How to install Ubuntu 11.04 on a Mac Mini


Hardware: MacMini4,1 (Mid-2010)
Software: Ubuntu 11.04 64-bit (Natty Narwhal)

The problem: booting with the CD gives bad graphics or a blank screen.

The solution: when booting, hold down alt. Select the “Windows” CD, not the “EFI” CD. This will get you to a blankish purple screen with a fuzzy icon of a keyboard on the bottom. Press F6 (NB: this will not work with an Apple Wireless keyboard. Use a wired keyboard). Pick a language. Press the down key to select “Install Ubuntu“. Now press F6 again, and select nomodeset by using the arrow keys and the space bar. Press escape, and the menu should close. Towards the bottom of the screen there’s a boot line and a cursor… use the arrow keys to scroll left until you’re just left of “quiet” and “splash” (actually, you can delete those words). Type “nomodeset xforcevesa“. Press enter to boot. Wait. Keep waiting. Nothing’s happening? Keep waiting. It took about 5 minutes for my Mac Mini to move on, upon which it started whirring and clicking. Hurray!

Post-install: your system won’t boot, unless you edit the boot commands at grub. Add nomodeset xforcevesa again (press ‘e’ when you’re at grub to edit a boot command). Once it boots, install the NVIDIA proprietary drivers. Edit /etc/default/grub to add nomodeset noacpi reboot=acpi in the appropriate place. Save the file, then run update-grub. Reboot. Your graphics may still suck. Run nvidia-xconfig and reboot. Are we there yet?

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23 Responses to How to install Ubuntu 11.04 on a Mac Mini

  1. Ryan says:

    It looks like it is loading now. Thanks. BTW, when I reboot I am concerned about when grub occurs and when I need to press ‘e’. I know grub is early on so I will just randomly hold down the ‘e’ key until something happens. Either way, thank you very much. Domo domo domo.

  2. Ryan says:

    I must be pressing ‘e’ at the wrong time. I can’t reboot successfully.

  3. lid says:

    @Ryan: After you reboot, you should see a grub screen that asks you to select an install (something like Ubuntu, Ubuntu Recovery, Mac OS X). Press ‘e’ there. If you’re not seeing the grub screen make sure you’re booting into the right partition (hold down the option key when powering on to select a boot partition).

  4. zomen says:

    Thank you!
    It works well.

  5. spareher says:

    This seems to work very well – I did not even have to wait 5 minutes before the installer continued. This was the best article I found all day on doing this with refedit boot manager. Thanks

  6. Ryan says:

    Everything seemed to work out. I am booting fine now. I did everything except: Edit /etc/default/grub to add nomodeset noacpi reboot=acpi in the appropriate place. I made it to the grub file and could not see where to make these changes. However the computer seems to boot fine now. Any reason that I would still need to make these changes?

  7. lid says:

    @Ryan: If it’s working for you, I wouldn’t worry about editing /etc/default/grub. That just adds boot flags that possibly makes things work better (like graphics and power management and prevents a reboot from hanging) on the Mac Mini.

  8. Ryan says:

    Haha, reboot just hung itself. Can you give me dumbed down instructions on how to make those edit changes?

  9. Maurits says:

    If you get the “Select CD-Rom Boot Type” problem, try this:

    extract everything from the CD into a folder, and then repack it into a new ISO with instructions from here:


  10. Tony says:

    I just purchased a Mac Mini and followed the steps. In grub I added ‘nomodeset xforcevesa’ and did F10. But it ways nomodeset is an invalid command. Can you tell me what I might be doing wrong?
    Thanks for your help!

  11. lid says:

    I think you’re probably putting nomodeset xforcevesa in the wrong place. The first word in the line that you’re editing should not be changed.

  12. steve says:

    Do these instructions apply to the 32bit version of Ubuntu?

    My System hangs after I choose restart from the GUI and never performs a full reboot. If I choose shutdown this works Ok and if the Mac is turned off it always boots ok after powering on from the power button.

    The problem is only during a restart. I never made the edit to the grub file, the fact the system starts from a power up I didn’t think it needed it?

    Seems strange that the restart command gets stuck, I’m assuming this could also be related to a graphics driver problem??

  13. lid says:

    @steve: the kernel options that you add when you edit the grub file modify the power management and configuration handling. It turns out that this solves the reboot hanging.

  14. steve says:

    Hi Lid

    what do I need to modify the power management and configuration handling too? Apologies but I’m kinda new to Linux.


  15. lid says:


    Edit /etc/default/grub to add nomodeset noacpi reboot=acpi in the appropriate place.

  16. Eon says:

    I’m gonna try these instructions tonight. Thanks so much for this!

    Some question though…

    I understand “grub” to be the Linux bootloader. Does using grub mean you’re not using boot camp? Is it possible to still use boot camp to choose between Mac and Ubuntu? Or is that incompatible with these instructions?

    After you get this installed, will the graphics work well enough that you can watch 1080p movies over the HDMI port?

  17. lid says:

    @Eon: Boot Camp doesn’t really matter in the context of Linux – it’s basically just a set a drivers for Windows. You can choose between Mac and Ubuntu simply by holding the option key at startup or choosing a partition in the Startup Disk preference pane in OS X.

    I haven’t tested 1080p graphics, but I suspect it wouldn’t be a problem after you install the NVIDIA drivers in Ubuntu.

  18. Eon says:

    @lid: Thanks, yeah, sorry for confusing the issue. I always think Boot Camp is the name of the boot loader that Macs use, but it really is just the name of the driver pack thingie that you can install on top of Windows.

    I meant to ask if I can still have the pretty Apple choose-your-OS menu when I hold down Alt. It seems you can :)

  19. Doug says:

    Thanks a lot for these instructions. I was able to use them successfully for my Ubuntu install on a new Mac Mini, plus they work just as well for installing Mint in place of Ubuntu. Very clearly written and helpful. Thanks!

  20. Victor Engmark says:

    Thank you, but after installing the keyboard and mouse don’t work. I changed the boot parameters during the first boot, but it just got to the login screen and then no input worked. Also, after the initial boot I’m no longer able to enter Grub – I’ve tried holding Shift, Escape and e during three separate boots (with a PC and a Mac keyboard), but no go. Tried different USB ports as well. It seems like USB has been permanently disabled somehow…

  21. Victor Engmark says:

    Got Grub working again by plugging the PC keyboard in the third plug from the center and pressing Left-Shift like an idiot. Still no keyboard action after booting, though (even in the recovery menu!). During boot I get messages about ureadahead and plymouth dying; I guess those are at least part of the issue…

  22. Victor Engmark says:

    Got Grub working again by plugging the PC keyboard in the third plug from the center and pressing Left-Shift like an idiot. Still no keyboard action after booting, though (even in the recovery menu!). I’ve added a question on Ask Ubuntu if anyone has tips.

  23. Bob says:

    Hi everybody,
    I have tried the same but i couldnt find splash anywhere first time, added “nomodeset xforcevena” in the first line where i saw ‘quiet’

    after that i m booting it it still hangs more than 10 mins, and no display. this is what i got when i tried to edit at grub. any ideas ?

    gfxmore $linux_gfx_mode
    insmod gzio
    insmod part_gpt
    set root='(hd0,gpt2)’
    search — no floppy –fs-uuid –set root xxxxxxxx
    linux /vmlinuz-3.2.0-23-generic root=/dev/mapper/host-root roinitrd /initrd.img-3.2.0-23- generic

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