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Creating and Imaging Boot Camp Partitions

If you’ve installed Boot Camp on a single Intel Mac, you know that the first step in the process is to create a partition that will be used as the boot drive for Windows. When you use the Boot Camp Assistant to do this, it dynamically repartitions your hard drive and creates a Master Boot Record (MBR) partition table, which is needed for Windows to be able to boot from the disk. This is an important step because Windows cannot recognize the GPT disk partitioning scheme used by Intel Macs (which, as mentioned in part 1, was introduced for compatibility with the EFI architecture used in Intel Macs). What’s interesting is that the process actually duplicates the GPT partition table by using a partition scheme that Windows can understand.

It is also possible to sidestep the process by using a diskutil, command-line version of Disk Utility to format a hard drive using the MBR partitioning scheme (the same one used by Windows PCs). You can then create partitions on the drive that are suitable for Windows (either NTFS or Fat32) as well as those that are suitable for Mac OS X (such as Mac OS Extended with or without journaling). The sample code below would partition an 80GB internal hard drive into two partitions, one 20GB formatted as NTFS, and one 60GB formatted as Mac OS Extended (HFS+) using the MBR partitioning scheme:

sudo diskutil partitionDisk disk0 2 MRBFormat MS-DOS NTFS1 20G HFS+ 60G

If you choose to sidestep the Boot Camp Assistant and create the partitions yourself, you can then install or restore to the partitions without any extra steps (that is, you can boot directly from a Windows XP Service Pack 2 CD and install Windows or Mac OS X). This can speed up the deployment process significantly, although it still requires that you do the deployment at each workstation instead of using a network deployment tool. However, this involves working with an unsupported technique, and you will want to test in advance to be certain that the process will work for you. You might also want to review the Unix man pages for the diskutil command.

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