Installing Linux on an iMac


Newbie here. I have been watching Jay’s videos for quite some time, though not regularly. I used to watch Joe Collin’s videos where he mentioned about Jay’s expertise and that is how I got introduced to LearnLinux.TV YT channel.

I have an old 2011 iMac which is what I am using as a daily driver, though it does not have Mac OS in it. It used to have High Sierra, but I erased it once accidentally and never looked back. I prefer to run rolling release linux distros. I tried Manjaro for some time, but updates started breaking things and then I tried Solus OS. It booted fine, but I was not able to install it. The installed failed with an error message saying “Error #: 51” or something like that. I tried multiple times and it never worked fine. I tried PCLinuxOS. It worked fine and updates were fine. However, I was having other issues like wifi printer disconnects, insync installation issue, no signup option for their forums, no support etc. I am currently running Sparky Linux and it is running fine.

Apart from rolling release distros, I prefer couple of specific release based distros. Some of them are Mageia and Salix. I am not able to boot Salix ISO from USB. Not only Salix, iMac doesn’t seem to support several linux distros to boot from USB. I was having issues with Ubuntu mate, Linux Mint, Xubuntu etc. I have tried several methods to create the bootable USB, including the dd command, unetbootin, rufus from windows, etcher etc.

Is there a reliable way of booting any linux distro on an iMac?


I haven’t tried installing Linux on that device, but Macs have been problematic every time I try them. Some seem to work, and others not so much. It’s very inconsistent. I’m not sure if it will help, but here are some things to potentially consider.

First, if you are going to use a rolling distro, I highly recommend implementing snapshots. You can play around with snapshots (such as LVM snapshots) in a virtual machine before you start using that in production. The idea is that you can take a snapshot before updating, and then if something breaks, restore the snapshot and then wait a week or so and try updates again. If everything runs fine, delete your shapshot. Repeat this process every time you update. That way, if something breaks, you have a snapshot to fall back on.

An alternative, is to consider a less “bleeding edge” distribution. For example, perhaps Debian Stable or MX Linux. Debian will be less bleeding edge than MX Linux though. If you get all of your hardware working fine, then take a Clonezilla backup of the hard drive with all your apps and settings installed, so you can restore that if something breaks later.

If your iMac can boot off the network, you could consider booting into a net install of Debian for example. I haven’t tried it, but that could be one way of doing it.

Thanks Jay. Currently I am using Sparky Linux which adopts the semi-rolling release model and so far I like it. I am planning to take a clonezilla image backup sometime this week.