Triple Booting a 2015 Macbook Pro (It's easy)

     I've written about triple booting Macbooks before, but the process has changed recently. I bought a Macbook Pro a while back which runs OSX 10.10 Yosemite out of the box, and that introduces a few new hurdles. I found a few detailed instructions around the web on how to run Yosemite, Windows 8, and Ubuntu on one machine, but they all involve significant terminal work and partition juggling, and I was looking for something a bit more straight forward, a bit cleaner. I was pretty sure there must be an easy way to install all three on a single Macbook, and I was right. It's simple.

     The combination of Yosemite and the 2015 hardware introduce two new problems: one, Yosemite doesn't think users should be allowed to resize partitions manually and, two, the 2015 Macbook's bootloader doesn't seem to recognize Ubuntu at all. Luckily, both of these are easy to fix. Yosemite declares the OSX partition to be "core storage" (I don't even know what that means), but that designation can be removed easily. As for the boot loader, the rEFInd bootloader (a spin-off of rEFIt) does recognize Ubuntu. Windows still works best when installed via Bootcamp, and this requires that it be installed both first and last, but we can get around that too. Basically, we start the Bootcamp process, then install Ubuntu, then finish the Bootcamp Windows installation. The whole process takes a few hours, but it works perfectly. When I boot my Macbook now I get the rEFInd loader screen with three icons.


How to triple boot a 2015 Macbook Pro:

(with OSX 10.10 Yosemite, Windows 10, and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS)

  1. In OSX, remove the Core Storage designation from your OSX partition. Instructions here.
     
  2. Launch OSX Bootcamp. Create a Windows installation USB drive (I've done Windows 8 and 10) and create a hard drive partition for Windows.
     
  3. When the computer reboots into the Bootcamp Windows installer, hold down the power button to shut down, then press Option+Power to restart into the Mac bootloader. Select and boot the OSX partition.
     
  4. In OSX, run Disk Utility. Reduce the size of the OSX partition, then create a new partition for Ubuntu in the empty space. File format on the Ubuntu partition shouldn't matter at this point. I used FAT.
     
  5. Create an Ubuntu installation disk whatever way you prefer with (I believe) whatever version you prefer.
     
  6. Shutdown again and Option+Power restart to get to the Mac bootloader, then select the Ubuntu install disk (should be labeled EFI, there might be two of them, either should work). Reformat the partition you created in Step 4 for Ubuntu and complete the installation process, then shutdown. (If you reboot into the Mac bootloader at this point, Ubuntu should not be visible)
     
  7. Power (not Option+Power) restart. Your Macbook should boot into the Bootcamp installation partition. Complete the Windows installation process normally. The Macbook will reboot several times. If ever it reboots into the wrong partition (it shouldn't), then manually shutdown, Option+Power boot, and select the Bootcamp partition manually.
     
  8. Almost done. After Windows is fully installed and you can use it normally, Option+Power reboot into OSX, then install rEFInd.
     
  9. Shutdown and perform a regular boot. You will arrive at the rEFInd menu with a 20-second timer, and all three OSs should be visible.
Enjoy.

Update:
I have had the problem, twice now, that whenever I install OSX updates, rEFInd disappears. When I power on the computer, it boots straight to OSX. This problem is fixed by simply reinstalling rEFInd from within OSX. Back to normal.

More Update:
Some users might receive errors when returning to the Windows installation process. Julian Leland recommends clearing the hybrid MBR data from within OSX via this process.

Comments

  1. Is it essential to the process to install Ubuntu between the Bootcamp install? if Bootcamp is already installed can those steps be skipped and just install the Ubuntu as described?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my experience, Ubuntu must be installed during the Bootcamp install. Repartitioning for Ubuntu after Windows setup is complete breaks the Windows installation. I haven't investigated to find out exactly why that is.

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    2. Thanks a lot for this guide. It came at a perfect time. I've got a MBP 11,3 with yosemite and a bootcamp windows install already. I was able to resize the windows partition. First it does break windows, but then I installed refind and it was able to recover the install. (use at your own risk). Once refind was installed I was also able to boot the 15.10 usb live (couldn't before, I used 14.04 to repartition). After install of ubuntu I had to boot into OSX and install refind again, but now I've got full triple boot! Thanks again!

      Delete
  2. Also, would this work for any Mac or just for the MacBook Pro 2015?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any Mac running Yosemite, that is...

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    2. I put this procedure together specifically for my Macbook Pro '15. For a my Macbook Air 2010, it was a completely different process. It might work on other Macs, but I haven't tested or verified that.

      Delete
  3. Thanks. Worked for me in a MacBook Pro mid 2009: El Capitan, W7, Ubuntu 14.04. Very concise guide.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Can you let me know how you got this to work in El Capitan? I can't figure it out. I'm on an early 2015 Macbook Pro Retina BTW. Thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Looking to do a Triple boot on a 2015 (late) iMac with a Fusion drive. I was concerned that because a fusion drive is essentially 2 physical hard drives partitioned together (sm solid state + platter), this may be difficult. Any suggestions?

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  6. Attempting to install Ubuntu on late 2015 Retina Imac with Radeon Graphics. When I attempt to install Ubuntu from within Grub I get a black screen. Have read numerous forums but no joy. Can anyone advise how to get past this? Thanks

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  7. The procedure breaks at step 6 when installing Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on a Mid 2015 MacBook Pro. Ubuntu fails to properly shut down, and after a forced shut down it restarts on Ubuntu instead of taking you to the Windows installer. To overcome this issue, I've proceeded as follows:
    - created a bootable USB drive with my Windows 10 ISO
    - booted back into MacOS by pressing the Option key when powering up
    - installed rEFInd, restarted the MacBook with the USB stick inserted and selected it from the rEFInd menu, which takes me to the Windows 10 installer
    - after having installed Windows 10, I booted back into MacOS, started BootCamp and clicked on the Action menu option from the menu bar, then onto "Download Windows Support Software"
    - installed the support software under Windows
    - reinstalled rEFInd from MacOS again, as it breaks after the Windows installation

    ReplyDelete
  8. I would like to setup an external thunderbolt drive and use it to house Windows and Linux. I want to be able to either boot a Mac from its own HD to run OS X or boot from the thunderbolt external drive to run either Windows or Linux

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have a late 2011 MBP running Yosemite (10.10.5) and bootcamped windows 8.1 on it. So far running both OSs normally. Now i want to boot Kali linux 2.0 from USB (live) without the need to install it or prepare some room for it on my Gard drive, using rEFInd 0.10.3

    After installing rEFInd and preparing the live Kali linux iso image USB I get 5 options on rEFInd menu:
    1- rEFInd
    2- boot into MAC OSX.
    3- boot into windows using bootcamp.
    4- boot into rEFInd syslinux.
    5- boot into OS from external volumes.

    the outcomes these are as follows:
    1- refresh the rEFInd menu.
    2- starts MAC OS.
    3- Windows 8.1 on bootcamp.
    4- hangs a black screen with an attempt to start Kali linux.
    5- Windows 8.1 on bootcamp.

    ReplyDelete

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