Tutorial Suggestion: How to install Linux (Ubuntu/Fedora) on MacBook Pro?

Hello Itsfoss

Your tutorials are really valuable, but I couldn’t find the following kind of tutorial… really, as a fact there is few information about the web.

  • How to install Linux (Ubuntu/Fedora) in an old MacBookPro?
  • How to install Linux (Ubuntu/Fedora) in an old MacBookPro (as dual boot)?

My main interest is the first scenario

I have an old MacBook Pro (mid2012) and is impossible do an upgrade to the latest macOS, therefore I bought a new SSD to replace the current HDD, but I want install Linux.

As a record, I know how to install, as fact I already did do installations of Ubuntu on Toshiba and HP, by changing the HD and doing a straight installation of Linux (no dual boot) in these laptops. Accessing the BIOS, using GParted and the .iso file of the Linux distribution.

How to accomplish the same goal for a MackBookPro? It covering many points of important consideration:

(1) How to access the Bios to change the boot order?

(2) Does GParted work with MacBook Pro?
I use this software only to create a unique partition, the rest is handled by the Linux installer itself, it creates its own internal partitions. I use this software only to create a unique partition, the rest is handled by the Linux installer itself, it creates its own internal partitions. I use both tools for HD management, the former to prepare the HD to be used by the latter, it to let create and handle the partitions as need it - by demand - for the installation process itself.

(3) How to configure correctly the MacBookPro’s keyboard? For example does not exist the Home/End keys. How is interpreted the “fn”, “control”, “option” and “command” keys in Linux?

I use VirtualBox 6.1.x on this Mac, but sadly its support ends in December 2023. Therefore, because my current MacBook Pro has a decent state, I want use the hardware but with Linux.

Pls, consider to create this long and detailed tutorial.

Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to It’s FOSS, @Manuel_Jordan! I don’t have any specific Ubuntu on Mac experience but I do know the Command or ‘Apple Key’ is treated as the Windows (aka Super) key on a regular keyboard.

I’ve read about a few people running Ubuntu on that generation Macbook pretty much without a hitch. I’m confident you’ll be able to do it. I just don’t know the specifics. :sunglasses:

If you’re swapping the HDD for new drive: Physically install the new drive and boot from your thumb drive with Ubuntu on it by holding the option key at boot. Let Ubuntu use the whole disk and you should be good to go.

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It’s really easy and you don’t need to do anything special with the grub or boot order etc.
Switch your Mac off
Put the usb key with Linux into the usb port
Or if doing it from a cd dvd insert that
Restart your Mac holding down the C key
The Mac will make the usual start up sounds then ask which you would like to boot from with a suitable image on screen
Select the usb
And then wait for Linux to boot up after that it’s install as normal
Warning some Mac’s although 64 bit in that year don’t want to start Linux and you may have to go with a 32 bit version… I cannot fully remember why but it’s something to do with the screen driver display. I did my Mac with Debian first then did not like it so went to mint LMDE
If you then decide to have a dual boot
Start Linux on your Mac as above using the C key to boot from the usb
Select install and then install side by side from the selection offered that will do the resize of the partition automatically

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Look up RFEfind I think it’s called…

Apple adopted UEFI a long time before it became an industry standard…

I installed Xubuntu 16 on an ancient white iMac (iMac 2,1 - coreduo - i.e. before “core2duo”) - I used RFEfind (sic - my spelling might be out) to dual boot between OS X and Xubuntu (but Xubuntu was installed on a thumb drive)… Haven’t even powered it up for 2-3-4 years or something…

Someone else on here has install Linux on a more recent MacBook than yours…

I’m not about to install Linux on either my MacBooks - they’re M1 - so it’s not straightforward (Linux Torvalds does it - i.e. he does kernel compiles on Linux, on an M1 “Apple Silicon”) - I’m perfectly happy with POSIX compliance in Darwin / MacOS and a native UNIX shell environment…

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Thanks for the suggestion @Manuel_Jordan

I can surely create a tutorial on it… in fact, I had a draft video on it more than a year ago… don’t remember why I never finished it…

There was specific keys to press to access the boot…
For partitions, the disk utility in mac worked fine as far as I remember

I’ll revisit this topic next week (when I get hold of the MacBook air again)

2 Likes

Huge thanks to all for the quick, polite and detailed feedback, by order of your replies:

Welcome to It’s FOSS, @Manuel_Jordan

Thank you :slight_smile:

I don’t have any specific Ubuntu on Mac experience but I do know the Command or ‘Apple Key’ is treated as the Windows (aka Super) key on a regular keyboard

Interesting, I don’t remember that feature when I use VirtualBox … time to check it :slight_smile:

If you’re swapping the HDD for new drive: Physically install the new drive and boot from your thumb drive with Ubuntu on it by holding the option key at boot. Let Ubuntu use the whole disk and you should be good to go

Thanks for the “option” key indication.

Restart your Mac holding down the C key

Do you mean the “Command” key?

Warning some Mac’s although 64 bit in that year don’t want to start Linux and you may have to go with a 32 bit version… I cannot fully remember why but it’s something to do with the screen driver display. I did my Mac with Debian first then did not like it so went to mint LMDE

Interesting this situation, I never imagined this potential issue, I had this situation with an old Acer of 32 bits … with 2GB or RAM. In that case was installed Linux Peppermint of 32 bits of course. In this case the hardware by itself is based on 32 bits.

Look up RFEfind I think it’s called…
Apple adopted UEFI a long time before it became an industry standard

Good point, but anyway, if is used the “option” or “C” key I am assuming that the BIOS or UEFI is loaded in peace … Am I correct, right?

I installed Xubuntu 16 on an ancient white iMac (iMac 2,1 - coreduo - i.e. before “core2duo”) - I used RFEfind (sic - my spelling might be out) to dual boot between OS X and Xubuntu (but Xubuntu was installed on a thumb drive)…

I am assuming because the kernel available is newer, should be not arise any issue … of course, one thing is install and other is run the OS itself

Haven’t even powered it up for 2-3-4 years or something…

Not sure If I understood correctly, did you mean that the OS was not upgraded in 2/3/4 years?

Someone else on here has install Linux on a more recent MacBook than yours…

I am assuming based on 2015 (common scenario in the web too)

I’m not about to install Linux on either my MacBooks - they’re M1 - so it’s not straightforward (Linux Torvalds does it - i.e. he does kernel compiles on Linux, on an M1 “Apple Silicon”) - I’m perfectly happy with POSIX compliance in Darwin / MacOS and a native UNIX shell environment…

It is the good news for me, because our macs manufactured about minor/equals than 2015 are based on Intel yet

Thanks for the suggestion @Manuel_Jordan

You’re welcome, because I usually read mostly your tutorials among other pages, I thought in this page as first option

I can surely create a tutorial on it… in fact, I had a draft video on it more than a year ago… don’t remember why I never finished it…

Sounds great … about the video, is there an official YouTube channel? I follow this page through twitter. Some times I wrote some comments through that network … but I don’t remember nothing about videos … consider to do some announces about that in Twitter too

There was specific keys to press to access the boot…

Consider to cover it in the tutorial …

For partitions, the disk utility in mac worked fine as far as I remember

It for dual boot purposes.

I’ll revisit this topic next week (when I get hold of the MacBook air again)

Take all the time you need. In the Apple world, surprises could be hidden … it is the other reason of had requested this tutorial.

Extra Question

  • Does Linux (Fedora/Ubuntu) recognize the Mini DisplayPort ? it to let me use a secondary monitor, yes I have the Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter and works currently for macOS as expected. But for Linux?
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No the letter C key at boot allows you to select the drive to boot to. Originally it was C as in cd and they never envisaged usb as an option
The keys on the Mac such as n for network boot etc there is a whole list of them.
As far as I know Linux does not work on new Mac’s with M1 processor yet but I am sure it will come shortly.

Yes your Mac will see both screens no matter what connection but you may find you have to choose which is primary and if you want the screens to be both the same or just an enlarged one screen it’s in control panel and displays. Works the same in laptops with external screens.

On updates if not used . You are not forced to upgrade to a new release unless you want to and you do it when you want.
I currently have a client on Linux mint 14 who has never done a update never done any changes never gets new software, he is happy just looking at email and the web … Think the real reason is he forgot his password and is not willing to let me update or reinstall the system to sort it, will not pay as long as it works why fix it. So 2 or 3 years is nothing I am thinking 8 perhaps more

Thanks for the reply Paul

Yes your Mac will see both screens no matter what connection

What screens? Do you mean about either BIOS or UEFI right? But just one of them, right?

but you may find you have to choose which is primary and if you want the screens to be both the same or just an enlarged one screen it’s in control panel and displays

Pls, expand the idea, is not clear … I want have the complete picture

On updates if not used . You are not forced to upgrade to a new release unless you want to and you do it when you want.

Agree, but the main reasons to decide to get an upgrade are about bug fixes and security update

Interesting the scenario of your client … but if is for custom/personal use has sense … otherwise is a risk

Linus Torvalds himself, is using Linux, on an M2 Mac (i.e. Apple Silicon arm64)… He does kernel builds on there…

I’m guessing it’s not very straightforward, but I’m agnostic about Linux VS UNIX, and quite happy with ZSH on MacOS… I do run a few aarch64/arm64 qemu Linux VMs via UTM…

I think @callpaul.eu was referring to the extra question posted about mini display port.

Sheila

Thanks Sheila

I think @callpaul.eu was referring to the extra question posted about mini display port.

Now has sense.

Yes display port, sorry cut my link