I have a Late 2012 27 inches iMac with an internal HDD (that has a Macintosh HD partition, an EFI partition and a Recovery partition) and an SSD.

I installed Windows 10 on using BootCamp Assistant; the SSD has only the BOOTCAMP partition (relabeled by me as "Windows" to make it look better) and the EFI partition. Even if Windows might seem to be installed as EFI (EFI partition, GPT scheme etc...), I mounted the EFI and found out that there is no boot loader on it. I then searched on the Internet, and on some sites they say Bootcamp uses "MBR Hybrid", in the sense the drive appears as GPT but behaves as MBR on the Windows side.

I have intention to install Ubuntu and a custom EFI bootloader (rEFInd) on my Mac, so - to simplify things a little - how do I make sure Windows is ACTUALLY installed as EFI on my second internal volume? Also, I'd like to know if doing so compromises in any way how the BootCamp Support Software (aka BCA Drivers) works.

  • First question: Where is the SSD drive installed? Just to answer one of our questions: It is possible to install Windows using a hybrid MBR boot + OS X + Ubuntu using a EFI boot all on the same internal disk. And adding rEFInd is optional. Apr 21, 2016 at 15:51
  • Well, the SSD is into the Mac itself, connected via SATA. It is eligible for Win install. Mac bootloader does not detect ext4 volumes, here is why I need rEFInd
    – Manchineel
    Apr 21, 2016 at 16:07
  • Here is a question for you: Name any machine (Apple or other manufacturer) that has a bootloader that detects ext4 volumes. Your comment implies that rEFInd has to be installed in order for a machine to boot Ubuntu. Clearly the EFI specification, GRUB and Linux were designed to boot Ubuntu without the use of rEFInd. You can use rEFInd if you want, but it is not required. Apr 21, 2016 at 21:46
  • But, when I hold alt on startup, it does not detect any ext4 volume
    – Manchineel
    Apr 22, 2016 at 5:23
  • When installing rEFInd, you have the option of also installed and a driver which allows rEFInd to read ext4 volumes. This driver is also optional with respect to booting Ubuntu. The Ubuntu installer will place GRUB files in an EFI partition on a Mac. The rEFInd utility can detect these GRUB files and allow the Mac to boot Ubuntu via GRUB. Since the EFI partition is FAT formatted, the ext4 driver, supplied with rEFInd, is not required to boot Ubuntu. Again, if you wish, you can also include the ext4 driver. Apr 22, 2016 at 19:00

1 Answer 1


With respect to Microsoft Windows, 2012, through 2014 were translational years for Apple Macs. For the 2011 and older Macs, Windows is installed in BIOS/MBR mode using a Windows installer DVD. In 2012, Apple started to drop the optical drive from its Mac models. To allow Windows to be installed, the Boot Camp Assistant application copied the files from the Windows installer iso, to a USB flash drive. The "Boot Camp Support Software" was also included on the flash drive. To install older Windows versions, the "Boot Camp Support Software" files had to be manually copied to the flash drive.

Staring in 2015, Apple dropped the ability to install operating systems that require a BIOS/MBR boot method. This eliminated the possibility of installing Windows 7 on these Mac models. This change brought Macs update to date with the reset of the industry, which converted to EFI/GPT booting of Microsoft Windows in 2011. Also, with the release of El Capitan (OS X 10.11), the Boot Camp Assistant can now install Windows on certain Mac models without the use of a DVD or USB flash drive.

So where does this leave the transitional 2012 through 2014 model year Macs? I wish I had an absolute answer. Consider the following.

  • If one had Windows 7 installed in BIOS/MBR mode and upgraded to Windows 10, then the result would be Windows 10 running in BIOS/MBR mode using the "Boot Camp Support Software" intended for a Windows 7 installation. Some people have reported that running "Apple Software Update" afterwards will result in the downloading and installing of newer "Boot Camp Support Software".
  • Some people have installed Windows 8/8.1/10 from scratch on their model Mac in BIOS/MBR mode with any problems, while others have done the same on their model Mac in EFI/GPT mode without problems. I do not remember anyone trying both methods. Usually, once one method works, they quit trying.

So, it really depends on what the "Boot Camp Support Software" for you model Mac will allow. You have reported that the Boot Camp Assistant installed Windows 10 on your Mac using a BIOS/MBR boot method. So I assume this is what is right for your model Mac. However, if you have created the Windows 10 USB flash drive installer, then you could try both methods. Insert the flash drive and restart the Mac. Hold down the option key at startup. If an icon labeled "Windows" appears you can try a BIOS/MBR install. If a icon labeled "EFI Boot" appears, then you can try a EFI/GPT install.

In the end from the user perspective. it really does not matter which method is employed to boot Windows. Ubuntu is installed in EFI/GPT mode which works independent of either Windows boot method. I guess the Windows EFI/GPT method offers a fast boot option, but this can only be used when Windows is the sole operating system on a computer. You intend to include both OS X and Ubuntu Linux.

Note: Some Linux installers will not install in EFI/GPT mode to a hybrid GPT. To solve this problem, you may need to:

  1. (Optional) Make a backup copy of your Protective MBR (PMBR).
  2. Use the Boot Camp Assistant, Disk Utility or other application(s) to create a hybrid GPT.
  3. Install Windows. (Usually to partition 4)
  4. Save a copy of the hybrid MBR.
  5. Covert the MBR back to a Protective MBR (PMBR) or restore from backup.
  6. Install Linux to new partitions without changing the existing partitions.
  7. Restore the hybrid MBR from the backup.

Another solution, would be to install Linux first, leaving a space for Windows to be installed after Linux. In this case, format the Windows partition HFS before installing Linux and FAT before installing Windows.

If you intend to install Windows on a second disk, you may want to read the posts made to the question: "Problem Installing Windows 7 via Boot Camp".

  • My idea was: disk one (GPT) with OSX (EFI) and Ubuntu (EFI); disk two (GPT) with Windows 10 (EFI), so to have all OSes. If I have understood correctly, what I have to do to achieve this is formatting my disk 2 in FAT GPT (only EFI and FAT partition, from Disk Utility), installing Windows 10 booting DVD or USB in "EFI Boot" mode (formatting the only FAT partition as NTFS during procedure when prompted), downloading the Support Software for my model of Mac (even if it does not support EFI for BootCamp) and - well - in the BootCamp control panel inside Windows, not touching settings about disks.
    – Manchineel
    Apr 23, 2016 at 19:22
  • If I install Win as EFI, will the BootCamp drivers (for screen, sound, graphic card etc...) work the same way, or will the have issues because of the "unexpected" partition table? (I don't think graphic card or network adapters work differently for EFI or BIOS, but you never know.
    – Manchineel
    Apr 23, 2016 at 19:25
  • By "unexpected", do you mean that the MBR will not be a PMBR? If doubt it, but if this was an issue, then make sure the MBR is configured as a PMBR. (Have you ever looked at these tables? Do you know how?) Apr 23, 2016 at 20:34
  • Take the graphics driver for your Mac as an example. Lets say you use the Boot Camp Assistant to download the "Boot Camp Support Software" and intent to install Windows 8/8.1/10. One of four possibilities exist: 1) The driver works for both BIOS and EFI. 2) The driver only works for BIOS. 3) The driver only works for EFI. 4) There are two drivers. One for BIOS and one for EFI. There is no way to know. Also, if you downloaded the "Boot Camp Support Software" for Windows 7, would the drivers be different? For my 2011 iMac, they are the same. Apr 23, 2016 at 20:46
  • I have intention to not use MBR at all. I want it to be GPT: Windows 10 supports it
    – Manchineel
    Apr 23, 2016 at 20:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .