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Dual Boot Linux Mint 16 and Mavericks OSX on an iMac (mid 2011)

Posted on 2014-03-20
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Last Modified: 2014-04-01
Hello,

I know this has been asked many times in other forums but I have been looking for more than two days for my specific configuration and wasn't able to find an appropriate guide (or step by step explanation).

What I expect:
Dual-boot Linux Mint Petra 16 and OSX Mavericks on an iMac.

What I have:
- iMac (mid 2011) with 8 GB RAM and 1 TB HDD running a clean install of OSX Mavericks
- 1 burned DVD containing Linux Mint Petra 16 (and ISO file)
- USB Drive with Mavericks OSX installation files (just in case I mess up)
- 3 USB Drives with no data ready to be used.

So far I have:
- Backups of my files
- Linux and Mavericks ISO's
- Reserved a 200GB Partition to be used for Linux and the Bootmanager
- Burned CD with rEFIt (which seems to be no longer supported)

After I tried a Linux Mint 16 LiveCD I decided I would like to permanently have it on my Mac as an alternative OS ... I did some research and noticed it's not as easy as on PC based systems (pop in installation disk and follow up instructions). A boot-manager is needed, most forums mention rEFIt but it seems to be outdated so there is a new version by a different developer. This other version is called rEFInd and most guides explain how to use it with UBUNTU or previous versions of Linux Mint ...and on MacBooks. This is where I get confused, apparently it is not the same to use an iMac or an MacBook. There also seem to be different procedures on different Linux versions and distros.
I tried reading about this rEFInd on the developers page but he gets into every single detail on why he started developing it, his personal opinions on other boot managers, the difference between BIOS and EFI and many other details... it gets very confusing.

I was hoping somebody has a link to a practical guide that would fit my configuration or would be able to give me some directions on the bootloader / manager. All I need is to be able to have my iMac load the Linux Mint 16 on startup. Rest of installation and configration is no problem.

Your help is deeply appreciated!

hex.
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Question by:Sven Baehr
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Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 39943791
Easy way:
Linux mint (and all linux guests) runs very well (with 3D acceleration) in virtualbox (with system extensions and guest tools installed)
Hard way:
You need EFI-capable installer (64-bit in general), otherwise it will not even boot the CD
Then use partitioning guide to get some space for linux
Then install to that partition. You need FAT filesystem in /boot(/efi), rest should be ext4 or whatever.
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Author Comment

by:Sven Baehr
ID: 39945169
Hello gheist,

I am not sure I want to use Mint on a VM , that would be loading the OSX and on top of it the VM, I would like to use full resources for each system. Besides my main motivation (or challenge) is to get a Linux system booting on a Mac. I have virtually no experience with Linux and this is me fondling around to become more experienced.

I have some issues understanding EFI (but I am not sure if I need to comprehend EFI entirely in order to install it). Partitioning is no problem, I have done it before and it's within my comfort zone.

On my research I noticed many using rEFIt and rEFInd, some talk about using BootCamp but this doesn't seem to be the preferred choice for many (don't know why).

I also have a general question. Is everything I do "undoable" ? I want to experiment a bit but like to have the option to get back to normal if things go wrong. I don't want to risk bricking my iMac.

Last question... I was considering a VM for experimenting with other distros. I already own Parallels so I can load windows but I rarely see anyone using Parallels to load linux most ppl use Virtual Box. Anyone know if I can use Parallels?

Best regards,

hex.
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Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 39945309
REFIT is a boot manager that lets you select to boot osx, linux, windows partitions
BootCamp is same but windows only, you can trick it to load linux
so you need one of them

Undoable - yes, delete unneeded partitions in osx and extend its own partition.
In case bootloaders are messed up disk utility on install CD/USB can fix boot chain.

Yes you can use parallels https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/VBox_vs_Others, virtualbox allows 3d graphics (OpenGL)
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Expert Comment

by:serialband
ID: 39946599
There's nothing to "trick" for Linux on BootCamp.  You just create the Bootcamp partition as you would with Windows and reboot into the linux Installer CD or USB.  Since Mint is based off Ubuntu &Debian it should just install without issue.
http://mrpowell80.tumblr.com/post/6957633281/install-linux-via-boot-camp

You only need rEFIt if you want to do more that dual boot.  It clutters up the boot selection screen otherwise.
http://lifehacker.com/5531037/how-to-triple-boot-your-mac-with-windows-and-linux-no-boot-camp-required
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Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 39946641
Just that bootcamp ejects the CD for reboot and you need to stick cd back and hold 'c'
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Author Comment

by:Sven Baehr
ID: 39950582
Hello,

so since the Bootcamp option seems to be easier one (and I probably should start easy), I decided to go that way. However I ran into a problem. After I start Bootcamp I get the assistant telling me I need a USB Stick to install Bootcamp (guessing some install files that will assist me). So I throw in a USB stick that has to be reformatted ... ok, then I get a message saying that it is Downloading Windows 7 support software... soon after that I get a window telling me that the stuff it was downloading is currently not available on the Apple Update Server.  It's two days I do not get passed that screen, any ideas what I might be doing wrong?

Downloading Windows 7 support files
Error with Apple Update Server
Your help is deeply appreciated.

hex
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by:gheist
ID: 39950634
Eather wait for apple to fix download servers or partition with disk utility and boot the linux CD
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by:serialband
ID: 39950842
You should have had the options in bootcamp to download drivers and prepare a CD.  You can uncheck those checkboxes.  It's been a few months, but I recall seeing those options.  You don't actually need to do either.

If somehow they've changed the bootcamp settings or if I'm remembering incorrectly, you can just use disk utility to partition the system.
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Author Comment

by:Sven Baehr
ID: 39962171
I have been having some difficulties...mostly understanding what is actually happening.

So I did the Bootcamp thing (created a Bootcamp partition) and tried to start the Linux Mint DVD on startup . Problem is, I manage to enter to the Bootscreen where I my options are

1) Mavericks HDD (my main OS)  
2) Recovery Partition 10.9
3) Windows

I select Windows and I can hear the DVD spinning, then a black screen takes over the screen saying the is no bootable medium on that disk.

I feel I am missing something obvious.

Ohh.. I also should mention, that the integrated DVD unit on my iMac is defective, which is why I use an external DVD drive that has worked for everything so far. (And I can hear the Disk spinning after I select the Wndows option at boot, then it would just stop and tell me about the 'no bootable medium'). I would love to use a USB instead of the DVD but I haven't seen a USB Boot creator that would let me do this on a Mac (like penguindrive or Lilis USB  Creator on Windows).

Any suggestions?

Kind regards,

hex.
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Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 39962514
You forgot to mention, but that one is not bootable at all. You may have some luck with very fast and expensive USB flash drive.
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Author Comment

by:Sven Baehr
ID: 39962642
an Update on how I am doing so far.

So I looked up this instructions on how to get to start Linux on a USB (like a LiveCD not install as I intended at first, still I gave it a try).

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-boot-a-linux-live-usb-stick-on-your-mac/

I downloaded Mac Linux USB loader and loaded a Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon on a regular USB stick.

I was able to get passed the bootmenu and actually load the system files using the USB, however right before the Mint Cinnamon desktop was loaded I got a basic GUI that told me that there was a problem with the graphic interface for my system (guessing drivers for my iMac??)

I tried to correct them but got nowhere and ended up back at a command line.

Maybe my iMac graphics adapter isn't compatible or the USB isn't too fast (as gheist) suggested. I am kind of giving up. Setting Linux dual boot on an iMac just seems to be very complicated.  My intention was to use my iMac (which is kind of my second computer) to practice with Linux and Mac OS's. I don't want to use my main PC laptop to experiment with I am afraid of data loss.  I considered purchasing an old laptop on ebay to use it as a lab-computer to learn how to use Linux but still I am frustrated not being able to set up the Mac for OSX and Linux... it would have given me a sense of accomplishment.

Ideas?

I appreciate the suggestions you have given me so far.

Kind regards,

hex
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Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 39963335
imac has radeon video card which is absolutely generic in PC world and well supported.
Can you boot latest ubuntu live USB IMAGE? Mint is a ripoff of that btw...
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Assisted Solution

by:serialband
serialband earned 200 total points
ID: 39963981
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by:gheist
ID: 39964200
Suse gnome is green too and it boots even on UEFI secure boot.
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Author Comment

by:Sven Baehr
ID: 39965117
Hello,

last comment said something about SUSE GNOME being "green" and bots into UEFI mode ..this made me curious ... does "green" mean it will (definitely) work on my system no matter what?  The reason I am willing to do this, is because MINT has become a hassle on (installing/boot) with my iMac , the previous links which suggested serialbrand were VERY appreciated but I have already browsed them (before I came to EE).
One of those links suggests using rEFIt (which seems to be outdated compared to rEFInd). The other one suggests rEFInd but I was told that rEFInd would only clutter up my interface if I wouldn't use more than OSX and Linux. The latest suggestion didn't work for me...probably because it reefers to an older version of OSX (??)

I kind of feel I am not good at this (even though that's always the challenge). I am considering purchasing a PC Notebook from ebay (to use it on Linux) or a FIT-PC . That obviously implies a great expense, because I would need a screen).  What would you recommend? I am a *nix starter with serious intentions but obviously have no clue so far. My spare computer (iMac) doesn't seem to be fit to run Linux systems...at least not without being somewhat experienced. Do all Linux users start under this conditions?

Kind regards,

hex
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Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 39965130
No, it just depends what you are after.
If you can boot opensuse it gives you green gnome desktop like mint (preceding mint bu 5 years or so)
If you can boot ubuntu it means mint messed something up with their customisation
Failing both you can try Fedora and CentOS latest versions etc etc.
When you insert a Linux DVD try to change mac boot order - if it says it will boot from media woohoo, thats it, otherwise pinch boot options (U or C may or may not work)
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Author Comment

by:Sven Baehr
ID: 39967723
Hello,

I really feel bad asking this, but I honestly feel 'less experienced' every time I read directions and know that I am 3 steps behind (of what I initially expected to be).

I am ashamed to ask... but is a Linux (whatever distro) I download from the official website the same for PC and Mac based computers?
 I am starting to feel I can't get the CD`s or USB images to boot because I am downloading (and treating) the ISO's as I would on a PC computer.  Have I been downloading the wrong ISO's the whole time or is my method, burner software of even my CD/DVD drive defective?

Best regards,

hex
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Accepted Solution

by:
gheist earned 300 total points
ID: 39967786
Do you have a rewritable media? You can try them one at the time. vmware or virtualbox can tell you if actual ISO will boot with EFI...
(Come on - your hardware is so broken that maybe really consider virtualisation or seek warranty repair)
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Author Closing Comment

by:Sven Baehr
ID: 39969088
Virtualisation is no problem, it's not exactly what I was hoping for but I should accept the fact that this territory is still a bit to rough for me. It sounded fun, challenging and interesting at first but then it got complicated. I got a used PC laptop from eBay and I will play around with linux (on the laptop as on VM) and then -later this year-  I'll adventure to *nix on a Mac.
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Expert Comment

by:gheist
ID: 39969243
You can have virtualbox or parallels to install linux in EFI mode on that RAW partition you created
Then try booting  it from boot manager - maybe it just works right away ;)
Or if not -still you get virtual machine with full speed disk...
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