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My new Retina MacBook Pro is on its way, giving me time to contemplate setting it up. Good thing I got started—I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to install Windows and create an auxiliary data partition. I've been a Mac user for years, and have kept my files separate from the system disk since the days of System 7, but I haven't upgraded to a new Mac since Snow Leopard and built-in optical drives.

Boot Camp is Apple's solution for this, but it doesn't work on drives that have any non-standard partitions. Beyond whatever "user experience" logic Apple may have for this, there's a simple technical explanation: the MBR partitioning scheme used by Boot Camp supports a maximum of 4 partitions.

Originally, the Boot Camp engineers had no choice. They was forced into an ugly hack workaround involving the use of a hybrid GPT/MBR scheme (basically overlaying an MBR scheme on top of a GPT disk) since Windows used to be unable to boot from GPT disks.

That wasn't a problem on my old machine, where I had an optical drive and no OS X recovery partition. Partitioning the new one the way I want means 5 partitions. I find tons of guides and tutorials online that tell me how I can, with a bit of work, interrupt the Boot Camp process and repartition the drive, giving me almost what I want. Except every one that I've seen requires me to give up my recovery partition, since they remain hobbled by MBR's limitation of 4 partitions. I don't want to do that.

I'm wondering if I really have to compromise. Modern 64-bit version of Windows no longer have this limitation—they boot fine from GPT disks on EFI-based computers. Which are the only versions that are officially supported by the current version of Boot Camp, and the only versions that I care to run. So:

  1. Is Boot Camp 5 (as provided with OS X Mavericks) still using the hybrid GPT/MBR scheme? Since it explicitly supports only 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and 8, it is possible that they've jettisoned this ugliness. That would be a good explanation for the lack of support for Windows XP and Vista as well as all 32-bit versions. I don't have a lot of confidence here, but maybe all the online tutorials are just old. Has anyone actually tried it?

  2. If not, I don't want its grubby paws mucking up my disk. The obvious alternative is to just add a Windows partition manually in Disk Utility, install Windows, and then install the Boot Camp-provided drivers. If I do this, what do I stand to lose? What features/benefits does the Boot Camp Assistant and its associated setup process provide to me?

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Please see this link - thetecherra.com/2012/12/11/… . Be aware that MACs use EFI 1.1 not UEFI. –  user63628 Dec 9 '13 at 22:10

3 Answers 3

  1. I've tried Boot Camp only with x64, so I can't tell it.
  2. Usually I install Windows using this procedure. Benefits: you can install also x86 OS. Cons: nothing. You only have to manually install Boot Camp provided drivers for a best support, but you can skip this step, because OS like Windows 7/8.x they are able to automatically download the correct drivers with Windows Update.

Tested on MBP 13 Mid 2010 with OS X 10.9.1

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Try creating a hybrid MBR with gdisk.

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While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  jherran Jan 14 at 10:25
@jherran I know that, but it is impossible to follow the instructions without downloading the tool anyway, therefore if the site goes down, so would anything I copied here become useless. –  Beetle 952580 Jan 14 at 11:22

I can't help you with the first part of your question but the second matches how I do my windows (or Linux) installations. The only features from the Bootcamp assistant you really lose is the windows support software from Apple, but you can go through the Bootcamp setup assistant to download that software and then cancel out of the setup. Once you've got that software, you can install windows in a different fashion and still be able to use all of the drivers from Apple.

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