How to install Linux on a Mac (how to dual boot Mac and Linux) [Guide]

Dual booting MacOS and Windows is super easy with BootCamp, but what about Linux? The answer is disappointing, with BootCamp you are not able to install Linux. Today I want to help you get a Linux distro running on your Mac.

In this guide, you are going to need to leave BootCamp for a bit more of a hardcore boot manager called rEFInd. rEFInd will allow you to boot into any operating system of your choice; MacOS, Windows or Linux. Before we install rEFInd we are going to need to make sure that you don’t have full disk encryption (FileVualt) enabled on your Mac. If you do please disable it first.

That said, let’s begin.

Step 1 : Get rEFInd

  1. Visit the rEFInd page on SourceForge  (Open Source!!! :) )and click the Download button to download the latest refind-bin-[version].zip file.install-rEFInd-on-mac
  2.  Open a Terminal window by pressing Command + Space and, typing Terminal, and pressing Enter.
  3. Drag and drop the install.sh file from the downloaded zip file into the terminal window and press Enter to run it.
  4.  Once installed, you will need to full shut-down and power on your Mac. Do not reboot it, there is a difference.

Step 2: Partition Your Mac

resize-mac-os-x-partition-to-make-room-for-ubuntu-linuxIt’s time to make room for your new Linux installation. You are going to do this in the Disk Utility, to open it;

  1. Press Command + Space
  2. Type: Disk Utility
  3. Press Enter

Now select and resize your hard-drive. I recommend 40GBs so you have room to grow, but all you really need is 10GBs for a basic install. Once you resize make sure not to partition the empty space, Linux will format it for you.

Step 3: Install Linux

You are going to need a Linux installation media to continue. For example, if you’re using Ubuntu, you’ll need to download an Ubuntu ISO file — download the “64-bit Mac” version. Burn the ISO to disc or follow Ubuntu’s official instructions to create a bootable USB drive from the ISO file.

Now you will need to reboot and select the USB or ROM drive with the Linux disc and boot into it.

Start your Linux installer and go through the installation process. On Ubuntu, launch the Install Ubuntu application from the desktop and install Ubuntu as you normally would. Be sure to select the “Install Ubuntu alongside Mac OS X” option instead of overwriting your Mac OS X system with Ubuntu. The installation process should otherwise be normal.

refind.pngStep 4: Done

Now that your Linux installer has completed, you will need to select which operating system you boot into each time the computer starts up. There you have it, Linux on your Mac.

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5 comments

  1. Justin Leroux

    Thank you David, I have been working on an article but I am waiting for one of Mac user friends to test out two bootloaders. In your friend’s case, I would stick with Grub which comes with the Lubuntu, Ubuntu, Mint, RedHat and OpenSuse installer.

  2. David C.

    [@Justin Leroux] I’m currently trying to help a friend configure his Windows XP PC so that it’s more secure than what it was (it was in really bad shape), but I warned him that he would still be at a higher risk if he continued to use Windows XP as his primary operating system. I then shared with him my recently acquired knowledge of Linux, and I even showed him a Live CD of it, so now he’s very interested in partitioning his hard drive and dual booting with Linux as the primary OS.

    I told him that I’d be glad to help him all that I could, which is limited since I’m still just a quick learning newbie, but I also said that I’m waiting for this smart person online to help explain which bootloader would be best to use. So, Mr. Justin Leroux, aka Smart Person, do you have any plans to write that in-depth article on bootloaders any time soon, and/or do you know which one would be best for his configuration? Thank you!

  3. David C.

    Justin,

    You make this sound extremely easy for Mac users, and I enjoyed reading it, but I have a question about your recommended boot manager.

    In the comments section of your Linux beginners guide, part 2, you recommended using Grub to dual or multi-boot with Windows. After many hours of educational research and learning about the best tools and methods for using Linux with other operation systems, I decided not to use Grub. Instead, I was planning to use EasyBCD Bootloader Manager (https://neosmart.net/EasyBCD/) along with iReboot (https://neosmart.net/iReboot/). Then you caught my attention when you published this article and proclaimed that rEFInd is a hardcore boot manager that’s also Open Source, which I never knew existed.

    I’m intrigued by your latest recommendation and the amazing user reviews it has, which will also work with Windows, but I’m curious how it might compare to EasyBCD Bootloader Manager, which the majority of Linux web forums are recommending and raving about. I also love the idea behind iReboot, which allows you to easily switch to a different OS without performing a traditional restart, but I haven’t even installed my chosen Linux Distro yet, which is Linux Mint 16 (Petra) Cinnamon, because I want to ensure that I do everything right the first time.

    Could you or someone please comment on which boot manager might be best for quad booting with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Linux Mint? Basically, I’m torn between EasyBCD, with iReboot, and rEFInd. I know that other free boot managers exist, but as far as I understand, these two appear to be the best.

    I did consider trying one of them, then removing it, and then trying the other one, but I’m not sure how difficult it might be to delete a boot manager and then install another one. I just want to proceed with caution so that I don’t cause problems and adversely affect the progress that I’ve already made. Any comments about this would also be appreciated.

    Thank you,

    David C.