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MacBook Pros come with some very nice hardware, but some people want more. Some people want Linux.

Whether you’d like a more open and customizable operating system or simply need to dual-boot in order to access certain software, you might want Linux on your MacBook. The thing is, MacBook Pros are also pretty closed-down pieces of hardware that make installing other operating systems difficult – Linux more so than Windows. Boot Camp won’t help you with Linux, even though it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here’s how to do it.

Why Install Linux On A MacBook Pro Retina?

The reasoning for installing Linux on a MacBook Pro might seem a bit strange at first – isn’t OS X one of the main reasons to get a Mac? That might be true, but another great reason to get a Mac is the hardware. They offer excellent performance, superb battery life, and long durability. For the ones with a Retina display, you’re also wanting a HiDPI experience for ultra-crisp photos and text.

But if you don’t like Mac OS X, or simply need to use Linux, you may want to put another operating system on that Mac hardware. Linux is lean, open, and highly customizable. Who says that you can’t bring the two together in a happy marriage? Well, Apple might have a word to say about that, but you probably don’t care anyways.

Note: For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll be using Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution Why Windows XP Users Should Switch To Ubuntu 14.04 LTS "Trusty Tahr" Why Windows XP Users Should Switch To Ubuntu 14.04 LTS "Trusty Tahr" If you're still trying to dump Windows XP but haven't found an alternative yet, Ubuntu 14.04 is a great choice. Read More , as our preferred choice. You’re free to choose a different distribution, but you can then only follow these steps are generic guidelines and not exact instructions. We claim no responsibility for any damage that is done to your system. Additionally, this tutorial assumes that you want to dual-boot between Linux and Mac OS X. It’s recommended to keep Mac OS X on the hard drive so that you can update the firmware if needed — something you cannot do in Linux.

Before we even start with the first step, make sure that your computer is backed up in case anything goes wrong. How you do this is up to you, so feel free to use Time Machine, CrashPlan, or whatever else you might prefer.

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Download Ubuntu

First, you’ll want to get a copy of the Ubuntu desktop ISO image. Be sure to choose the 64-bit desktop flavor, and not the image made for Macs. The regular image can boot up in BIOS and EFI modes, while the Mac image can only boot up in BIOS mode. This was done on purpose for some Macs, but we want to be able to boot it up in EFI mode.

Write to USB Drive

Next, grab a USB flash drive that is at least 2GB large – we’ll use this to boot up the Ubuntu installer on. To make this drive you can follow the official Ubuntu steps, or use the dedicated GUI tool for the job How to Boot A Linux Live USB Stick On Your Mac How to Boot A Linux Live USB Stick On Your Mac So you want want to boot Linux, from a flash drive, on your Mac? If you're reading this, you probably already know it's harder than it should be. Old standbys like uNetBootin - while available... Read More .

Resize Partitions

mac_linux_disk_utility
Once you’ve done that, you can get your MacBook Pro ready for the installation. Open up the Disk Utility, click on your hard drive on the left side, and then choose the Partitions tab. Resize the Mac partition to whatever size you’d like it to be — we’ll use the newly created free space to install Ubuntu.

Boot Up Ubuntu Image

mac_linux_boot
After that’s completed, plug in the USB flash drive you prepared and restart your MacBook Pro. Be sure to hold down the Options button from when the screen blanks out for a second to when you see a screen with various boot options. Choose the EFI option (the left one in case you see two of them) to boot up your Ubuntu USB flash drive.

When prompted to choose between “Try Ubuntu” and “Install Ubuntu”, choose “Try Ubuntu” because we’ll need to perform a step after the installer completes but before you restart the system.

Installer

Once the Ubuntu desktop loads, start the installer and go through it normally until you reach the partitioning step. If you cannot access WiFi, it’s because Ubuntu currently doesn’t recognize your WiFi chipset. Don’t worry – we don’t need to have Internet access right now, and it’ll detect the right driver to use whenever you boot up into your new installation later on.

mac_linux_installer_partitions
Once you come to the partitioning step, choose to “Do something else”. Then, make sure that the small partition that’s ~128MB large is recognized as an EFI boot partition (you can check by clicking on it and choosing Options; additionally, that should be /dev/sda1). Next, you can create an ext4 partition in the new space and have the path “/” be mounted to it. You can also create multiple partitions here if you prefer that and know what you’re doing.

Before you continue to the next step, make sure that the bootloader installation location says /dev/sda1, as you want GRUB to be installed into that partition. Then, finish off the installation like normal.

EFI Boot Fix

mac_linux_efibootmgr
When the installer completes, don’t restart just yet! We still need to do one more thing so that we’ll be able to use GRUB. Run the following command: sudo apt-get install efibootmgr. This will temporarily install a configuration tool for EFI boot setups. Next, run sudo efibootmgr. This will print out the current boot configuration to your screen. In this, you should be able to see “ubuntu” and “Boot0000*”. Currently, the EFI system will point to Boot0080*, which skips GRUB and goes directly to Mac OS X. To fix this, run the command sudo efibootmgr -o 0,80. Now you can restart!

Congratulations! Your Ubuntu installation should now be working! However, there are a few tweaks that you can perform to have a better experience.

Various Tweaks

First, you’ll need to make a quick change to a GRUB setting so that the SSD won’t occasionally freeze. Type sudo nano /etc/default/grub in a terminal, and then find the line with GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX and change it to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="libata.force=noncq". Hit CTRL+X to save, and Y then Enter to confirm. Then, you’ll want to type sudo nano /etc/grub.d/40_custom into the terminal, which will open up a new file. In it, type this exactly:

menuentry "Mac OS X" {
exit
}

This will allow you to boot into your Mac OS X installation (the 32-bit and 64-bit entries in GRUB do not work). Do the same thing to save and exit, then type in sudo update-grub for the changes to go into effect. Finally, restart your system for good measure.

mac_linux_small_retina
As you can see, everything is ridiculously small on the Retina display. To fix this, System Settings –> Display and change the scaling factor to something larger. On the Retina screen, everything will look extremely tiny and it will make your life much more difficult if you don’t change it to something you like.

You may also find that it’s difficult to grab the edges of a window for resizing. This can also be changed. Type sudo nano /usr/share/themes/Ambiance/metacity-1/metacity-theme-1.xml into a terminal, and then change these values appropriately:

<distance name="left_width" value="4"/>
<distance name="right_width" value="4"/>
<distance name="bottom_height" value="4"/>

If that’s not big enough, you can also change those values to “6” instead.

Finally, if you experience any washed out colors, you can grab the display color profile from Mac OS X and use it in Ubuntu. Mount your Mac OS X drive and navigate to /Library/ColorSync/Profiles/Displays/Color LCD-xxxxxx.icc, where xxxxxx is some random string (there should only be one file anyways, but this string gets randomized). Copy it into your Ubuntu home folder, and then go to System Settings –> Color and choose Add New Profile and choose the profile you saved in your home folder.

Conclusion

mac_linux_final
Congratulations! You now have a great working Linux installation on your MacBook Pro Retina! Feel free to make additional tweaks to make Ubuntu feel more like home 12 Useful Tweaks To Make Ubuntu Feel Like Home 12 Useful Tweaks To Make Ubuntu Feel Like Home We'll show you some great tweaks that can go a long way to achieving desktop zen. Read More . I’m sure that these instructions can be applied to other Mac systems, but each new release has its own pitfalls and advantages. If you use a different machine, it’s a good idea to look up some documentation first, such as this for Ubuntu.

Additionally, feel free to check out other great Linux distros that you can install to your Mac!

Have you installed Linux on a Mac? What problems did you encounter and how did you solve it? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: K?rlis Dambr?ns Via Flickr

  1. Miguel
    November 7, 2016 at 12:48 am

    Hello! I went through the guide, but I realized I made a number of mistakes:
    (1) I chose to "Install Ubuntu" instead of "Try Ubuntu" and restarted without making the EFI Boot Fix. But I did go through the rest of the terminal tweaks after restarting into Ubuntu.
    (2) I mistakenly changed /dev/sda3 instead of /dev/sda 1 at the Installer stage by recognizing it as an EFI boot partition.
    Now when I restart and hold the option key, I see a volume called "Windows" which when I press, shows "Missing Operating System"
    Is there any way to fix this? Thank you very much in advance!

  2. Piko
    June 9, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I installed CentOS 7 and for grub to work I had to do next:
    1. find uuid of Mac OS X partition
    > grub2-probe -t fs_uuid -d /dev/sda2
    8724f0f55d4baab1

    2. edit /etc/grub.d/40_custom and add following ... root uuid
    menuentry "Mac OS X" {
    insmod hfsplus
    insmod chain
    search --fs-uuid --no-floppy --set=root 8724f0f55d4baab1
    chainloader (${root})/System/Library/CoreServices/boot.efi
    }

    3. rebuild grub menu
    grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/efi/EFI/centos/grub.cfg

    and afther that I can boot to OS X from grub

  3. Roman
    January 20, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Tried just to boot ubuntu on MacBook Pro Retina (2015) and realised that "Fn" key doesn't work. Can't change sound volume, display brightness, etc from keyboard. Is there a way to fix it?

  4. Othmane kozy
    January 10, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    hello there,

    I followed all the steps, Ubuntu is working very well but i have a problem when starting my Mac, it starts automatically to ubuntu, and when i press the alt while starting I can only choose Macintoch and not ubuntu. What i want to do is that goes directly to Macintoch and then by pressing alt I could choose Ubuntu.

    thank you in advance.

    • Jonathan
      February 16, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      I really want what you have asked for - whats the code to change the EFI boot back to where it was please? I only occasionally use Linux and so want it to natively boot into OSX... VERY FRUSTRATING!

      • Denis
        March 6, 2016 at 10:08 pm

        Me too! Did you find out how to do that?

      • Gabriel
        June 7, 2016 at 10:25 am

        sudo efibootmgr

        find out which number code is OSX

        sudo efibootmgr -o (and the OSX numbercode)

        • Gabriel
          June 7, 2016 at 10:28 am

          for the alt key ..... try reinstalling grub to an empty partition that is after the partition table of the osx installation.
          OSX bootmgr might pick that up

    • ari
      August 31, 2016 at 9:28 am

      when boot, press alt (option) button for few seconds. then choose boot disk.

  5. Ben
    November 28, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Why are their two EFI things to boot from when you insert the USB?

  6. leo b
    October 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Fantastic article, worked almost perfectly with my Macbook Pro 5,5 on which OSX El Capitan was preinstalled.

    Just a few notes:

    To get my Wifi (Airport) working I had to install "B43 firmware" as described here: http://askubuntu.com/questions/470153/no-wireless-when-install-14-04-on-macbook-pro

    When I want to boot into OSX (instead of into Ubuntu, which is the default), I simply hold the "Option" (Alt) key while booting my Macbook. I can then boot into OSX.

    (I suppose this is also possible via the Grub menu but I didn't bother configuring that, the "Option key" trick works fine)

    And finally (because I hate Unity), I install Gnome Classic (see e.g. http://www.webupd8.org/2014/04/how-to-install-and-tweak-gnome.html), and I do a lot of other customizations to make the system "my own".

  7. Frederic
    May 20, 2015 at 5:34 am

    I have tried both Ubuntu and Linus Mint 17, and I must admit that Mint has done a really good job at supporting HDI screens. Definitely recommend it if you want a better user experience.

  8. farhaan
    April 15, 2015 at 1:02 am

    I recently try to dual boot my macbook pro with ubuntu , I used REFIend for boot manager , now whenever I click on the Linux icon a blank screen occurs . Help Needed please

    • Bb
      May 8, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      Hi farhaan, I have exactly the same problem. Grub does not show up. All I get is blank screen. You found a solution by any chance ?

    • farhaan
      May 8, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      Yeah I have solved the problem It is most probably because you are not mounting bootladder on the right partition

  9. titi
    February 16, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Sorry but... Mint is the most popular distro ! (and not commercial...)
    And you should install mate or cinamon desktop...
    Is all Macbook pro hardware well supported in Linux ? (Macos X is really bullshit...)

  10. Raphael Merx
    February 16, 2015 at 1:59 am

    Thanks for the great write up!

    Any known complications when hard drive encryption with FileVault is turned on?

  11. Nathaniel
    February 14, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    I should warn people about my experience with installing Linux Mint (very similar to Ubuntu) on the Macbook Pro Retina. Although your Mac can successfully boot Ubuntu in EFI mode, the hardware accelerated graphics will not work. Attempting to install the driver will result in a black screen on boot. Furthermore, if you have Windows installed alongside OS X, a Ubuntu install will make Windows unbootable. Lastly, attempting to remove your Ubuntu partitions may produce unexpected results; when I tried to get rid of the linux swap partition, Disk Utility failed to do so and instead deleted Recovery HD.

    A much better option is to simply install Ubuntu on an external hard drive in Master Boot Record/BIOS mode. Graphics acceleration will work, and the installation will not mess anything up. Format the external hd with the Master Boot Record partition scheme (NOT the default GUID partition table option), and boot into the disk/thumb drive option labeled "Windows", not "EFI Boot" to install Ubuntu. If you get any warnings about there not being a system reserved boot area or something like that, something isn't right.

    • Anonymous
      April 14, 2015 at 3:45 am

      how do you access the Master Boot Record/BIOS mode? Do you have steps to achieve this process?

    • Nathaniel
      April 14, 2015 at 4:20 am

      You can access the Master Boot Record/BIOS mode by selecting "Windows" instead of "EFI Boot" at the boot menu. Since I made that comment I discovered that you can in fact get accelerated graphics to work in EFI mode by installing experimental drivers from the xorg-edgers ppa. However, installing Linux in BIOS mode on an external hard drive is still the safest bet, especially if you have a Windows installation on your primary hard drive. I got all three OSs to boot on my primary hard drive, but it is a very complicated process, and you need the rEFInd boot manager to make it all work in a reasonable way.

  12. Andrew
    January 31, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Great Article. Although Apple does have awesome hardware, the operating system is inferior. It has no maturity and constantly buggy. It seems as though OS's are released for the sakes of releasing them with no particular corporate strategy. With the amount of money they are making it is sheer corporate stupidity not to properly support the desktop platform.

    The reason I found your article was in hope of finding a rock-solid Linux OS that is EFI boot friendly and to get away from all that is Apple. Or I might just Bootcamp the whole drive and use W7.

  13. Ana Lourenco
    December 19, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Hi!
    When I tryed to make a new partition it failed... All I had done was just adding a new partition with the format fress space and the partition failed... How can I fix this?

    Many thanks!

  14. quickshiftin
    November 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Just when I thought I'd bricked my old MBP..., your notes on EFI Boot Fix saved me. Well done my friend!

  15. Jack
    November 5, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Hi. I'm just wondering what happened the my external hard drive after the installation? I used my external hard drive which has about 300gb of data on it. After I finished installing Ubuntu, when I plugged in my external drive my Mac said "the disk you inserted was not readable by this computer" Please help I need my data back.

  16. Wacek Kusnierczyk
    October 21, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Hi there, I have just installed kubuntu on a new mac pro, and it worked perfectly -- thanks for such a clear guide.

    However, there seems to be a problem while trying to upgrade Mac OSX to Yosemite. The installer says the disk cannot be used for the installation, and I suspect this is due to the tricks with EFI boor manager. I have changed the boor order to put Mac OS in front of linux, but it won't help.

    Do you have any advice on how to restore the original boot system, or fix the issue otherwise?

  17. Edward
    October 18, 2014 at 12:12 am

    I am also looking to by Macbook pro and going install ubuntu 14.04, is there any heating issue when running Ubuntu ?

  18. Andrea
    October 15, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    Hi, i'm very interest to install ubuntu on my mac book pro retina 15", i have some question before procede to the installation. How is the battery life? do you have some problem with the double video card? the hdmi port work fine or has some problem? and the sleep mode? if you have solved all this problem i will install ubuntu fast as possible :)

  19. victorv
    October 14, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    I made the install but got this error after

    sudo efibootmgr

    Fatal: Couldn't open either sysfs or procfs directories for accessing EFI variables.
    Try 'modprobe efivars' as root.

    Help!

  20. Ara Yeressian
    October 10, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Hi Danny. Does the external display work? Is the battery life the same as osx.
    Thnaks

  21. Gordy
    September 25, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    I have installed Linux on my Macbook pro but I do find that the Macbook does get quite hot when running Linux... how are your temps on yours?

    Any advice?

    • bg
      October 23, 2014 at 2:17 am

      install macfanctld

  22. Frank
    September 18, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Hi,

    Do you have an uninstall guide for those who have followed these instructions to install? Just in case I would like to remove Ubuntu in the future.

    Thanks!

    • etse
      October 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      Two easy steps to uninstall:

      1) Remove Linux Partition(s).
      2) Expand Mac OS Partition to take advantage of newly free'd space.

    • Anonymous
      October 9, 2014 at 11:12 am

      Would this also take care of removing the GRUB safely?

  23. Jhow L
    July 27, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    I have a question about Linux mint 17 Cinnamon on the Mac Pro Retina. Its Hidpi didn't work, can you show me how to fix it? Thanks a lot.

  24. Nicolas Ehrhardt
    May 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Battery life would be one of the main reason I would get a mac to probably install a flavor of Ubuntu on it. Could you tell us about the battery life you have using your ubuntu compared to macOS ?

    Thanks!

    • Danny S
      May 31, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      It's been pretty good. Still less than when running on Mac OS X, but I can still get a good 6-7 hours of light use out of it.

  25. archuser
    May 28, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Cinnamon uses gnome 3 as back-end so has HiDPI Support, so no fantastic job done by Mint team.

  26. Aidan Harris
    May 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Word of advice don't use Ubuntu but instead use the GNOME variety UbuntuGNOME (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGNOME/OneStopPage). I am typing this post from UbuntuGNOME using Firefox and it is so much more trusty (pun intended for those that get it) than Ubuntu and it's Unity desktop environment. If you follow all of the steps above but use UbuntuGNOME instead your eyes will thank you. Ubuntu does not yet have proper support for high dpi displays such as the MacBooks. Where as with UbuntuGNOME if you enable the "Large Text" option and change the text scaling and mouse cursor sizes it makes the entire OS easier to use. Ubuntu is great but I'd never recommend it for a MacBook. I also use the following extension in Firefox which makes it much easier to use:

    https://urandom.ca/nosquint/

    "Don’t worry – we don’t need to have Internet access right now, and it’ll detect the right driver to use whenever you boot up into your new installation later on"

    This is the only problem that I have ever encoutered installing Ubuntu on my MacBook. Ubuntu should detect the wifi drivers but this never happens (at least for me).

    I fixed this by using the ethernet-to-thunderbolt adaptor that I have and plugging that in before booting up the MacBook in order to gain Internet access.

    Once booted up I simply opened up a Terminal and typed the following:

    sudo su
    [Enter your password]
    apt-get update
    apt-get upgrade (not needed but you might as well check if there are any updates and if there install them)
    apt-get dist-upgrade (same as above not needed but you still might as well do it)
    apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source (this command will install the Broadcom 802.11 Linux STA wireless driver)
    apt-get autoremove (this command also isn't needed but it doesn't hurt to input it)

    The above set of commands will fix any issues with the wifi and after inputting them you should be able to apply the wifi driver in "Additional Drivers"

    • Danny S
      May 27, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      Yeah, I've noticed this myself that Ubuntu still isn't all that good with HiDPI screens even though that's supposed to be "new and improved". Unity does scale to where things are readable, but it's sometimes still buggy and it looks weird. Since writing this article I've personally switched to Linux Mint 17, because they've done a fantastic job with adding HiDPI support to Cinnamon. It looks so much better now.

      While I plan on keeping that on my computer, you've made me curious enough to try Gnome Shell just to see how it behaves.

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