I have a 13" Macbook Pro (5,5) running Snow Leopard that I would like to triple boot Snow Leopard, Windows 7, and Ubuntu 9.10 on. I am running an 80 GB Intel X-25M as my primary drive and I want to have the three operating systems installed via the optical drive. I plan to replace the optical drive with a 320 GB hard drive to use as a data drive for all of the operating systems.

How should I format all of my partitions? I am assuming that on the primary drive I will have an HFS+ partition for Mac OS X, NTFS for Windows 7, and an ext3 partition for Ubuntu. Is there any format I can make the data drive so that it can be read and written to by all 3 OSes? Maybe Fat32? I do plan to put movies and large files on the drive though, so the format needs to support large files and I think FAT is only up to 4GB...

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    Any reason you don't use VMware Fusion? I didn't know you could replace the optical on the MBP cool beans if so. – user10547 Oct 15 '09 at 0:41
  • Yea, you just need a 40 dollar adapter from NewmodeUS. How much slower is VMware Fusion? I just want to have everything running as well as it possibly can and I am not sure if VMs take advantage of SSDs as well as an actual installation – Joshua Deffibaugh Oct 15 '09 at 2:41
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    @Joshua: VMWare is not that much slower. SSD will make a big difference in offsetting the minor performance hit. – osij2is Oct 15 '09 at 3:27
  • possible duplicate of [Filesystem to use for external hard drive to be used with Mac, Linux and Windows machines ](superuser.com/questions/235753/…) – Daniel Beck Jan 21 '11 at 17:51
  • Exact duplicate to the linked question. A comment there links to additional 5 duplicate topics. This question is about cross-platform compatible file system only. – Daniel Beck Jan 21 '11 at 17:52

There is no common native filesystem that will allow you to have files greater than 4GB and readable on all three operating systems, however NTFS can be read and written to by OS X and Linux using ntfs-3g.

If you do choose to go down the virtualisation route, use VirtualBox rather than VMWare Fusion. I've had much more success and performance out of VirtualBox than VMWare Fusion, and of course the obvious advantage is that it's free.

  • Thanks a lot for that tip, ntfs-3g looks like exactly what I need. I will most likely be formatting my second drive in NTFS and using that driver in mac and ubuntu to acess it. – Joshua Deffibaugh Oct 15 '09 at 3:42
  • Don't you also need MacFuse to read NTFS partitions in Mac OS? – alex Oct 15 '09 at 6:29
  • @Alex - MacFuse is part of the NTFS-3G installation and done automatically – BinaryMisfit Oct 15 '09 at 9:19
  • @Diago Really? I always installed it separately. – alex Oct 16 '09 at 4:56
  • Not sure about the MacFuse / NTFS-3G thing, but I've used both and now I'm using "Paragon NTFS for Mac" which is much better. – cregox Feb 24 '10 at 17:51

My question is, how should I format all of my partitions?

I've only done Windows XP with bootcamp partition, but two OSes? Seriously, save yourself some headaches and just use VMWare Fusion or if you're cash strapped, use VirtualBox. VMWare Fusion is releasing version 3 on October 27th with greater intergration/features with Snow Leopard. You have an SSD drive so the speed will be oh so sweet. Granted, you won't have much room as 80GB is not exactly much room, but either way paritioning or virtualizing, you won't really save space in one way or another.

Is there any format I can make the data drive so that it can read and written to by all 3 OSs?

VMWare Fusion, Parallels and VirtualBox support "shared folders" or whatever marketing term they've deemed for addressing your issue. In other words, the three big solutions all offer ways of sharing files between the guest VM and the host.

Seriously, don't waste your time and energy on bootcamp for an additional two operating systems. Go virtualize, and let others envy your SSD on your MacBook Pro.

  • After doing some more research and reading the answers here I have decided to go with VMs. I am probably just going to buy VMWare Fusion since you automatically get 3.0 for free. Thanks a lot for convincing me to get with the times haha – Joshua Deffibaugh Oct 15 '09 at 3:38
  • Just tryin' to help ya out. I used to dual triple/quadruple/N-th booting many years ago. Virtualization saves my sanity and time. No reason why it can't save yours as well. Plus, you have SSD... sigh – osij2is Oct 15 '09 at 3:43
  • I kind of hand a bit of a windfall so I splurged on an SSD, but still I can honestly say that they are worth every penny and if you are on the fence about getting one you should do it. It is the best performance per dollar upgrade you can do. – Joshua Deffibaugh Oct 15 '09 at 4:02
  • Believe me, it's the first and only upgrade I'm planning on at this point. But 80GB won't get me anywhere as I use well over 130GB. At a minimum, I'd need the 256GB SSD drives, but for $600+, it's a hard sell for me. I'm just waiting and saving up but there is definitely a premium on SSD. – osij2is Oct 15 '09 at 14:10
  • Virtualisation is the way to go, Parallels 5 is about to ship and it works well with all the OS' you have outlined. Virtual box works wel too, but I haven't tried Fusion. – Bruce McLeod Nov 2 '09 at 0:05

This website provides a great guide for installing. https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MactelSupportTeam/AppleIntelInstallation

You can also google "dual boot mac osx and ubuntu." there's plenty of info at ubuntu.com

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