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I have a Macbook Pro (mid 2014) and want to run OS X, Windows and Ubuntu.

I installed Win 8.1 using Bootcamp in the standard way recommended by Apple. I set Windows as the default in Bootcamp, but pressed Option when I wanted OS X.

I then created a Ubuntu 14 installer flash drive, and installed Ubuntu 14 to another flash drive. I figured I could just boot from the USB when I needed Linux. But the installer also installed GRUB to the Macbook SSD (same happened to a colleague).

On the first few boots after this, I could boot with the Ubuntu flash disk in and it would offer a plain text (I assume GRUB) menu, which would enable me to choose between Ubuntu or Windows. If I booted without the flash disk I could hold Option, and could get into OS X.

Then behaviour changed. If I booted without the flash disk I got the GRUB command line with a flashing cursor. I assume booting into the flash Ubuntu put it there. Typing exit [enter] booted me into Windows. If I booted with the flash disk I got a Ubuntu menu that let me choose between Ubuntu and Windows. But I had lost OS X. I tried holding Option while typing exit into GRUB but it just booted into Windows.

Then behaviour changed again, possibly when I opened the Windows system tray Bootcamp assistant. Now, booting with Option held down offers the Bootcamp menu, with OS X or Windows. But I have lost Ubuntu on the flash disk!

Can I get my Macbook to simply boot from USB, like any Windows laptop could, by setting that in the BIOS? I tried holding C, but the Macbook doesn't seem to find the flash disk Ubuntu. Is triple boot possible, with eg, rEFInd? (Sources suggest it is with Bootcamp, too, but not in my experience.) I could re-install Ubuntu - is there a way of doing it without corrupting Bootcamp? How could I avoid losing Ubuntu again?

Is there some reason why Ubuntu won't co-exist with OS X? Is one EFI but the other not?

Help with understanding or diagnosis would be massively appreciated, let alone assistance with a solution.

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That is rather odd... I've never used rEFInd, but it does seem like it might help. It seems like the boot selector may only scanning the local disk for operating systems, in which case rEFInd would likely solve the problem (it seems worth a shot).

I triple booted my MacBook a while ago and BootCamp didn't have a problem recognizing my Ubuntu partition (that was around 5 years ago, though - I'm not sure they may've changed).

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  • Thanks for the comment. Can you remember the filesystem you used for your Ubuntu partition? Was the Ubuntu partition on an external disk or internal? Did you do anything in OS X Boot Manager? – Chris Aug 18 '15 at 21:56
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    I'm really unsure, but come to think of it, I may have used Boot Camp Assistant to split the drive into 2 partitions . You should be able to set up the non-OSX partition as Ubuntu & Windows, thus making OS X see it as only two entities: itself & grub. Grub would then take over the responsibility of booting into either Ubuntu or Windows. (Like I said, though, this was a while ago; I'm rather unsure how I did it.) I'm pretty sure that I just used the standard ext4 filing system, but it really shouldn't make a difference in getting it running here. – SamWN Aug 18 '15 at 22:30
  • Am I right thinking you booted into Windows then installed Grub from within Windows to the Windows partition which then enabled you to install Ubuntu onto the Windows partition? And Ubuntu and Windows can then sit on the same disk partition? Sorry for the dumb questions. (I've also seen it suggested that Bootcamp will detect flash drives but doesn't work for me so far.) – Chris Aug 23 '15 at 14:29
  • It would be: partition, install Ububtu (including grub), then install windows. – SamWN Aug 23 '15 at 20:37
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This seems like a much better route to go than the one I was suggesting: How to triple boot OSX, Linux and Windows 8.1 with a shared Data Partition...

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  • Or go the rEFIt approach. rEFIt seems like the easiest way to go about triple booting, the method linked above seems nifty, but a bit more complicated (especially considering the fact that all the screencaps are in Chinese) – SamWN Aug 23 '15 at 20:57
  • The thing I'm worried about with rEFIt is that it won't spot my Windows partition. I am not sure if it is possible to put OS X, Windows and Ubuntu on the same boot menu due to the hybrid UEFI/BIOS loader OS X uses to support Windows; although this is a bit beyond me - just terrified of losing Windows. (BTW most later tutorials advise you to use rEFIt's successor rEFInd instead as rEFIt is no longer actively developed and rEFInd is the same code but enhanced.) – Chris Sep 8 '15 at 14:18
  • I have a sneaky suspicion I could add something to the bootcamp menu through text file hackery. Haven't found the hack yet, but enjoyed your post thanks @SamWN as it gave me a little more understanding of the mechanics. – Chris Sep 8 '15 at 14:21
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I have done both the dual and the triple boot on my late 2011 MBP 8,2. If you wanted to change an OS it was quite an endeavor to do. Spend the fifty bucks and you don't have the headaches with rEFInd or bootcamp, check out VMware Fusion 8, you can install up to five OS's. I don't know if you can run all five at the same time, I do know you can run two well three including OS X, Linux Mint and Win 7 or whatever OS's you like. When you want to try another OS all you have to do is delete and install, no mess, no hassle.

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  • This is the solution I ended up using. VMWare claims near native performance and the networking and hardware emulation is much better these days. But it isn't flawless and I'd have gone with triple boot if it were less problematic. – Chris Nov 5 '15 at 9:18

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