Installing Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy on a Mac Pro (dual-boot with OS X)

This is the quickest way I found to get a basic system up and running on a Mac Pro 8-core (should work for the other versions as well). You DO NOT need Bootcamp to do this! This is assuming you have a single hard disk installed, with a default OS X partition.

Before you proceed: please make sure you have a current backup of your system. The following procedure is risky and could damage your system and/or make it unbootable.

  1. Boot into OS X
  2. Install rEFIt
  3. Repartition your hard drive. Let's say you want to resize your OS X partition to 200GB and create a new 200GB Linux partition. Open a terminal and type:
    sudo diskutil resizeVolume disk0s2 200G Linux Linux 200G
  4. Download the Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Live CD and burn it
  5. Restart
  6. When the rEFIt menu comes up, check if the partition tables are synced.
  7. Shutdown
  8. Start it again with the "c" key pressed to boot from the CD
  9. When Ubuntu comes up, click on the "Install" icon on the desktop
  10. Choose "Manual" partitioning and select the new (probably called /dev/sda3) partition as your root
  11. Ignore the warning about the swap partition
  12. Click on "Advanced" before finishing the installation and make sure that the boot loader is installed on /dev/sda3 (or whatever your root partition is) rather than (hd0) or similar
  13. Remove the CD and reboot
  14. Once you're back in Ubuntu, open a terminal and create your swap file (for example a 2GB one):
    dd if=/dev/zero of=/swap bs=1024 count=2097152
    mkswap /swap
    swapon /swap
    chmod 600 /swap
  15. Done!

If you get a black screen during booting from the CD or the installation, then try to remove the "splash" option from the boot options. This helped me with my 23" Apple Cinema Display.

Ok, now you should have a basic Ubuntu installation. Next post will show you how to fix some of the annoyances of the basic installation that are specific to the Mac Pro.

Drop me a comment if you know any way to optimize this install procedure, I'd be glad to hear from you.

Posted byvfxdude at 2:27 PM  


Anonymous said... November 16, 2007 at 9:51 AM  

Thanks a lot for your post. I have, however, two questions which I'd greatly appreciate you comment. First one is related to Ubuntu Gutsy, did you install the 64 bit version? The second one has to do with my ignorance about Mactel-Linux, that is, I see you installed kernel 2.6.23-mactel (and patches), is that needed? may I know where to find the procedure to install it? My Mac Pro is two 2.66 GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon, SATA 250 GB, 1GB RAM, GeForce 7300 GT NVidia 256 MB, with 20" Apple Cinema display. Best regards.

vfxdude said... November 16, 2007 at 11:38 AM  


thanks for your comment.

Yes, this was the 64-bit version of Ubuntu Gutsy I installed.

Check out this post for more information on how to get the patches and compile a custom kernel.

santi said... November 16, 2007 at 9:27 PM  

Hi again, very kind of you to have answered so quickly. Now I see what the aim is of the custom kernel. In case I encounter some issue, I'll comment you, of course, if you don't mind. Best regards.

mike said... November 21, 2007 at 12:03 PM  

Thanks for posting the howto! I'm going to give this a try on my 8-core mac pro except that I'll use a separate hard disk instead of partitioning the OSX volume. I have OS X installed on a mirrored (apple software RAID) volume. Does anyone see any problems with rEFIt booting this machine?

Anonymous said... December 2, 2007 at 5:06 AM  

I am trying your guide and get this error in the terminal during step 3:

Linux does not appear to be a valid file system format
Valid filesystems: "Journaled HFS+" "HFS+" "Case-sensitive HFS+" "Case-sensitive Journaled HFS+" "HFS" "MS-DOS FAT16" "MS-DOS FAT32" "MS-DOS FAT12" "MS-DOS" "UDF" "UFS" "ZFS"

This is being performed on my 2nd Mac HD in bay #2 so I am using "disk1s2" to target that hard drive.

Please advise.

don hardaway said... December 6, 2007 at 2:15 AM  

after issuing the dd command i never get a prompt back. so i can not enter the other commands.

Anonymous said... December 9, 2007 at 12:46 AM  

Anonymous: It's working on Tiger, so I must assume you're using Leopard and maybe they removed the Linux option? You could try to do the same with the Leopard disk utility. No guarantees, though!

Don: You have to wait several minutes depending how fast your hdd is and how big the swap is that you're trying to create.

rumplestiltskin said... December 14, 2007 at 3:19 PM  

Why did you not create a swap partition??

don hardaway said... December 14, 2007 at 6:01 PM  

The commands i entered from the instructions did not work. I think if you could provide the steps again but this time numbered it may be easier. thanks.

vfxdude said... December 15, 2007 at 6:28 PM  

Could you please specify what didn't work? What was the error message?

don hardaway said... December 15, 2007 at 8:42 PM  

after issuing the dd command it never completed

vfxdude said... December 16, 2007 at 11:51 AM  

The problem was that the swap file generated was 20 GB rather than 2 GB. Just corrected the post. Now it should finish within 5 minutes. Please try again.

CC said... June 10, 2008 at 7:42 PM  


thanks for your detailed instructions.
Just wondering whether you've experienced any problems. I've never used Linux and would like to ask whether Linux runs perfectly on a Mac. I need to run a CFD code on my 8-core Mac Pro and need all the capacity it has. For instance, if Linux has problems accessing all processors or all the Ram, I'd encounter serious challenges. I'd very much appreciate your take on the compatibility of Linux and 8-core Mac Pro...



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Joseph Crawford said... November 9, 2009 at 4:30 AM  

I am having a hard time getting this to work with Ubuntu 9.10 and OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Anyone here been able to get it to dual boot with a mac pro? I get it to install just fine however rEFIt shows the ubuntu install as legacy OS and when I try to boot from that it just gives me a blank screen with a _ cursor that flashes.

Lucien said... November 12, 2009 at 2:15 AM  

Hi Joseph, I have a new Mac Pro 8-core, generation 4,1, and I have tried from Ubuntu 8.04 right up to 9.10 (both x86_64 and the regular 32-bit). The problem has to do with the LiveCD/Installer not being able to find a bootable root / to proceed with either a Live boot in, or an install. There's is some painful fix, it seems, on the Debian wiki ..., but I don't understnad it. If you do, please update us all Mac Pro users/Linux junkies. Otherwise, I also have no luck so far with other distros - e.g. OpenSuse 11.1, Debian, Linux Mint.

Lucien said... November 12, 2009 at 2:18 AM  

Has anyone compiled a successful alternative LiveCD for either Ubuntu or OpenSuse that installs out of the box on a Mac Pro (2009) generation 4,1?

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