Well, I decided to remove everything and start from scratch. I need Windows 8, Fedora and FreeBSD on the same disk, I prefer to have GRUB as main bootloader.

I'm having problems with partitioning because Windows needs two primary partitions (as far as I know), Fedora needs one and FreeBSD also needs one, and this exceeds the maximum of four (considering one from each system, plus an extended for other mountpoints).

So I read Fedora can be installed entirely on an extended partition, divided into logical ones (boot, root, home and swap), but I tried and got a non-booting system.

I also read that I could use GPT and have as much primary partitions as I want (or at least more than sufficient), but I don't have even a clue on how to use this.

  • The System Reserved partition (~350MB for Win8) needs to be primary and active, but Windows itself can be installed in an extended partition.
    – Karan
    Jul 14, 2013 at 4:29

3 Answers 3


Basically, you've got three options:

Option 1: BIOS/MBR

You can use BIOS-mode booting with an MBR partition table. Contrary to what you stated in your question, Linux does not need a primary partition. There are also ways to get Windows to boot with just one primary, but I'm not an expert on that. Thus, you should be able to get it all working with two or three primary partitions and everything else on logical partitions. Setting this up shouldn't be hard, but there are a lot of fiddly little details, many of which have no single right or wrong answer. I recommend installing either FreeBSD or Windows first and Linux last. Preparing your partitions before you begin may be worthwhile, if you understand your needs well enough in advance.

Option 2: EFI/GPT

You can have as many GPT partitions as you like (128 is the default limit, but that can be raised if necessary). There's no distinction between primary, extended, and logical partitions in GPT; there are simply partitions (no modifier). Windows, though, will boot from a GPT disk only in EFI mode, so this option depends on your having an EFI-capable firmware. (If you had a strong enough reason to favor this approach, you could look into using DUET on a BIOS-based computer, but IMHO that's more effort than it's worth in most cases.) Assuming you've got an EFI-based computer, the biggest problem with this approach is that the FreeBSD EFI boot loader is still experimental and isn't integrated into the FreeBSD install process, or even officially available in binary form. Thus, you might need to boot FreeBSD in BIOS mode and Windows in EFI mode. (Linux can boot in either mode.) This is possible with most modern EFI-based computers, but it can be awkward. The least awkward way to do it is to use rEFInd as the boot manager. This program is an EFI boot manager, but it includes the option to launch a BIOS-mode boot loader. You'll need to uncomment the scanfor line in refind.conf and ensure that hdbios is among its options. Be aware that rEFInd's ability to launch BIOS-mode boot loaders is limited, though, so test it on your computer before investing too much effort in this approach.

Option 3: BIOS/hybrid MBR

I hesitate to even mention this option, because IMHO it's the worst of the three by a wide margin; but I'm trying to be complete, at least in enumerating the options. When presented with a hybrid MBR, Windows sees the MBR side, Linux sees the GPT side, and FreeBSD sees both sides. The upshot of this is that you can partition the disk using GPT for all OSes, set up Linux and FreeBSD to boot with that, create a hybrid MBR on the GPT disk, and install Windows to use the MBR partitions. You'll then need to re-install GRUB (since Windows will insist on overwriting GRUB). This might be an acceptable option if you really did need more primary partitions than are available, but as the linked-to page on hybrid MBRs describe, they violate the GPT specification and they introduce new dangers in your partition management. Thus, I can't recommend this method unless you have some compelling reason to use it. (It might be necessary if you were installing on a Mac, for instance.)

Overall, I think that the BIOS/MBR option is likely to be the best one for your situation; however, if you do have an EFI-based computer and if you want to experiment with bleeding-edge FreeBSD software, you might consider the EFI/GPT option. If you're using a Mac, the hybrid MBR option may be required.

  • I did the first, and prepared the partitions before the installation. Apparently Fedora needs /boot on a primary partition, because from my experience I could not boot it from a logical one. But fine, I had enough partitions for everything :P will accept if it works fine!
    – ranieri
    Jul 14, 2013 at 20:02
  • Broadly speaking, Linux can boot fine from logical partitions. I just tried, and although I'm not a big fan of the new (since Fedora 18) Anaconda (Fedora's installer) user interface for partitioning, I did manage to tell it to install to a disk with one NTFS primary partition and the rest logical partitions. I prepared the partitions ahead of time, though; I don't know if Anaconda would have created such a setup itself. Previous versions would have done so if there was no other option.
    – Rod Smith
    Jul 15, 2013 at 22:03

Partial advice that doesn't fit in a comment:

To my knowledge, no version of Windows can boot from a GPT disk unless the computer has UEFI firmware (instead of BIOS) and you install Windows in UEFI mode – in which case, GPT is required. Linux works well with UEFI. I don't know about FreeBSD.

If UEFI is available, and if you figure out FreeBSD's compatibility with it, then I suggest using it. GPT basically has no such thing as "extended" or "logical" partitions, so that never becomes a problem – and the limit is 128 partitions. (One is always the "EFI system partition", a tiny FAT32 partition that contains the bootloader files. It is possible to have multiple bootloaders, although not all UEFI firmwares have sensible UIs for choosing between them.)

  • Well, UEFI is not available, so I guess GPT is out of contention...
    – ranieri
    Jul 14, 2013 at 4:11
  • Are you sure that EFI is unavailable? The vast majority of computers shipped in the last two years are EFI-capable, even if they originally booted in BIOS mode. All computers that ship with Windows 8 and that have Windows 8 logos must ship with EFIs.
    – Rod Smith
    Jul 14, 2013 at 19:18
  • My BIOS is messed and I can not access it with administration rights
    – ranieri
    Jul 14, 2013 at 20:01

firstly you install windows after it create unallocated space in extended partition after it install FreeBSD, after the installation of FreeBSD reboot the system and run the FreeBSD after it you go to the grub.conf file and save it to another drive like pen-drive and after it, restart the system and start windows and again create unallocated partition in extended partition and install fedora in it at boot time, after installation boot the system with the fedora and go to grub.conf file and also open grub.conf file previously we copied from FreeBSD and copy the entry from FreeBSD grub.conf(don't copy the whole file content just copy from where the title FreeBSD start and till the end of file ) and paste into fedora grub.conf file(paste where first title end and second title start ) save and restart system and enjoy .

  • FreeBSD cannot be launched from logical partition, neither uses grub.
    – ranieri
    Jul 15, 2013 at 17:35

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