Installing Antergos Linux on a MacBook 4,1

March 12, 2016

Linux is a great way to breathe life into old hardware, but getting it to play nice with Mac hardware can be difficult. This guide will show you how to replace OSX entirely with Antergos Linux on a MacBook 4,1.

Before you begin

This guide assumes you want to completely remove Mac OSX from your hard drive and completely replace it with Antergos Linux. It is possible to dual boot with OSX, or even triple boot with Windows as well. For me, all I wanted was to put Linux on my aging MacBook. I don’t care about having OSX and I definitely don’t care about Windows.

This method doesn’t require any special bootloaders (like rEFInd), using only systemd-boot to get the job done. The upside to this is that it’s simple and follows The Arch Way. The downside is that you’ll have to hold down the alt/option key each time you start or reboot your MacBook. For me, this is a small price to pay, but if you think it will bother you, you’ll have to follow another guide. Good luck!

Finally, you should back up any important data before proceeding. It may also be useful to ensure you have an OSX installation medium handy, in case you change your mind and wish to reinstall OSX. That being said, let’s get to it!

Prepare the installation medium

You will need a USB drive with at least 8Gb of space. Head to the Antergos website and download the 64 bit iso. Follow these steps to create a bootable USB in Mac OSX. If you’re creating the USB on Linux then just do:

sudo dd if=/path/to/downloaded.iso of=/dev/sdX

Be patient, it will take a while. Replace /dev/sdX with the name of your inserted USB drive. Be Careful! The dd command can destroy your disks, always double check to be sure you’re specifying the correct drive with of=. A sure fire way make sure you’ve got the right drive is to remove the USB drive, open up a terminal window, and enter lsblk. This will print a list of all the drives connected to the system. Now insert the USB drive and enter lsblk again, your USB drive’s designation will be the one that wasn’t there before.

You could, of course, just burn the Antergos iso to a DVD, but who has time for that?

Install Antergos

Insert your newly created Antergos USB installer and reboot your MacBook. When you hear the Mac startup sound, press and hold the alt/option key. Click the little arrow underneath the orange USB drive symbol that says “EFI boot.”

Once the boot menu loads for the Antergos iso, I found that you’ll have to select the first option in the menu rather than the defualt. Select it and wait for the Gnome live environment to load. Once it loads, you’ll be presented with the beautiful Cnchi installer. Click through the various options, selecting your preferred Desktop Environment of choice.

Personally, I went with Cinnamon because my girlfriend will be using this MacBook alot and she’s already familiar with Cinnamon. The MacBook 4,1 seems to handle it pretty well (especially if you turn off some of the visual effects), but you’ll get even better performance with MATE, xfce, or Openbox. I would recommend against Gnome or KDE on a MacBook 4,1, however. They will run and perform tolerably for the most part, but they can become painfully slow at times. Cinnamon is about as flashy as you can get for a desktop environment on the 4,1.

When you get to the drive set up section, you can leave the default choice to let the installer prepare the drive, but on the Bootloader section, select systemd-boot. It won’t work out of the box for the MacBook 4,1, but it will lay the ground work for our next steps.

Once you’ve selected all of your preferred options in the installer, wait for the packages to be downloaded and installed. Depending on your selections and your internet connection, it could take a while. Once the installation completes, you’ll get a warning about systemd-boot possibly not installing correctly. No big deal, we’re about to fix that. Click the button to restart later.

Repair systemd-boot

Open up a terminal (Press the Command key to open up Gnome’s expose thing, and start typing “terminal”) and verify your partitions with lsblk.

Now, we need to mount the partitions that we’ve just installed Antergos on. If you let the installer partition the drive, then the following commands will work. If you set your own partition scheme, then you’ll need to make sure that your / partition gets mounted to /mnt and your /boot partition gets mounted to /mnt/boot.

sudo mount /dev/sda2 /mnt
sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot

Now, we’ll need to chroot to our mounted partitions:

sudo arch-chroot /mnt

Now we’ll first verify that dosfstools is installed, then we’ll set up systemd boot and create a boot menu entry.

pacman -S dosfstools

bootctl --path=/boot install
nano /boot/loader/entries/antergos.conf

Paste in the following and save with ctrl+x:

title Antergos
linux /vmlinuz-linux
initrd /initramfs-linux.img
options root=/dev/sda2 rw elevator=deadline quiet splash resume=/dev/sda3 nmi_watchdog=0

Next, we update /boot/loader/loader.conf to recognize our custom entry:

nano /boot/loader/loader.conf

Paste in the following, and press ctrl+x to save. The timeout is the number of seconds before the default option is selected, since we only have one option I’ve set it to 1. Change it to whatever you like. Leave editor as 0 though, it’s a security risk to change it. There will be some options already there, just comment them out with #.

default  antergos
timeout  1
editor   0

Finally, we update systemd boot to recognize the configuration changes and exit out of our chroot:

bootctl update
exit

Restart your MacBook, and remember to hold down the alt/option key when you hear the Mac startup sound. You’ll see your hard drive display with the text “EFI Boot” underneath. Click the little arrow to boot into your Antergos installation. Since we didn’t set up rEFInd, we’ll have to do this every time we power on or reboot the MacBook. It’s sort of a pain, but it’s the price you have to pay to have a Linux only installation, and come on, it’s not really that bad.