I have to admit that I cheated here. I already had my system using Boot Camp with a Windows Vista installation (which runs great on my MacBook Pro by the way) and I had two great pieces of software from Coriolis Systems- iDefrag and iPartition. By defragmenting my Mac hard drive, it essentially piles all the data onto the front of the drive. Then it was easy to use iPartition to shrink the Mac hard drive size. The reason I consider this cheating is that those two pieces of software are not free by any means and I already have had them for a while now from a previous bad experience with Boot Camp. There are lots of other ways this could be accomplished but this was quickest for me.

I installed rEFIt which basically tells your Mac as it boots to look not only for Mac and Windows, but other systems as well. rEFIt works flawlessly. You download it and have an .mpkg file on your Mac which you install. End of story. From another experiment I did almost a year ago, my experience was that it was also easily removed.

My Mac installation was pretty hefty and to have enough space on the drive I had to toss a bunch of stuff onto my firewire drive at least for the time being. I was aided in this by the app called Whatsize (worth every penny) which crawls through the Mac and tells you where all the stuff is that’s filling your drive. A couple easy targets:

  • iLife applications and libraries: those cool apps that make slick DVD menus, etc., take up a lot of space to have those menu themes ready and those photos and music may be small one by one but they add up.
  • Games: Cars Maternational was over a gigabyte and I think Civilization IV was even more than that.
  • Printer Drivers: I am pretty sure that the way the Mac “just works” with peripherals is that they load every peripheral driver known to man by default. I went in there and deleted the Epson drivers (since I don’t have one) and gained about 1.5 gigabytes!

After freeing up space, I defragmented with iDefrag and I ended up with a 16 gigabyte partition for Linux, 2 gigabytes of swap space for Linux, and an 8 gigabyte shared drive to put my music etc. on.

In hindsight, I would have done some things differently. There’s a limitation in what the Mac and Windows operating systems can see- they can only see 4 partitions which in this case were the Mac, Windows Vista, swap space, and the shared drive. The Linux partition remains invisible. In fairness this may be because I did all this to a Boot Camp system and I also have an idea I’m going to try (maybe) that may sort that out anyway. No idea. Had they all been visible it would have made some file moving a little simpler. But the shared drive was good enough in the end.

With rEFIt and the partitioning done, I had Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X all running after a few minutes with the Ubuntu CD I downloaded from ubuntu.com.