Ubuntu MATE runs on a Mac Mini

I’ve managed to get Ubuntu MATE 14.04 running on a 2011 Mac Mini without too much bother!

My model is an i5 (2.5Ghz) with discreet AMD Radeon Graphics (6630m), stock 4GB of RAM and stock 500GB 5400 RPM drive. On the OS X side, 4GB isn’t enough and on a fresh boot I was typically left with only 1.5GB of usable RAM that disappeared fast when I opened Mail and Safari with just a couple of tabs.

To install Ubuntu MATE, I first needed to install reFind, which allows you to install from a USB stick using uEFI instead of grub/legacy mode using a DVD. Installing with legacy mode leads to serious heat problems; also under legacy mode the graphics didn’t work at all and the system would boot to a blank screen with a blinking cursor.

Once I installed and reboot, I didn’t get much joy from the open-source drivers and so I enabled the proprietary catalyst driver and that’s given me the ability to correctly configure multiple monitors with the correct resolution. Given that one of my monitors is using the Thunderbolt port, I’m pleased that it’s working at all.

The following works:

  • HDMI port (including digital audio out)
  • Thunderbolt port using a MiniDP -> DVI adapter
  • Analogue audio
  • Bluetooth
  • Ethernet
  • SDHC Card reader
  • Video acceleration
  • IR receiver
  • Firewire
  • Thermal management

What doesn’t work:

  • Wifi without a Broadcom driver. I use wired only so I don’t care.
  • Compiz with the proprietary driver

Not tested:


As noted there’s a couple of quirks with graphics, which I can probably lay the blame at AMD’s feet. While I have multiple monitors working, it’s not as configurable as I would like which is irritating as my monitor’s resolutions do not match and I cannot specify which one is the master like you can with Unity. I’m planning on replacing the older one with another 24inch 1080p monitor to match my existing one so this should be only a temporary nuisance.

The best news as far as I’m concerned is the performance. On a fresh boot, Ubuntu MATE is only using 400MB leaving me with 3.6GB. As I write this post I’ve got the following open: Firefox (three tabs), Rhythmbox, Thunderbird, Caja (2 windows), ownCloud client, and Terminal running Htop. To top it off i’m also playing a 12GB Bluray rip in VLC from a Samba share. All that is using just over 1300MB of RAM with each CPU core ticking over at 5%.


Nice write up. All I can add is that (hopefully) multi-monitor support will be improved in MATE 1.10.

Thanks, Martin, I plan on updating the write up as I test more things. I’m seriously chuffed at how well it runs. Performance under OS X 10.10 is appalling but under Ubuntu MATE it feels like I’ve got my computer back again. When I eventually get around to replacing the HDD with SSD and upgrading the RAM to 16GB I reckon it will be enough computer for me to last another 10 years.

Improved multiple monitors will be great however as noted, it’s only a minor inconvenience.

@CGB If you wish to single boot Ubuntu MATE without using rEFInd, which probably gives you a substantial delay during boot :frowning:, you can have a look at a Q&A style tutorial that I had written on Ask Ubuntu - EFI boot Ubuntu 14.04 on a Mac without rEFInd . Since the method uses EFI boot and has faster boot times, it should work better :smile: . It works for Ubuntu, so it should work for Ubuntu MATE too…

Regarding the Wireless issue, it is a problem on all Ubuntu releases and flavours since the Broadcom wireless chip does not play well with the open source drivers and needs the bcmwl-kernel-source package to be installed from the repositories.

@Wimpy We can probably have an official tutorial for this topic. Many people who prefer Ubuntu MATE over OS X can replace their operating system without having any issues…

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That’s awesome! I had a similar experience with an iMac. Also, I’ve found that using powerline adapters eliminates the need to use wifi at home for stationary computers.

@rohithmadhavan that’s an awesome tutorial. I’ve decided to keep OS X for now for a couple of reasons: 1 it’s still under warranty, 2 it’s easier to install firmware updates under OS X and 3 the AMD graphics card is giving me stability problems.

What I may do is replace the stock drive completely with an SSD and single boot OS X. I can always re-install the drive if I ever need to take it into Apple. If I take this route I will definitely give your tutorial a whirl.

I’ve known about the bcmwl-kernel-source package for ages but as noted I’m running wired so I feel no need to install it.

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Can you install those on a powerboard or do they have go direct into the wall? I'm running a cable from my study to the living room at the moment (along the ceiling) and I want to replace it with a powerline set or get internal wiring done.

Given that in Australia DIY ethernet wiring is illegal and I'd have pay an electrician to do it, a powerline adapter would be cheaper :smiley:

Yep, you just plug it right in the wall. Hook one to your router and another one anywhere in the house (power outlet). I bought the tp-link starter kit on Amazon for 30 dollars which comes with 2 adapters.

But do they work plugged into a power board? I’m short of power sockets in my house!

Ah, sorry. I didn’t initially know what you meant by “power board” - I thought you meant like a fuse box. I guess I should spend more time with reading comprehension when using my phone. :smile:

The instructions say that some power boards can filter the signal but most of the time it shouldn’t be an issue.

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