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What robust setups of partitions which accommodate (a) MtLion OS X, (b) Windows x64, (c) Data partition used [primarily] under Windows?

Things that would be desirable (optional) past the basic stability are:

  • live shrink/expand/add/delete of partitions preserving existing data
  • ability to upgrade to newer versions of OS X without risk of losing Windows or Data partition
  • ability to upgrade / reinstall Windows without risk of losing OS X data
  • ideally, data shared for read & write between Windows and OS X
  • ideally, no third-party [paid] tools / drivers required for the whole scheme to work
  • All these are safe and doable under normal Disk Utility why do you think there is a problem? (except possibly the transfer) – Mark Oct 16 '13 at 10:58
  • @Mark Could you elaborate how would you implement this under normal Disk Utility? – yurkennis Oct 16 '13 at 11:18
  • Just create 4 partitons under disk utility e.g HFS+,FAT, FAT, NTFS. The only ones it might have issues with is the full resize, as there are limits and the transfer. – Mark Oct 16 '13 at 11:41
  • @Mark: Is FAT as resistant to "media ejected during a write" as NTFS and overall less fault-tolerant? Doesn't FAT limits file size to 4GB? Does FAT allow Unicode file names? Isn't FAT slower than NTFS on large volumes? (see ntfs.com/ntfs_vs_fat.htm) And I tried to R/W-share exFAT partition between OS X and Windows -- it immediately resulted in corrupted filesystem/files first time I tried to write from OS X; why FAT should be more reliable in this respect? And I've seen reports from other users on corrupted FAT when shared for RW. – yurkennis Oct 16 '13 at 11:57
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    Refit just controls how things boots it will have no effect on partitions or other disk access – Mark Oct 16 '13 at 19:07
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Always have a good backup before you attempt any partition and/or filesystem changes!

That said, here are some answers to your list of questions.

1. ability to shrink/expand/add/delete partitions safely after both OSes installed, while safely preserving the data

  • By default, Disk Utility allows resizing only through changing the end of a partition (not the beginning). If you need to resize any partition both ways (like "shrink partition for one OS to expand partition for another"), then there may be a need to physically move data to accommodate that. This can be done only with third party tools like iPartition, which supports "non-destructive resize of HFS+ (including case-sensitive and journaled), FAT and NTFS partitions" (taken from the Coriolis Systems website). Even with a third party tool, you may not be able to resize partitions around in every combination that you can think of (you also need adequate free space to consolidate all files).

2. ability to upgrade to newer versions of OS X without risk of losing Windows or Data partition

  • You can do this without issues with the setup you have linked to.

3. ability to upgrade / reinstall Windows without risk of losing OS X (including OS itself, applications, user data&settings) -- [1] has it

  • This is also possible with the setup you have linked to.

4. ideally, data shared for read & write between Windows and OS X

  • The free solution to do this is to have the data partition formatted as FAT32. But this would limit individual file sizes to 4GB. Also, FAT32 does not have journaling, unlike NTFS and HFS+ that do. So recovery from data corruption is possible through some rudimentary means, but not as reliable as other filesystems.
  • By default, OS X can read NTFS (Windows) volumes, but not write to it. On the other hand, by default, Bootcamp allows you to read the OS X volume, but not write to it.
  • There are third party applications to allow read/write access to HFS+ volumes from Windows and to allow read/write access to NTFS volumes from OS X. The most popular ones being the solutions from Paragon Software.

5. ideally, no third-party [paid] tools / drivers required for the whole scheme to work

  • See the above points. It's not possible to eliminate FAT32 from the scheme without third party tools/drivers (free or paid).

6. ability to easily transfer the whole setup to a new HDD (complicated for [1])

  • Transferring to a larger HDD is going to involve some manual work. There is no easy way to clone it out since your partition size requirements in the larger HDD would be different. While partitioning would require some work, cloning all these partitions to another drive of the same size is possible using disk based cloning utilities like Clonezilla (this is feasible with larger disks with the partitions already created, but would require some more work for the OSes, especially Windows, to recognize the new size).

7. ideally, ability to have more than 2 partitions under Windows (i.e. 2+ data partitions)

  • You can have multiple partitions, but the overall partition management is better managed through OS X.

8. risk of any OS to corrupt any partition should be not larger than in a single OS setup with its native partition

  • This is more of a filesystem and cross platform filesystem driver question. Although third party tools/drivers for NTFS from OS X and HFS+ from Windows have existed for years, they cannot be guaranteed to be bug free. Without native read/write implementations from either OS for the other's filesystem, a regular backup (or even two) is a good practice to follow!
  • > ability to upgrade to newer versions of OS X without risk of losing Windows or Data partition: You can do this without issues with the setup you have linked to -- no, upgrade from Lion to MtLion reset my NTFS data partition. – yurkennis Oct 16 '13 at 16:31
  • (I believe the data partition reset was a result of recovery partition silently re-created during upgrade to MtLion) – yurkennis Oct 16 '13 at 16:45
  • > ability to easily transfer the whole setup to a new HDD (complicated for [1]) I asked recently on how to perform such a migration: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/105226/… . Could you detail there how CloneZilla can help for system+data bootcamp setup (or leave a link in your answer) ? – yurkennis Oct 16 '13 at 17:25
  • > ability to shrink/expand/add/delete partitions safely after both OSes installed Disk Utility won't help as long as I choose NTFS for data partition, as it's not visible by Disk Utility (more on why NTFS, not exFAT: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/105391/… ) – yurkennis Oct 16 '13 at 18:09
  • Using NTFS read/write on OS X, as mentioned, requires third party tools/drivers. If you have those installed for NTFS read/write support in OS X, then Disk Utility will be able to see the NTFS partition and also help you create NTFS partitions. If you cannot create an NTFS partition using Disk Utility, then you do not have the appropriate tools/drivers installed. – M K Oct 16 '13 at 18:17
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My own solution for the original problem so far:

  • give up having a dedicated Windows data partition on the built-in disk
  • split the built-in disk into two partitions: (1) OS X bootable and (2) Windows bootcamp bootable
  • size that partitions based on some initial estimation; use a subset of this process (specifically, Time Machine for OS X, WinClone for Windows) to re-size partitions when absolutely necessary
  • when completely out of space on either of partitions, or in need of shared read-write storage, purchase PNY StorEDGE (eg 128GB) non-protrusive SD card as a dedicated user data disk (exFAT); large read-only files like books/music/read-only mail archives are good candidates to move there.

This minimizes most of the risks and dependence on third party tools, keeps NTFS for Windows volume, is friendly to OS X upgrades and reinstall of any OS. Straightforward, but promises to be reliable.

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