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In this guide I’m going to walk you through installing 3 or 4 separate operating systems on one PC – ideal for someone who wants to try out all of them on the same hardware or learn an operating system other than Windows. There are five basic steps to making this work:

  1. Configuring your disk partitions to hold 3 or 4 different operating systems.
  2. Installing your preferred version(s) of Windows.
  3. Installing Mac OSX. (Not surprisingly, this is the longest step)
  4. Installing Linux Ubuntu.
  5. Configuring the GRUB boot loader to include all OS partitions.

Setting up Your Disk Partitions

This is the first and in my opinion most important step to setting up a multiple-boot system. Unless you are using third-party software, changing partitions can really screw up your system, as certain actions are not allowed in Windows’ Disk Management program (combining empty space to the left of the system partition, etc.). I like to set up the partitions for EVERY operating system before I start. This way there is no creating/splitting/combining partitions later in the process. There are three different disk managers for the three different types of operating system, so things could potentially get out of hand very quickly.

Create Your Windows Partition(s)

Open comp management2 220x220 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSX

Most likely you are starting with a version of Windows installed already. Open the Start Menu and right-click on Computer, selecting “Manage” from the context menu. This will bring you to the Computer Management window. Select “Disk Management” from the left pane and you will be taken to the disk management screen. From here you can add, delete, format, extend, and shrink partitions.

 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSX

If you have one instance of Windows taking up your entire hard drive, you will see a screen similar to mine. In order to create free space to create more partitions, we first need to shrink the active partition. Right click on the partition and select “Shrink volume.” When you do this a window will pop up and ask you exactly how much smaller you want to make the partition. Try not to take up all the shrink space, but give a healthy space to your other operating systems well. And remember, 1000 MB = 1GB. I shrank my partition by 20000 MB (20 GB) to give some space to OSX and Ubuntu.

Once your space is labeled “Unallocated” you can create partitions for the other OSs. To do this, simply right-click on the empty space and select “New Simple Volume.” A wizard will open that allows you to choose the size of the partition, assign it a drive letter, give it a name, etc. When I am creating partitions for another OS, I always format them FAT32, give them the other operating system’s name (example “OSX”), and I never give them a drive letter. This way Windows cannot use this volume (no drive letter) and it is formatted in a way that all OSs can read. Also, the label makes it easy to tell which installation goes on which partition. This will all make more sense later.

After this step is complete, it is pretty obvious which OS goes where. I allocated 12 GB for OSX and 8 GB for Ubuntu. The next step is to install your 2nd iteration of Windows if you are quad-booting or move on to the Mac OSX installation.

Install a Second Version of Windows

When installing two versions of Windows, I recommend always installing the newer version of Windows second. This will ensure that the Windows boot loader is configured properly. Proceed to insert the Windows installation DVD, boot from it, and install Windows on the appropriately labeled partition of your hard drive. You should now have a dual-boot Windows environment. This process works with XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

Install Mac OSX

Find an Installation DVD

This is by far the hardest part of the entire process. Mac OSX was not designed to run on a large variation of hardware, and thus lacks the ability to function, boot, or even install on some hardware. By the grace of some hackers good friends we can find versions of Mac OSX that will run on most any hardware, but installing & configuring these is the challenge. These are referred to as OSX86, or OSX that runs on X86 architecture (non-Mac PCs), and they are packaged with a bootloader that allows Mac OSX to boot on normal PCs.

As a side note, installing Mac OSX on any non-Apple labeled hardware violates the End User License Agreement (EULA) of the software. Some people try to skirt this issue by throwing an Apple sticker on to their laptop/desktop after “Hackintoshing” it. I, however, would never degrade my gorgeous VAIO hardware with such a thing. My point is: if you like Mac OSX after installing it, buy a copy.

Search for and download a copy of OSX86 from your favorite torrent site. The version I use is iPC 10.5.6, as this has the best driver support I have experienced for OSX. I will walk through the installation using this version as well. After downloading the .iso simply burn it to a DVD.

Gather System Information

In order for the installation to work correctly you will need to know a lot of in-depth information about your hardware. This will come in handy when you are choosing the appropriate drivers during the installation. Open Windows Device Manager by typing Device Manager after opening the start menu and pressing enter. This will help a lot in determining what options you will need to choose at installation. Make sure you write down this information, as you won’t have access to it during the installation.

 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSXI will break these drivers into a couple of categories:

  • Motherboard/Processor
  • Connectivity
  • Input
  • Video
  • Audio

Motherboard/Processor

Know what type of motherboard/processor you have. Basically speaking, know if it is AMD or Intel, what version of ICH it runs on (Input/output Controller Hub), and what version of SSE it has (Streaming SIMD Extensions). This can be found easily under the “System Devices” tab in Device Manager or by searching your processor online to find its traits. This is important as OSX was designed to run on Intel after 2006. If you are running an Intel setup you may be fine as is, but if running OSX on an AMD processor you may need to install OSX and experiment with the other kernels available on the iPC DVD.

Connectivity

Isn’t this what computers are for nowadays? You need to make sure you have the right drivers for your ethernet/wireless connections, if they are available. Dropdown the “Network devices” tab in Device Manager to look at your devices and make a note of them. Write down all of the information you can, for example “Marvell Yukon 88E8036 Ethernet” as opposed to “Marvell Yukon”. Unfortunately my wireless card is not supported in OSX. You may find this a problem as well if you have a laptop.

Input

You may need to install additional drivers to get USB, internal hard drives, keyboard etc. to work. For example, you may need to click on ICHx SATA support to get internal SATA drives to be recognized. Know your hardware.

Video

This is possibly the easiest one to figure out. Know what video card and make a note of it. I, for example, have an integrated Intel GMA 945 on my chipset. Click “Display Adapters” in Device Manager.

Audio

See video. This is very easy to figure out from the “Sound, video, and game controllers” tab of Device Manager. Know more than just the manufacturer, but what model of card you have. For example, my sound is Realtek ALC-262.

If you have all of this information you are ready to start the installation. Print out the rest of this guide, insert the DVD into your computer, and boot from it. Good luck!
AppleInstallScreen 220x220 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSX

Start the installation

For more help with the installation visit this Great Blog.The first problem people usually have is the bootloader not loading at all. When running correctly, you should see a gray screen with the Apple logo and a spinning wheel underneath it. If the bootloader loads incorrectly you will see a small “No!” sign appear on the Apple. This could happen for a thousand different reasons, but to minimize the possibility of this happening again, press F8 and type the following into the command prompt:

-v -f -x

These are three commands that tell the bootloader to do three things:

-v Load from verbose mode, listing the commands in the boot process on the screen instead of using the GUI Apple screen on top of it

-f This command skips some driver loading. If one of your devices/components is causing a crash this may allow it to boot anyways.

-x This command boots OSX in safe mode.

If you need additional help, try searching the forums at insanelymac.com. They may be able to help more than me, as I’m not a full-fledged expert at this.

InstallScreen2 220x220 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSXFormat the OSX partition

Eventually you will get to this screen, which you may recognize as the default Leopard background for OSX. Select English as the default language, and wait a few seconds on the next screen. A bar will appear at the top of the screen. Now click on “Utilities” and then “Disk Utility.” This is where you will change your OSX partition to a format that OSX can install onto. Select the appropriate partition from the left pane (notice it is labeled whatever you called it in Windows), and click the “Erase” tab on the right pane. Change the volume format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and then click the “Erase” button on the bottom right. That should format the partition. When you are finished click the red circle in the top right of the window. Click the “continue” button.

Choose your drivers & install

Now you can select that partition to install OSX onto. Continue to the next screen. Here, YOU MUST CLICK ON CUSTOMIZE! This is where you select the drivers for your installation. Go through every item on the dropdown menus and select the drivers corresponding to your hardware. If you second-guess something, you should probably leave it out. After selecting my drivers I had one Chipset driver, 1 video driver 1 Audio driver, 1 Ethernet driver, 1 PS/2 driver (keyboard & mouse) and that’s about it. Unfortunately there is no solid guide for this section; it is a lot of trial & error. The first time I installed OSX on my laptop I had to try 6-7 installations before it actually worked. If your installation doesn’t work just start with the OSX installation DVD again, wipe out the partition and try a different configuration, kernel, etc. From here simply click on the install button and it should start the process. If you’ve just burned the DVD you can probably skip the “Checking installation DVD” part, especially if you’re impatient like me.

Boot into OSX

When the installation is complete, remove the DVD. When the prompt appears press the F8 key to get to the command line. From here type

Boot prompt Apple 220x220 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSX-v -f

This helps Mac OSX boot the correct drivers the first time around, and if everything goes according to planned you should see the OS X Welcome video. From here you can go through the first startup procedure, which includes creating a user account, choosing date and time, etc.

Poke around a little and make sure things like your ethernet, wireless, and sound are working and you are viewing it at the highest resolution your graphics can handle. You may have to go into your preferences menu to select things like “internal speakers” for playback instead of “default”, and I had to do a little terminal work to get my ethernet to work, but it should be an enjoyable experience. My hardware volume control buttons even work! It’s not uncommon for 1 thing to not work correctly; that’s just the reality of an X86 PC running Mac OS. People who are building a PC can cater their hardware choices around a Hackintosh, however. One other downside to running a Hackintosh is that the Apple Software Update will usually screw up your system. Avoid it and search online if you want to update your version of OSX.

OSX Screenshot 220x220 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSXThe other beautiful thing about this DVD and bootloader is that Darwin has automatically set up a chainloading dual-boot for you; that is, when you start your computer you should see a prompt to boot into either Windows or OSX, and if you select Windows (0,1) it should boot straight into it or have an option for the two versions of Windows you have installed.

Like I said, this is definitely the hardest part, and I would be happy to answer any questions that anyone has. I’m not an expert, but I may be able to help or at least find someone who can. If you’ve done this successfully, congratulations! You’ve done something fairly difficult and really cool on your PC. Use OSX around people with Macs and watch them get mad. With any luck, you’ll be running it as fast as they can!

Install Linux Ubuntu

Find a distribution

Visit Ubuntu.com to pick up the .iso file for the latest version of Ubuntu. As of this post it is 9.04, but 9.10 is slated to be released soon. Burn the file to a bootable DVD. Insert the DVD into your drive and go ahead and boot from it.

Install Ubuntu

When you first boot up the Ubuntu DVD, select your language and then select “Install Ubuntu” and press Enter. After this, follow the instructions by selecting language, time zone, and keyboard layout, clicking on “Forward” every time. On the next screen, select “Specify partitions manually” and click “Forward”. Click on the partition in the table that you have set up as your Ubuntu partition (by now, the only one formatted as FAT32) and click “Delete partition” at the bottom of the screen. Select the free space and click “New partition” and create an Ext3 or Ext4 file system from the free space with a mount point of “/”. This formats the partition into an Ubuntu partition, installing Ubuntu onto the root of the partition. Select that partition once more and click “Forward”. Choose “continue” at the prompt, as you have almost definitely left Ubuntu enough space and don’t necessarily need a swap partition. Fill out your logon information and click “Forward”, and then click “Install”. When prompted, take out the DVD and press Enter to restart your computer. You should be taken to the GRUB bootloader, which will show a couple options for Ubuntu and Windows, but no Mac OS. Choose the first Ubuntu entry.

ubuntuScreenshot 220x220 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSXIf everything went according to planned, you should be looking at the Ubuntu desktop! However, now we have no option to boot into Mac OS. It’s time to change the boot sequence.

Configure the bootloader

Add/modify entries in the GRUB bootloader

I usually start out editing the GRUB bootloader, and since we’re in Ubuntu right now, we might as well. Open a Terminal (Applications àAccessories à Terminal) and type in the following:

sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

Enter your password and hit enter. This opens the GRUB bootloader file in a text editor where we can add or delete entries. Scroll down to the bottom of the file and you should see something like this:

title                        Windows Vista (loader)

rootnoverify      (hd0,0)

savedefault

makeactive

chainloader        +1

I have Windows 7, so I simply changed it to say “Windows 7” without the “(loader)” text. To add Mac OSX to the mix, add another line entry of the same format under the Windows entry as follows:

title                        Mac OSX

rootnoverify      (hd0,2)

makeactive

chainloader        +1

Remember to plug in the appropriate (hdX,Y) values for your system. Note that OSX was (0,3) in the Darwin (Mac) bootloader. Partitions in Linux start at 0, not 1. Therefore, loading the Windows bootloader is (0,1) in Darwin and (0,0) in GRUB.

If you wish you can also change the default operating system that will boot when the timeout expires. There is a line about 10-15 lines down that reads:

default                 0

This reads the first entry from the bootloader as the default OS. If you wish to change it, count up starting at 0 through the entries. Whichever entry you want as default, insert its appropriate value in place of 0. From here simply save the file and restart your computer, trying your edited and new boot entries to make sure they work. Feel free to change the timeout on GRUB, as well as removing the line that separates Mac OSX and Windows from Ubuntu. I set my boot timeout to 3 seconds, set my default OS as Windows 7, changed the description of Ubuntu to simply “Ubuntu 9.04” (I don’t care what kernel number it is!), removed the separator line, and even removed the memtest and recovery mode entries for Ubuntu. It works great!

You’ve done it! You now have 3 (or 4) fully functioning operating systems running on your computer, with an easily editable boot manager that lets you choose between them at startup. If you have followed along and tried this yourself, let me know how it worked for you. I would love to hear any feedback and answer any questions anyone might have.

This guide has been a long time in the making for me, and I want to thank those at the InsanelyMac forums, the osx86project wiki, all Mintywhite readers and forum members, members at the Ubuntu forums, and especially my wife, who rolls her eyes every time she walks past the office and sees me on my computers. I hope this guide helped someone besides me.

Update: For those who are interested, I am working on updating my OSX86 installation from 10.5.6 to 10.5.8 so I can use iPhone developer tools. I’ll let you know how that goes.



 Triple/Quad Boot Your PC With Windows, Ubuntu, & Mac OSX

About Mike

Mike recently graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems and currently works as a data manager in the organ transplant department for a large healthcare company, mainly working with Oracle databases and systems administration and occasionally doing some web development. On the side he enjoys playing with the Android platform and Windows Media Center. He also spends time as an administrator on the Mintywhite Forums.

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Comments

  • elvinu

    Nice article.

    Note: In the last version of Ubuntu you have grub.cfg not menu.lst.

  • elvinu

    Nice article.

    Note: In the last version of Ubuntu you have grub.cfg not menu.lst.

  • RSVR85

    I’m really looking forward to trying this out (i have the OS X ISO, just waiting for my DVD drive!!). Thanks for the detailed guide MSherwood, great job!
    I’m sure this will help loads of people out and help shake the myth that it’s impossible to install OS X on a PC :)
    Cue tongue poking at wife……….

  • RSVR85

    I’m really looking forward to trying this out (i have the OS X ISO, just waiting for my DVD drive!!). Thanks for the detailed guide MSherwood, great job!
    I’m sure this will help loads of people out and help shake the myth that it’s impossible to install OS X on a PC :)
    Cue tongue poking at wife……….

  • elvinu

    Nice article.

    Note: In the last version of Ubuntu you have grub.cfg not menu.lst.

  • RSVR85

    I’m really looking forward to trying this out (i have the OS X ISO, just waiting for my DVD drive!!). Thanks for the detailed guide MSherwood, great job!
    I’m sure this will help loads of people out and help shake the myth that it’s impossible to install OS X on a PC :)
    Cue tongue poking at wife……….

  • Mark McKay

    I’ve not as of yet tried OSX, and it sounds like I may not have the time to.

  • Mark McKay

    I’ve not as of yet tried OSX, and it sounds like I may not have the time to.

  • Mark McKay

    I’ve not as of yet tried OSX, and it sounds like I may not have the time to.

  • Cdoublejj

    the windows loader no longer works after installing either osx or ubuntu 9.10. 9.10 loads osx in grub but the neither windows can be loaded.

  • Joshthebrain

    Very helpful.  Thanks for posting it.  Got mine working on a Dell Precision 380 with Windows 7, Mac OSx, Ubuntu, and Zorin. 

    Word of advice, Install Windows and set up partitions, then OSx, then Linux.  Make sure the boot section under the Linux set up is for the WHOLE drive not just the partition, that way the Grub loader enters all of the boot options.

    I was not able to boot Windows 7 after installing OSx, but after Linux went on they all became bootable.  Downside is not network drivers for the built in LAN under OSx, so I just need a NIC that is Mac compatable.


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