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I just got a new MacBook yesterday. I am not a stranger to Apple or virtualization or anything. I am looking for the best advice to run OS X, Windows and Linux and share a common data partition between them. I have 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.

I could use file-based virtual machines, but this has been slow and it is time consuming to move the VMs, back them up, and move files between them. A 30GB virtual machine is difficult to work with.

I could use Boot Camp, but that won't get me Linux.

How about repartitioning? Create four partitions:

  1. 30GB OS X
  2. 30GB Windows
  3. 15GB Linux
  4. ~400GB common data partition shared between the operating systems

What about using the OS X partition to boot to and using VMWare Fusion and having it look at the Windows and Linux partition I created to boot to?

For the common data partition, I could use HFS. Windows has MacDrive and there is an HFS driver for Linux if I recall.

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I've had great success with using rEFIt (an EFI-compatible bootloader) to do a triple-boot on my MacBook Pro. The general procedure is:

  1. Install rEFIt
  2. Create all of your partitions using Disk Utility, making the Windows partition the last one on the drive
  3. Install Windows
  4. Install Linux

More detailed instructions can be found here (adaptable to any Linux distribution):

As for the shared data partition, you can use NTFS if you don't mind a slight performance hit while in OS X and Linux. This is possible through FUSE and the ntfs-3g FUSE driver. The OS X version of ntfs-3g can be found here and the Linux version should be available in your distribution's package manager.

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I love rEFIt. In fact, I'm typing this on Windows 7 on my unibody MacBook (which was booted with rEFIt). – Isaac Waller Dec 18 '09 at 4:14

Check out Debian Wiki for a great guide on triple-booting OSX, Debian and Windows. It should give you some ideas about the basics of triple-booting. If you are doing OSX-Linux-Windows, rEFIt is probably a good choice, as Nick Pegg pointed out.

Next, I would definitely go for more disk space for each of the OS's (50 GB < OS), and a smaller shared drive.

Finally, from experience: do all your partitioning with DiskUtil in OSX (apart from Linux Swap(s) maybe) before installing anything on your new partitions. I've got Snow Leopard & Ubuntu on my drive, and I can't get DiskUtil to partition "MACINTOSH HD" anymore - don't know why, and google doesn't help ;-)

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