Unlike with earlier releases, the website is unclear on giving a straight recommendation for installing ubuntu on a mac:


  1. I've read several times, that I should use an alternative image. But this is only offered as 64-bit. However, I'm also told to rather use 32-bit images for better software compability.


  2. Even though I should only use alternative images, there is offered a standard desktop image which is "adjusted to work properly on Mac systems".



Which image should I take? Do both of these images offer (U)EFI boot?

I've tried both of them already, but both have setup an install with BIOS emulation. This is quite annoying because of the short battery life and high temperatures which are harmful to battery longevity.

  • Note: There is an error in my bounty description. I mean: "When using BIOS emulation I can only use discrete graphics..." – user24668 May 12 '12 at 17:31

Since there are different revisions of each Mac model what needs to be done may also differ. Just selecting the right Image often isn’t enough.

With Mac laptops its usually boot/install problems are related to:

  • Graphic card chip (especially with dual graphic card MacBooks)
  • Proper EFI booting.
  • Card connecting to the built in laptop monitor(again with dual grapgic card MacBooks)

The command:

dmidecode |grep -i macbookpro

will give you your specific version. If you are able to boot into something that gives you a Linux shell. Try to deduce your model from the wikipedia MacBook version table.

I'm presuming models with the same hardware are of the same revision and hence the same steps should apply.

I've always used the ordinary Amd64 ISO for all installations described below. Not the alternate CD’s which seem to be mostly used for old,pre unibody, Apple hardware.

As long as you have refit installed in OSX, the ordinary Ubuntu live CD or USB disk will present you with a "efi linux" boot option along with a bios boot option"

15" MacBook pro version 5.1 [ two gfx cards 9400 & 9600]

Since part of your question was that you wanted to disable the gfx card. enter this in your grub terminal when booting:

(You can actually play around with this booting of a usb live cd if you feel like it)

the values to add in grub (just plain , not appending any pre-existing lines already present:

outb 0x728 1
outb 0x710 2
outb 0x740 2
outb 0x750 0

This will disable your card and switch the display over to the correct one. If your display only turns black. Boot back into OSX and switch what card is being actively used and reboot and try again. Since we don't want to add this to the command line every time to grub to be able to boot have a look at this

15" macbook pro version 8.1 [ two gfx cards Intel 3000 & Amd Radeon 6490M ]

Apply the grub settings above from the 5.1 example to disable the Amd card.

Using the Intel card also has some quirks regarding LVDs timings. Resulting in a yellow back light colour and barely readable / viewable screen in console and Unity. Fixes have been merged to Kernel 3.4 and above. And it works out of the box with 3.5 Kernels. You need to either need to patch your kernel, upgrade to a newer kernel or simply install Ubuntu 12.10(currently beta) that ships with 3.5 out of the box.

13" MacBook pro version x.x? [ nvidia9400m ]

works out of the box

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  • Intersting. So, I now see that when using the standard desktop version there is an "efi boot" option which is not there when using the alternate iso. However, after GRUB the screen stays black even though I seems that the LiveISO is loaded (I blindly followed the menu and the computer reacted). How did you manage to boot an install Mac using EFI? – user24668 May 15 '12 at 6:47
  • Before GRUB appears, I get a message "error no prefix set". Then in GRUB I've tried to boot after adding your commmands (both appending and plain), but the screen always remains black. This is a MBP 8-2. What kind of MBP do you have? – user24668 May 15 '12 at 7:17
  • BTW: Refit does not show the EFI boot option, I only see this when holding left alt upon boot. – user24668 May 15 '12 at 7:18
  • @gentmatt, did you follow the instructions with disabling the the card above? this is what i did to get into the Installer. try removing quiet / splash from the command line, to see if you get any more verbose output. I have a macbook pro 15", version 5.1. , it has the nvidia 9600 and the 9400 card. – tomodachi Jun 4 '12 at 0:07
  • Yes, I did follow these instructions. In total I have tried ~15 different setups using your help and Ubuntu/Debian documentation which you find online. But most times these fixes were tried for the older MBPs which run Nvidia graphics. But I run a 2011 MBP with ATI Radeon graphics. For your specific case I always end up with a black screen. Ubuntu seems to load though, meaning that after a while the keyboard backlight will turn on as the Ubuntu Installer window pops up - which I do not see. – user24668 Jun 4 '12 at 6:24

Try this link it may help you understing what's going on


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Which image should I take? Are there advantages of one over the other?

Well, if you want a ready-to-go graphical desktop (Gnome/Unity), go with the desktop version. The alternate is more for special situations outlined on the release page, or if you want to install a minimal console version or a server version.

Do these images offer UEFI boot?

I don't know about the LiveCD, but the installation certainly should. See this [UEFI page]( https://help.ubuntu.com/community/UEFIBooting) for more info.

Why is there no 32-bit image?

EFI boot on Macs requires a 64-bit kernel. Linux is not Windows -- you can absolutely run 32-bit only software (of which there isn't very much any more) by installing the ia32 library.

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  • I've use both the alternate and default desktop iso. However, both time there was no option to choose UEFI boot. Both time I had to go with the unwanted BIOS emulation. – user24668 May 12 '12 at 15:47
  • ... just to clarify - are you saying that the 64bit alternate and 64bit desktop versions of amd+mac.iso does NOT give the option for a UEFI boot? – fossfreedom May 12 '12 at 22:44
  • @fossfreedom wasn't the specific mac cd's "no UEFI" to prevent firmware corruption? because of the differences of mac EFI and PC UEFI? Is this a worry anymore, maybe just use the regular live cd? – Mateo May 14 '12 at 21:41
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    @mateo_salta - I can only presume that since there is still 12.04 amd+mac isos, these CDs are still relevant for MAC OS's to get ubuntu to boot correctly. The standard ISO's dont have the mac specific fix required to boot. – fossfreedom May 14 '12 at 21:54
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    I don't know for EFI corruption, but my 2007 macbookpro doesn't boot with the standard cd, nor in UEFI nor in emulated BIOS mode for differents reasons, but probably all linked to the fact that EFI is not UEFI (afaik there are proprietary/closed portions on mac EFI that cause various trouble). 32bit ubuntu standard version, without any UEFI support, boots regularly. So i guess the "amd64-mac" versions are there to give us unlucky apple owners the possibility to install ubuntu 64 (last year I installed 11.04 by manually editing the 64bit iso for removal of the efi folder). – Nicola Feltrin May 31 '12 at 6:54

A couple months ago I waasn't able to install Ubuntu 11.10 in a MacBook Pro 5.1 (late 2008, early 2009), and I had to use the disc image of the 10.10 and update from there all the wy now to 12.04. Apparently there was an issue with the booting system that made it crash with the newer versions. I was using EFI to choose which OS to boot into, and always the desktop version of Ubuntu (I think 32-bit). Of course I didn't know there where standard desktop images adjusted to work properly on Mac systems (may be it's a new thing?)

So if you follow all the instructions and it doesn't boot, I'll suggest to try with an older version ;)

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