Giving Old Macs a New Purpose – Install Ubuntu 12.10

March 17, 2013 6:44 pm 2 Comments

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Couple years ago I used to have a MacBook Pro with Core 2 Duo processor (2007 model). It was great back then, however as time passed after 3 years; I needed a laptop with higher resolution. So I bought a Sony with 1080 HD screen. It was a great decision, the performance wasn’t great perhaps due to the whole bunch of software it was running. Now I’m back with MacBook Pro Retina Display and it reminded me that I still have this old MacBook Pro lying around which I can virtually do anything with.

The good old 2007 MacBook Pro has been lying dormant for over 3 years! I decided to pop it open and plug it back into life. The machine still works, however unable to utilize the latest and greatest OSX, it would have been too slow if it was able to anyway. However this machine is still great, so I thought there has to be something that I can do with this thing. So yes, I’m planning to install Ubuntu 12.10 on it.

I’m sure there are a lot of other people with the same case as I am so here are a couple things that I have done to give this old mac a new purpose.

Before doing anything in this tutorial, please please please, backup your data first! I will not be held liable for any loss of data, etc.

Upgrade the HDD

The MacBook Pro came with 120GB HDD, this was not nearly enough if you want to put two OSes inside. Coincidentally I have already upgraded the Mac’s HDD few years back out of interest. It was a relatively easy process, you just have to be careful.

I followed the instruction on ifixit. Go ahead and look at the guide if you are interested.

500GB HDDs are so cheap these days and you can almost get it anywhere in store or online. Here are couple of examples to show you the current price:

NOTE: make sure you read the ifixit guide for the correct specification of the HDD. I use the Western Digital 500GB SATA myself but different MacBook may vary.

Install ubuntu alongside OSX

There are two ways you can install Ubuntu Linux on a Mac. That is full installation or dual booting between OSX and Ubuntu. Today we are going to show you how to install this dual booting style.

Note that in this guide we are using OSX Snow Leopard and Ubuntu 12.10.

1. Download the Ubuntu CD

Download the ubuntu ISO from

To keep it safe, choose the 32-bit version. The Mac that I use for this tutorial only have 3GB of RAM anyway so 32-bit will work just fine. After the download has been completed, burn the ISO a CD or DVD.

2. Partition the Mac HDD

  1. Open the Disk Utility in OSX
  2. Resize your mac partition to a desired size. In my case its 250GB.
  3. Create an MS-DOS partition for the rest of the free area.
  4. Apply and let it finish modifying the partition. Most of the time would work just fine.
  5. Reboot to make sure everything works properly

3. Download and install rEFIt

Macs doesn’t use BIOS but EFI, installing rEFIt will allow your Mac to multiboot into different OS-es

  1. So download from:
  2. Proceed with the installation
  3. Reboot – And nothing happens… It’s okay, that’s cool just let it proceed to OSX
  4. Insert your Ubuntu CD!
  5. Reboot again. You’ll see the rEFIt screen to choose your OS – this means it’s all good
    rEFIt choose linux

4. Install Ubuntu

This is the fun part.

  1. In your rEFIt screen choose boot from Ubuntu CD
  2. Choose Install ubuntu when asked if you want to try or install
    Ubuntu install
  3. On the installation type screen, choose Something Else, we will partition this manually
  4. For our partition we can use the following configurations, based on 250GB HDD:
    1. 300MB for /boot using ext2
    2. 2GB for swap
    3. 1MB for biosgrub
    4. 100GB for / – this is for your applications, etc
    5. 100GB for /home – this is for your data
  5. Then proceed with the installations, sit back and relax…
    or if you are like me trying this late at night, turn off the lights and go to bed.

5. Reboot to your Ubuntu Installation

img_4848You can now do whatever you need to do on Ubuntu. In my experience, using Ubuntu 12.10 on Macbook Pro Core 2 Duo works out of the box. Wireless and sound works flawlessly. The only thing that I needed to adjust was the trackpad, which can be done using Ubuntu’s “mouse and trackpad control panel” anyway.

All Done, Good Work!

[singlepic id=26 w=160 h=120 float=right]So, that was easy. I hope you can try this and have as much fun as I did. Again, don’t forget to backup your data before doing this. Anyway, this is an old mac too, so there’s no need to hold back.

Now you can install your development servers from source just like on any other Linux machines or turn this mac into a local server. The possibility is endless :D


Here are the couple of websites where I based my experiment on. I only took the relevant bit out of these as Ubuntu 12.10 is generally very compatible with the Mac.

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