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March 8, 2016

How to dual-boot Windows and OS X El Capitan on separate hard disks in your Hackintosh

Running Mac OS X on a Hackintosh is great, but most people still need to use Windows every now and them. That's where dual-booting comes in. Dual-booting is the process of installing both Mac OS X and Windows on your computer, so that you can choose between the two when your Hackintosh starts. In this guide, we're going to show you how to set up your Hackintosh to simultaneously boot Windows and OS X El Capitan (currently the newest version of Mac OS X, as of March 2016). To do this, we will be installing the two operating systems on separate hard disks, which is the easiest and most hassle-free method.

For the purposes of this guide, we'll assume you're using either Windows 8 or Windows 10. (Although Windows 7 also works most of the time, the compatibility is a bit more fuzzy, so we can't give any guarantees.) Real Macs dual-boot Windows and Mac OS X using Boot Camp, an application from Apple that allows you to install the two operating systems on separate partitions in your Mac's hard disk. However, Boot Camp does not work with Hackintoshes.

That being said, setting up a dual-boot system on a Hackintosh is still pretty easy. We've previously covered how to dual-boot Windows and OS X El Capitan on the same hard disk. However, that method is relatively complicated. Instead, this guide will show you how to install Windows and OS X on two separate hard disks, which is a much simpler method.

If you are planning to dual-boot a new computer that doesn't have anything installed on it yet, I recommend that you install Mac OS X before Windows. The installation for Mac OS X can be rather finicky, so you'll want to do it first. However, if you have already installed Windows on one hard disk and you want to install Mac OS X on another, then just ignore Steps 3-4 of this tutorial.

The process for dual-booting OS X El Capitan with Windows is pretty similar to the process for dual-booting other versions of OS X. The main difference is in the "bootloader," which is the program that actually boots Windows and Mac OS X when you start your computer. For our purposes, we'll be relying on the new Clover Bootloader, which is now used in all Hackintosh installation methods for OS X El Capitan, including tonymacx86's ever-popular Unibeast method. Compared to the older Chameleon/Chimera bootloaders, which we used in our previous version of this guide, Clover offers better hardware support, faster boot times, and more advanced features for your Hackintosh.

1. Install Mac OS X
Install OS X El Capitan on your first hard disk. To do this, simply follow any of the guides in our "Installation Guides" section, or from the top menu of this website.

SEE ALSO: How to install OS X El Capitan on your PC with Unibeast

NOTE: If you're installing Mac OS X after Windows, you may need to enable AHCI in Windows beforehand. Otherwise, Windows will not boot after you install Mac OS X. This is usually only a problem if your motherboard uses the older BIOS standard instead of UEFI (see Step 5 to learn how to tell the difference between BIOS and UEFI).

2. Run Multibeast and install Clover Bootloader
Multibeast is essentially an installer bundled with a lot of software fixes and kext files for Hackintoshes. The "Quick Start" section of Multibeast 8 (the version customized for El Capitan) will allow you to install Clover Bootloader on your computer-- check out our guide to Multibeast for more details.

SEE ALSO: How to use Multibeast 8: a comprehensive guide for El Capitan

NOTE: In our guide to Multibeast, you'll see the option to install Clover Bootloader in either "UEFI Boot Mode" or "Legacy Boot Mode." If you've already installed Windows before installing OS X, refer to this guide on EightForums to check whether Windows is in "legacy mode". If your copy of Windows was installed in legacy mode, you'll have to choose "Legacy Boot Mode" for Clover, even if your computer's motherboard technically uses UEFI (see Step 5 to learn the difference between UEFI and BIOS).

3. Set up your Windows installer
Once Mac OS X is installed and properly set up on your first hard disk, you can begin the Windows installation process. First, you'll need to check whether your computer's motherboard uses UEFI or BIOS (see Step 5 for details).

UEFI on the left, BIOS on the right
If your computer's motherboard uses BIOS, the process is relatively straightforward. You'll need to install Windows in legacy mode, which is usually the default. Simply get a standard Windows installation DVD or USB drive from Microsoft, and proceed to the next step.

However, if your computer's motherboard uses UEFI, you'll have to install Windows in "UEFI mode," and not "legacy mode"! Otherwise, you won't be able to boot Windows with Clover Bootloader. This can be very tricky, because the official Windows installation DVDs/USB drives from Microsoft will install Windows in legacy mode by default, without telling you. To ensure that you install Windows in UEFI mode, do not use the standard Windows installation USB drive/DVD from Microsoft. Instead, follow this guide from EightForums on setting up a UEFI-capable installation USB drive, using tools such as Rufus (displayed in the screenshot below).

4. Install Windows
Now, you can finally install Windows on your second hard disk. First, unplug your OS X hard disk from your computer (you can do this by opening up your computer, and unplugging the SATA cable connecting the hard disk to your computer's motherboard). This is necessary because Windows has a tendency to mess up OS X during the installation process, even when the two operating systems are located on separate hard disks.

Next, plug in your installer USB drive/insert your installation DVD, and install Windows on your second hard disk accordingly.

NOTE: During the Windows installation process, if you get an error saying "Windows cannot be installed to this disk. The selected disk is of the GPT partition style," this means that your installation USB drive isn't UEFI-capable! Start over Step 3, and make sure to properly follow EightForum's guide to setting up a UEFI-capable installation USB drive.

5. Set your Mac hard disk to highest priority
Like Mac OS X, Windows also has a bootloader, but it doesn't work with any other operating systems besides Windows itself. That's why we're going to override it with Clover Bootloader, which supports both Mac OS X and Windows (and Linux, if that's your thing). Currently, Clover is located on your Mac hard disk, so we need to give your Mac hard disk a higher boot priority than your Windows hard disk. You can set this in the BIOS (or UEFI), which is basically the settings page for your motherboard.

Restart your computer, and enter the BIOS (or UEFI) of your motherboard. To do this, you need to press a certain key when your computer starts up. On Gigabyte motherboards, for example, you need to press the Delete key. Different motherboard brands use different keys; the key will probably be displayed on the motherboard splash page that you see when your computer starts.

If your computer has a motherboard built before 2012, it will probably use the BIOS standard. If it's newer, it will probably use the UEFI standard. Can't tell the difference? For quick reference, the interface of BIOS is usually monochrome and entirely text-based, while the interface of UEFI includes pictures and allows you to use your mouse pointer.

UEFI on the left, BIOS on the right
Once you've entered the BIOS/UEFI, find an option called something along the lines of "Hard Disk Priority," "Boot Order," or "Boot Option Priorities." On my Gigabyte GA-P67A-D3-B3 motherboard with BIOS, this option is located under "Advanced BIOS features". On motherboards that use UEFI, you may simply have to look for a list of hard drive icons.

Change the priority of your hard disks so that your Mac hard disk is the highest. On Gigabyte motherboards, you can change priorities with the +/- keys (you might have to use the +/- keys on your keyboard's number pad). Save the changes you've made (press the F10 key on your keyboard for Gigabyte motherboards) and leave the BIOS/UEFI.

NOTE: If your computer's motherboard uses UEFI, make sure to set your top boot option to a hard disk with the prefix "UEFI," as opposed to the prefixes "P0," "SATA," or "Legacy." This may be necessary for Clover to work properly.

6. Fix the kinks
Now, every time your computer starts up, it will use the Clover Bootloader installed on your Mac hard disk instead of the Windows bootloader. From the Clover screen, you'll be able to choose whether to boot Mac OS X or Windows.

However, even after you get Mac OS X and Windows to boot alongside each other, not everything will be in perfect harmony yet. Before you settle down, apply the following fixes:
Once that's done, your Hackintosh will have a fully functional dual-boot setup. Congratulations!

NOTE: If you installed Windows in legacy mode (i.e. your computer's motherboard used BIOS), you will probably have to select the "System Reserved" partition on the Clover Bootloader screen to actually start Windows (not your normal Windows partition). Meanwhile, if you installed Windows in UEFI mode (i.e. your computer's motherboard used UEFI), you may have to select the "Windows EFI" partition instead. This is because Windows installs itself in an unusual way, which doesn't work as well with non-default bootloaders like Clover.

SEE ALSO:  How to dual-boot Windows and OS X El Capitan on the same hard disk in your Hackintosh