Hey Tech People!
In this article, we want to explore what kind of MacBook is best for Linux, and what Linux distro is the most compatible for a MacBook.
Short Answer upfront:
Yes, it is possible and recommended to install Linux on a MacBook or MacBook Air.
Statement: This Guide does NOT include any affiliate links.
Reasons to install Linux on a Macbook Pro or Macbook Air.
Let us discover the reasons why you might be here.
- Found an old MacBook Pro or MacBook Air at home and want to bring it back to life.
- Or you are on a budget but want a solid, stable, affordable, quite fast machine.
- You are unhappy with MacOS and look for alternatives.
All of them are good reasons to bring Linux into the game.
Getting the right Hardware
If you are about to buy a MacBook Pro or Macbook Air on eBay or Craigs List, make sure it is at least a 2012 machine.
Why at least a 2012? It has enough power to function comfortably, and you can easily replace the battery with a new one if needed.
If you can afford a newer one, perfect, if not, no problem. It will work anyway.
I tested a lot of MacBooks Pro and Macbooks Air in different configurations and years of manufacture, and it worked with all of them.
For a very long time, Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux recommended and used a MacBook Air by himself.
I can confirm that I also get the most comfortable use having a MacBook Air running Linux. So if you have the choice of buying, choose the Air over the Pro.
Let’s wrap it up:
- Choice MacBook Air 2012+
- Choice MacBook Pro 2012+
Minimum recommendation: 2012 MacBook Pro or Air with at least 4GB of RAM
Note: The latest MacBooks M1 are not suitable for Linux yet. There is a workaround to get it on somehow, but it’s not recommended by now (February 2022).
Which Linux distro should I use?
Which Linux Distro should you install on a MacBook?
While in many articles you get a recommendation by people who installed Linux on a Virtual Machine or make assumptions based on their prior experience with Linux, here you get first-hand information and recommendations.
If you stumbled upon an article from for example Macworld and followed their guide, you will quickly figure out that this is a VM-based instruction and will not help you if you run into live or hardware-based issues.
Ubuntu(Debian-based Distros): Known as the beginner-friendly easy-to-install Linux, it has downsides making it not recommended to use for a MacBook Pro/Air.
- Easy to install
- Easy to handle
- Driver issues
- Bloated when not customized
That goes for almost all Debian-based distros.
KO criteria for me was definitely the WiFi driver.
It keeps deactivating and there is almost no chance to get it back on. The quickest fix here is a reboot. Do it 15x a day and you will go mad. (Probably already after the 2nd time 😉 ).
Recommended Distro Pick:
Fedora could be a good pick here, as it’s very popular among MacBook Linux users.
Based on my experience and tests, the best working Linux for a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro is Manjaro.
Getting Manjaro up and running on your MacBook Pro or Air
It was by far the smoothest, fastest, and easiest solution for me and I still keep using it on some of my machines without any re-install or major issues.
I highly recommend the Manjaro XFCE Version, you can get it here
Steps to get Manjaro XFCE on your MacBook installed:
- Download the latest Manjaro XFCE
- Get a USB stick (min 4BG)
- Create a live USB stick
- Get Rufus
- macOS or Linux
- Get UNetbootin
- Start your MacBook and hold ALT/OPTION
5. Choose the USB stick and hit Enter
6. Once booted into the live session, find the install shortcut and follow the installer wizard (very user-friendly)
Core Guide ends here.
Additional Steps after installation:
Manjaro uses a Rolling Release Development Model, which means that rather than being new or additional iso installation, the same core system will instead be permanently upgraded and updated.
As you are in XFCE (or any other Desktop environment that you chose), you have the possibility to customize the system accordingly to your needs.
- Change the overall theme and “Look & Feel“
- Install/Remove packages (Software) that you need or don’t have use for (Removing anything unnecessary will speed up your system)
- Adding additional languages and keyboard layouts
NOTE: Full list of links to all software is attached to the end of the article
Advanced Power Management for Laptop
- TLP: Get this by opening a terminal as a superuser and type: pamac install tlp
- After installing you need to activate TLP by copying this to the terminal: systemctl enable tlp –now
- To administrate TLP install additional a UI: pamac install tlpui
Activate Security Options.
VPN (There are paid and free VPNs depending on your needs): Recommendation: RiseUp VPN (Free) or
Install secure browser – Recommendation: Brave Browser or Firefox
Additional Software to Consider:
Some of the software that you’ve use(d) on Windows or macOS is also available on Linux.
Also, there are some alternatives and workarounds.
VLC – a free and open-source cross-platform media player
- You’re probably using this on all other platforms too, including your mobile phone
Kodi – if you plan to use this MacBook (Pro/Air) as a media server, Kodi will serve you well. It’s easy to configure, has a lot of plugins for many use-cases, and there are lots of tutorials out there to tailor it for your needs.
If you are using Linux for – e.g. writing articles as I do right now, you probably want to have some nice images included in your blog posts, reviews, how-to guides, or whatever you are writing, you have different options.
You can install the classic on-Premises Software GIMP, or – this is what I recommend and use, using online tools like Figma or Canva.
Figma for some people seems to be exclusively for UX/UI tasks, but it has a lot more to offer.
You can adjust the images
Crop or fit
Create round edges
and much more…
Figma is 100% free for personal use.
Probably you want a clean environment, which is less vulnerable than a Windows or macOS machine for your office, banking, email, and document tasks.
LibreOffice: It’s a free and open-source office productivity software suite.
It might not be as beautiful as its’ competitor from Microsoft, but the functionality is comparable.
LibreOffice has compatibility with most of the file formats from Microsoft Office including DOCX, PPTX, and XLSX. It also supports non-Microsoft product formats.
And this is exactly where LibreOffice shines over Microsoft Office. The file compatibility. Supporting a lot more formats, including the option to create and export documents as an eBook (EPUB).
That is a good alternative to Google Keep and Evernote.
As the name already suggests, it’s a simple and clean experience.
The makers of Simplenote are also the people who created WordPress, the most used blogging/website tool in the known universe.
Sidenote: Syncs also with your phone as there are mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Let’s sum it up – By now you should have an old MacBook (Pro/Air) running Manjaro Linux
Links to everything mentioned in the Guide: (no affiliate links)
- Manjaro XFCE
- Brave Browser
- Firefox(you should find this in the package manager)
- VPN: RiseupVPN (free)
- VPN: Cyberghost (paid)
- VLC (you should find this in the package manager)
- LibreOffice ((you should find this in the package manager, or it’s pre-installed)
You’re all set up! Have fun with your superfast MacBook (Air)!