Dual-Booting UbuntuMATE 16.04 on a MacBook

I’ve been wanting to try this for years, but just got the chance! My daughter gave me her old 2009 plastic MacBook when she bought a new Pro recently, in return for my having provided her support over the years - she knew I’d been wanting to try putting Linux on one. I upgraded the machine a couple of years ago to 6GB RAM and a 128GB SSD. It’s just new enough to run El Capitan, which it actually does acceptably. So I had high hopes for UbuntuMATE!

There are a lot of tutorials out there for doing this, so it didn’t take any genius on my part. Here’s a good one, but there are lots of others:


I used the rEFIind Boot Manager, here: http://www.rodsbooks.com/refind/index.html

The process wasn’t hard, though I did bollix up the disk partitioning part somehow and hosed the original Mac installation (which didn’t break my heart as it was one I’d just done). But if you had a lot of years of stuff stored on yours, it might feel different! In my case, I just started over and got it right. One thing that apparently can happen, and did happen to me, was that in updating the new Mac partition it overwrote the rEFInd boot, so the machine would only boot into El Capitan. But re-installing rEFInd did the trick and it’s worked flawlessly since.

I said that this little box, upgraded with the SSD & additional memory, runs El Capitan well - almost as zippy as Snow Leopard, which it had before - which I guess is some sort of compliment to the job Apple has done with their OS X upgrades.

But one of the charms of dual-booting is being able to see, side-by-side on the same hardware, how well Linux runs vs. whatever legacy OS the machine came with. UbuntuMATE 16.04 runs really well on this machine, palpably better than OS X! It really shows the great effort and success the UbuntuMATE developers have achieved. I’m very, very happy with it!

So no questions here, just wanted to let everyone know how it went and that it would be well worth doing if you wanted to re-energize an old Apple box. Well worth doing, fun in the process, and a great result - go for it!


Nice that it works, I just moved it to another topic :slight_smile:

How did you manage to boot and install the system from USB? Or did you burn a DVD?

maro - I did use a DVD, only because the little Mac had a working DVD drive and it was simpler to use a DVD since I already had a recent UbuntuMATE DVD on hand. I read the tutorial for creating a bootable UbuntuMATE USB stick using Mac OS; and I almost did it, too, because it probably would have been faster to install from USB than from an optical disc. But in the end laziness won out, and I just stuck in the DVD I already had.

Before I tried to boot from the disc, I’d already installed rEFInd from the recovery partition of the MacOS installation. So when I booted the computer with the Ubuntu DVD in the drive, it showed up as a bootable volume choosable in the rEFInd menu.

From there it was pretty much an ordinary installation, except that Ubuntu didn’t offer me the option to install alongside MacOS, even though I’d already established a partition for UbuntuMATE to occupy. I had to manually choose the partition. The rest was normal, and took about the same time it would have taken on a PC of similar specs.

Apple should consider using Ubuntu! Only joking, of course - they’ll never do that. But UbuntuMATE runs better than their own OS on this box!


Sorry! Thanks for putting it in the right place.

Great to hear! :slight_smile: I literally just installed Ubuntu MATE on a Macbook Pro Early-2015 yesterday.

It actually pretty easy to my surprise, though I set up the partitions manually for a custom installation. I was skeptical and pre-planning whether this fairly new model was going to prevent me from running it (but rEFInd overcomes that. Holding Option/Alt presents the Apple bootloader).

The only thing that took the longest was finding an NTFS hard drive to move important data over, since the partition has FileVault enabled (Apple’s encryption) making it impossible to access from Ubuntu.

Speaking of encryption, I’m required to encrypt the entire disk for work. It’s a bit more involved to install Ubuntu alongside OS X and want encryption, but this guide saves the day:

So I’m also happy I can use Ubuntu at work! Productivity got a boost. :wink:

The only thing that doesn’t work on this model is the camera due to missing drivers. :camera:


lah7 - Hats off to your install - sounds a lot more creative and useful than mine! How would you say Ubuntu runs alongside OS X on your Pro? Bet it’s noticeably faster than the native software, if my experience is anything to go by, though you have much better hardware. Nice job!

For years, I’ve run Mint on some boxes for the convenience of having most of the codecs, etc. already there at installation - especially when the computer is for someone else - but I think UbuntuMATE takes the palm these days. Welcome is a huge time & effort saver.

And every time I do a Linux install, regardless of the previous OS already on the equipment, I feel grateful for Linux. Leaving a closed OS and booting Linux is like leaving a stuffy room to go out into a sunny day. Thanks to the Linux developers all over the world! And don’t forget to support the various Open Source projects as you get the opportunity. Those folks make life sweet!

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No major faults so far. The graphics on this (Intel) actually feel smoother than my NVIDIA card on my desktop… both run Compiz (for the desktop cube, of course :heart_eyes:)

Being a retina display, everything is “small” because MATE lacks DPI scaling at the moment. 16.10 I hear should improve/fix this. A resolution of 1440x900 looks good enough, since I hook up a keyboard, mouse and 1920x1080 monitor anyway at work. This computer is more of a workstation than a multimedia computer.

Ubuntu MATE does feel snappier somewhat, uses less memory by quite a bit but does take a little longer to shut down at the moment… could just be a bug for now. I actually asked my boss if I could switch since OS X’s keyboard shortcuts were really getting in the way, plus other behaviour quirks.

Trivia: I’m one of the main developers for the Welcome program… :wink:

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When I installed an older version of Ubuntu on my mac, I had no trouble booting from a USB key. Hold option/alt during boot up gives you a choice of drives to boot. I can’t recall if I used rEFInd for this, but that’s an option too.

gallomimia - I’ve had mixed results doing that, though it has worked once or twice. What happened to me just the other day was in updating UbuntuMATE I downloaded and installed several updates to GRUB. That seemed to overwrite the EFI and rEFInd, which I should have foreseen.

I found that after that update, if I simply booted up without any key combos, I’d get a slower and different-looking boot into Ubuntu. But if I held the Alt/Option key, I’d get a choice of Mac partitions (but only Mac partitions) to boot from. That might have been a workable way to go, except I didn’t entirely trust it, and I didn’t like the slower boot into Ubuntu - it was sort of like the bootloader lost its way and dithered around for a while, then sighed, gave up and went ahead with booting Ubuntu. No choice to boot any of the Mac partitions unless you held down the Alt/Option - but no Ubuntu partitions displayed unless you DIDN’T use the key combo.

Solution was to re-install rEFInd from the Mac recovery partition, which only took a couple of minutes. So now it again boots immediately to rEFInd, which shows me a selection of partitions to choose from. From there booting into the chosen partition is very quick.

I gotta say, I really like rEFInd - it’s a nice piece of work! It even has nice graphics, it’s easy to install, and it’s been rock-solid & fast. It’s a project worthy of support!

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