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:
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?
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?