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david watson

a buck fifty in late charges from the local library

rEFInd: Painless Linux installs on Apple hardware

I’ve struggled getting Linux installs to work on my circa-2009 Apple Macbook Pro hardware. This is some of the best hardware on the planet, but it sucks because Apple stopped supporting it with MacOS Sierra. I didn’t like MacOS that much anyhow, so installing Linux was no big deal for me, except that EFI breaks a fair number of nascent Linux distros on Mac hardware.

In particular, I’ve seen both Elementary OS Loki and Fedora 25 run cleanly from the live DVD, install cleanly, then fail to boot on this particular hardware. I’ve gotten past those issues with rEFInd.

The solution is relatively simple:

  • install Mac OS X,

  • install rEFInd from OS X

  • resize the HFS+ partition from Disk Utility on OS X to make enough room for the linux install

  • boot into the Linux install disk

  • install using the dual-boot, free space option

After this, rEFInd will magically find the new partitions and add them as boot options post-install without any user intervention whatsoever. And in turn, this prevents the hanging grub syndrome that you see with this hardware and these distros

In that sense, rEFInd is the magical boot manager Linux always needed. It’s a shame distros don’t recommend rEFInd, or switch to rEFInd outright as more users would get a clean boot experience post-install if they did, especially on Apple hardware.