I've got a new MacBook Air which I'd like to install Ubuntu on. It has no internal optical drive, I have no external one.

I do have the ability to partition the disk and also have a USB flash drive and USB external hard drive. None of these I've been able to successfully boot the Ubuntu installer with though.

So... how can I install Ubuntu on a MacBook Air 3,2? Thanks in advance.

4 Answers 4


I had a similar problem on an old Macbook 1.1 with a broken cd-drive. I remember that all the approaches shown in the forums did not work. Try to do the following (it worked for me), the main difference is to format the flash drive as EXT:

  • install refit

  • format your flash drive as EXT4. In the following commands note that you'll need to sudo.

  • install grub on the flash drive as follows: say the device is /dev/sdb and you mount it as /media/usbdrive, then run

    sudo grub-install --root-directory=/media/usbdrive /dev/sdb
  • copy the ubuntu iso to /media/usbdrive:

    sudo cp ubuntu-10.10-desktop-i386.iso /media/usbdrive/
  • now you want to create the config file for grub inside /media/usbdrive/boot/grub/. Create a file called grub.cfg with your favorite editor (you'll need to sudo): gksudo gedit /media/usbdrive/boot/grub/grub.cfg and paste the following 5 lines inside.

    search --set -f /ubuntu-10.10-desktop-i386.iso
    loopback loop /ubuntu-10.10-desktop-i386.iso
    linux (loop)/casper/vmlinuz boot=casper iso-scan/filename=/ubuntu-10.10-desktop-i386.iso persistent debug=
    initrd (loop)/casper/initrd.lz
  • Do a sudo sync to commit all changes to the usb drive.

  • That's it! Reboot, with your usb plugged-in and when refit comes up select the usb drive (in my case, it takes a while to boot (you will not see grub or anything just wait a ), probably it is uncompressing the iso, not sure.

  • Hope it works!

  • 1
    This leads to a "missing operating system" error on a macbook air 4,2 :/
    – cweiske
    Oct 8, 2011 at 17:27

Rich, try https://help.ubuntu.com/community/How%20to%20install%20Ubuntu%20on%20MacBook%20using%20USB%20Stick

I just picked up the Air (3,2) yesterday and am in the same situation as you. It would be nice if we could co-work on this to solve it all and write up a guide together that explains the process step by step for others.

Feel free to mail me at snowdrop at wtactics dot org if you want to get in touch and exchange experiences: This far I have gotten a very diffuse and spread impression about how all of this will go...


I'm pretty sure your only option is to get a portable CD-drive and install it through that. I've tried to make a mac boot on my usb-key once(I didn't have a cd nearby), but after several hours I had to give up. If you really want to try, your best bet is to install rEFIt. But that's as far as I can help you.


Booting from an USB stick is not possible with a Macbook air without some extra work.

See http://cweiske.de/tagebuch/ubuntu-on-macbook-air.htm#boot-preparation for a detailled explanation how to get the installer running despite this problem.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.