Apples’ Mac OS is undoubtedly one of the most popular operating systems for productivity, media consumption, and video editing. It works seamlessly with any Apple computer. However, some of us would love the setup of having the option to choose between the world’s 3 most popular operating systems.
Disclaimer: This method was used on a 2007 iMac and it might not work for your system.
What you’ll need
-16gb flash drive
-ISO copy of Windows 7/8/10
-Linux ISO (distribution of your choice)
-Mac OS setup file of your choice
-Refit boot manager
(If you have a Mac with an M1 chip, learn how to install Windows 11 here)
Step 1: Backup your data
Yes, we all know the importance of regular backups. Use a hard drive or store your data on the cloud.
Step 2: Create a bootable Linux ISO
It might sound weird that you’ll install Linux first. There is a reason for this, as I discovered that Linux is the best operating system to partition the hard drive in preparation for a triple boot system.
Once you’ve downloaded a Linux distribution of your choice. In my case, I downloaded Zorin OS 15, use a program called balenaEtcher to create a bootable image on a flash drive. The program is easy to use and navigate. Just make sure you click on Unsafe mode in the settings.
Step 3: Install Linux
Restart your Mac and hold the option button. A menu will appear that will allow you to choose your flash drive which contains the Linux bootable image. Follow the instructions and install.
While installing Linux, you’ll be faced with two options. To delete the hard drive completely, or to partition the hard drive and install Linux. I decided to delete the hard drive and start fresh. This will delete Mac OS and Linux will be the only operating system.
Don’t worry about drivers as Linux comes with them preinstalled.
Step 4: Partition Hard drive
Once Linux is installed, reboot your computer and download an app called Gparted. Open Gparted and partition your hard drive to include two more sections for Mac OS and Windows. If GParted refuses to work (It might refuse to partition the hard drive when the operating system is running), boot Linux on a flash drive instead and use gParted to partition the hard drive. Linux can be run and tested on a flash drive. So that shouldn’t be a problem.
-Format windows partition as NTFS (name it windows or anything you want)
-Format Mac OS partition as exFat or Journaled (name it mac or anything)
Step 5: Install Mac Os
Using a different Mac, download the Mac OS of your choice and create a bootable image. Use an app called Install disk creator, which makes creating a Mac OS bootable flash drive easy and fast.
Once the bootable flash drive is created, Insert the flash drive and reboot your computer while holding the option button. You’ll be presented with the option to choose Linux or the flash drive. Click on the flash drive and install Mac OS in one of the partitions you created earlier with GParted.
After installation, reboot your computer to see if it worked. (Nothing should go wrong while installing OS X)
step 6: Install refit
Restart your Mac and hold the option button. You will be presented with Linux and Mac OS. Choose Mac OS and proceed to download Refit. Instructions will be provided on their website on how to install it. NOTE: Refit can only be installed when the Mac operating system is running.
Once refit is installed, reboot your computer and double-check to see if it’s working. You might need to restart it twice for the menu to show up.
Step 7: Create a bootable Windows flash drive
IMPORTANT: Intel Macs use GPT (part of EFI); Windows does not use EFI but uses the older MBR instead of GPT. This requires a GPT/MBR hybrid. Unetbootin might not work if you’re trying to create a bootable Windows ISO. This is where Rufus shines. Using bootcamp assistant is also a great option, however, depending on the Mac you have, the bootable drive created might result into an error.
If you have no access to a Windows machine, download parallels via the Mac OS and install windows on a virtual machine. Download Rufus, choose the Windows image of your choice and make sure you click GPT on the partition scheme menu or else the flash drive will not be recognized. The target system should be UEFI (non CSM).
If you choose MBR as the partition scheme, Refit will recognize it but you’ll be met with an error that states “no bootable device insert boot disk and press any key.” This may also happen when you use Unetbootin.
Step 8: The weird part
After Rufus has installed the bootable image on the flash drive. Insert the flash drive while you’re in Mac OS and copy all the files from the flash drive to the root of the Windows partition that you created earlier. Some Macs can’t recognize a bootable flash drive, therefore, you have to copy the files to a Windows partition. However, if your mac can recognize it without an error, then skip this part.
If you can’t see the windows partition, Install Tuxera NTFS and you’ll be able to interact with it.
Step 9: Install Windows
Reboot your Mac and choose the flash drive or the Windows partition with bootable windows files. Windows installation setup will start and you will be able to install. On settings, format the Windows partition you created earlier and let windows install. For those who copied the installation files on the windows partition, connect the USB later on and it will be recognized. Therefore even if you format the partition, the installation will still continue.
Windows will reboot a couple of times. Make sure you are there to click option and select Windows on startup. If everything goes well, you will have successfully installed Windows.
step 9: Download Bootcamp drivers
Boot Mac OS and download Bootcamp drivers for your specific model using Bootcamp assistant. After drivers are downloaded, boot Windows and install drivers.
step 10: Customize
That’s about it, now you have 3 operating systems at your disposal. You can even uninstall refit as the Mac boot manager is capable of recognizing all the options. It will look cleaner during boot.
The process might work differently for you and there might be many ways of doing this. This is my experience and that’s what worked for me. Cheers!
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