX I examined both the VISTA and XP partitions to see that XP wrote over the Vista boot files.


So I guess the question is: How can i get each OS to write its boot files to its own partition? Do I need to set the partition to which I am installing active before I try to itsall the OS? Does windows automatically write the boot files to the active partition then install the files on the selected partition? This would make perfect sense and would (hopefully) be the answer to all of my problems.


If anyone knows for sure or has any other suggestions please let me know.




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I haven't messed with rc2 but I did do this about a month ago and I can tell you what worked then. First off you want to start with windows xp. format just the partition that xp will be on and leave the rest as free space. If you format everything right off the bat windows will put the mbr and stuff on one of your empty partitions not it's own.


have a copy of http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/ burned so you can get to your windows xp after this next step if anything goes wrong.


format the next partition for that you will install osx on by going to disk management in windows and making a fat 32 partition. You can also make a ntsf partition for vista at this time it shouldn't hurt.


run the osx installer and erase the fat 32 partition getting it ready for osx. once you have osx installed you may need to use the ultimate boot cd to set windows as active to get into windows again. This next part I don't remember so well but however I got the windows boot loader to set osx as an option is what you do next.


Now simply install vista on the final partition. make sure to back-up your boot.ini and the windows boot loader and stuff just in case it gets messed up during the install. Just put a copy of the files in another folder on the drive.


Now when you boot you should get an option to boot windows or old operating system. when you pick old you should get the old boot loader with osx and windows xp still.


two steps but it works.


Good Luck.

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If the vista partition was active and non-hidden, the xp install indeed has put its boot.ini, ntldr and ntdetect.com in the vista root; you could attempt to copy these from the root of vista onto the root of your xp partition, and then see what happens when selecting winxp directly from the darwin loader (the boot.ini should already point to partition(1); check this anyway).


Another way, and to avoid reinstalling, would be to repair the vista booting with the install dvd, and then use vista's boot manager to access xp and osx. There are a few instructions here and there on insanelymac on how to configure vista's bt mngr to tripleboot.


You need only reinstall all in the worst case!

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Okay I finally got it! It's finally over and I am very happy with the results. I am triple booting XP, OSX, and Vista using the Darwin bootloader (the fastest and easiest IMHO). Here is how I did it:


ATTENTION: I used a new HDD and had an old install of XP on another HDD which I switched back to periodically to perform tasks on the hard disks. If you have a bootable partition and formatting tool that you prefer you can avoid switching hard drives and booting into an dold XP install periodically, its your choice, I just know this way works.


- Start with a new HDD or a completely wiped HDD...

(I had another install I was using to coordinate most of the procedures involving windows)


- Booting from another install with the Intended HDD as a secondary drive, format 2 FAT32 partitions for XP and Vista. The reason the partitions are FAT32 is because when formatting the third partition to HFS+ with the OSX installer, the NTFS file system will be corrupted...don't worry, we will fix this before we install Windows.


- From a Windows command prompt type the following:

select disk *
create partition primary size=** id=af

*use the disk number represented in the Disk Management utility of XP in this space

**insert size in MB or remove the size parameter completely to use the remaining space on the hard disk


- Boot your computer with only the triple boot hdd connected with the OSX Install CD

Use Disk Utility on the install CD to format the OSX partition we created to HFS+.


- Reboot to your old Windows install with both HDD's connected and format the two new Windows install partitions we created in the second step to NTFS.


- Disconnect the old HDD and reboot with the Ultimate Boot CD FOUND HERE

Press F10 on the first screen

Type "rpm" into the terminal

Set your first NTFS partition active.

Exit and boot with your Vista DVD.

Install Vista to this partition.


- When Vista is done installing, do the same thing and istall XP on the next partition. MAKE SURE that you set the intended XP partition active before you install XP or it will mess up your Vista install. Use the UBCD for that.


- Now when XP is done installing boot from your OSX DVD and install OSX to your third partition. Be careful not to use Disk Utility to format anything or you WILL ruin your Vista and XP installs.


- When OSX is done installing add the following lines of text to the apple.com.boot.plist:


*You can use whatever time you feel is necessary.



And let me know if there is anyhting I missed.



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select disk *
create partition primary size=** id=af


*use the disk number represented in the Disk Management utility of XP in this space

Rather than using another utility to find the disk number, you can use the diskpart command "list disk" to find the disk number to use in the "select disk n" command.


list disk		(to find the number "n" of the disk)
select disk n	(where "n" is the number of the disk)
create partition primary size=** id=af

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  • Since you use UBCD anyways, why not use it instead of your old hd to partition your drive? It contains partitioning tools. Or you could use diskpart after your vista or xp install to create the 0xaf partition.
  • Using the Disk Utility from the osx install dvd never corrupted any of my ntfs partitions (logical or primary) when formating to hfs+ the target partition; if you worry, you can set these two ntfs partitions to be hidden before installing osx if you prefer.

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Thanks rammjet for the quick fix there.


cbmkgd, coming toward the end of my journey with this I actually realized (half-way...didn't really ever connect it) that Disk Utility didn't corrupt the NTFS partitions. I read somewhere in another post that it did do such a thing, and I figured that was why when I installed OSX last and formatted the drive it messed up all the toher installations. THis is the reason why: First I had the OSX partition as active and FAT32. I installed Vista which put it's boot files on the FAT32 drive, then installed XP which did the same, the formatted and installed OSX which wiped my other installs' boot info. All in all, I now can say that I have learned quite a great ammount about booting and installing OS'es. I have probably installed Windows 20 times in the past 2 weeks only to have it all fail in the end. Now I have it working and am very happy. Thanks for the help guys.



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  • 2 weeks later...

I've got


Partition 1: WinXP

Partition 2: Linux Ubuntu

Partition 3: Linux Swap

Partition 4: MacOSX

Partition 5: Shared in FAT32


I first installed WinXP without a hitch, after that I installed MacOSX and after that the Linux Ubuntu. I was hoping to get GRUB seeying all the os's on the disk but it wasn't. GRUB saw only Ubuntu and WinXP but not OSX


Can anybody help me out? Thanks

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It's not enough to list the partitions, you must tell what kind of partition: primary? logical?


osx has to be on a primary partition; furthermore, this primary partition is better to be before the extended partition. If the partitions you listed are in that order on your disk, I suspect osx is on a logical partition, or a primary after the extended.


Later, when you properly install osx in the right way, you will have to edit grub's menu.lst yourself to point to osx. Search the forum for "grub" and you'll have some examples of dual/triple/multi-boot with grub.


I suggest:

  • primary1: winxp
  • primary2: osx

  • extended:
    • logical1: linux swap
    • logical2: ubuntu
    • logical3: fat32 data

That way, you have space for another primary (a second osx? a second windows? vista?), and you could also have another logical partition of type NTFS for large files (>4GB) that fat32 can't handle.


The point is that OSes that can be put in logical partitions should be, to let others that prefer primary partitions get these privileged spots.

To optimize, a second hd would be preferable (they're cheap these days...).


If ubuntu is already in primary, move the swap in a logical and put osx in its place (depends what you had first).

Anyway, there are many possibilities.

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Thanks for your reply ;-)


I'll clarify my partitions:


Partition 1: WinXP ----> Primary

Partition 2: Linux Ubuntu ------> Primary

Partition 3: Linux Swap -------> Primary

Partition 4: MacOSX --------> Extended

Partition 5: Shared in FAT32 ---------> Extended


Ok I'll change and reinstall tomorrow as follows


* primary1: winxp

* primary2: osx

* primary3: osx server


* extended:

o logical1: linux swap

o logical2: ubuntu

o logical3: fat32 data


Like you said, it's better that way I think :blink:


What about the amount to give to each partition? I've got 80gb in total


Winxp 10gb

Osx 10gb

Osx 10gb

Lx Swap 1gb

Ubuntu 10gb

Share 39gb



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Always depend on expected usage. If you make 4.37 dmg images, you can do from one osx partition to another, so that's ok. If you need space at one point for many dvd iso images from windows, 4.3GB or 9GB (it happenned to me at least once for the 9GB), you'll need ntfs partition; but it will be easy to split your 39gb fat32 share partition.

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