Linux on Mac Mini

A while ago a neighbour was about to throw away his old Mac Mini from circa 2007 AD, but I apprehended him and he gave it to me instead. If for nothing else, it has a nice keyboard…

I re-installed MacOS on it, but sadly found it wouldn’t move to a higher release than 10.7 (Lion). And so started my journey to get Linux on my Mac.

Remember to backup everything you hold dear before you attempt this! 

 

Pre-Installation Requirements and notes

  • MacOS X already installed and in working condition.
  • Enough free space to hold a second system.
  • Set the audio volume to mute. If not you will continue to hear the Mac-chime when you start up your PC, even after re-installation.

 

Installation Media

  • Download rEFInd, and burn the ISO to a disc, or make a bootable USB disk.
  • Download Linux Mint and same procedure as above – disc or USB.

 

Prepare harddrive

  1. Go to disk utility (Finder / Applications / Utilities)
  2. Click hard disk
  3. Click the partition-tab.
  4. Select your Macintosh HD partition
  5. Click the + to add a partition
  6. Drag the vertical slider to divide the partitions into preferred size. I let 50GB stay for Mac, and made the new space of 70GB.
  7. Selected Format “Free Space”. This will be used during the installation.

 

Installation

  1. Reboot and hold “C” on the keyboard for it to boot from CD, or Option ( ⌥ ) to be able to select boot device. This will start rEFInd.
  2. Select the option to boot your Linux distribution of choice.
    In my initial attempt I had a disc of Fedora 20, which got stuck saying “Select CD-RO Boot type”. Searching around for this led me to that the firmware in the Mac is actually damaged, but that Apple don’t mind. Neither did I, and swapped disc to Linux Mint which booted just fine.
  3. Go through the system installation. Mint has an option to install alongside MacOS X. I selected this alternative.
    Either take care of disk partitions yourself, or let Mint do it for you.
  4. Reboot when done.

 

Post Installation

  • When rebooting, you must hold Option to get the boot menu. Here you’ll Select “Windows”, in order to go to GRUB / boot Linux.
  • For a permanent boot to GRUB/Linux:
    1. Boot again from a Mac OS X Installation disc (hold C or ⌥ when starting up).
    2. After selecting language, in the menu bar, go to Utilities / Terminal.
    3. Type in “diskutil list” to find all partitions. This might be a bit tricky, but you’ll need to figure out which partition your Linux system is trying to boot from. Mine was on /dev/disk0s5 (that is zero-S-five).
    4. Run: “bless --device /dev/disk0s5 --setBoot --legacy --verbose“. I think that you can be without --verbose though. It’s up to you.

After this, reboot and behold – GRUB. It will let you boot into Linux, do a systems check or boot into MacOS X. Going back to OS X was slower than I remembered, but that might just be me.

Hope this helps someone, let me know in the comments!

 

My Sources:

rEFInd: http://www.rodsbooks.com/refind
Geek Tips: http://www.geek-tips.com/2013/03/09/install-linux-mint-on-a-mac-mini-2-1/
Daniel Quinn’s blog: https://danielquinn.org/blog/fedora-19-on-a-white-macbook/

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