Get the Best Out of Your Old Mac Computer with Linux

Sep 7th, 2016No Comments

ThinkLunix for your old Mac

An out-of-date Mac computer leaves you with nothing more than a box that only performs basic tasks like browsing and word processing. Mac OS users are familiar with the Apple’s constant OS upgrades, which can be highly frustrating when an older Mac just won’t update.

But, you can get the best, and much more out of your old Mac by installing a modern Linux distribution on it

Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI)

Before we get further into Linux, let’s explain the role of Unified Extensible Firmware Interface. UEFI systems provide a standard model for the interface between operating software and firmware. This tech replaces the original Basic Input/ Output System (BIOS) interface, and makes legacy firmware more adaptable to future developments through the implementation of new operating systems- like Linux.

UEFI Apple’s Intel Move Opens Doors

When Apple changed its computers to use Intel processors in 2006, it became very easy to install any Linux distribution like Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS or openSUSE on a Mac computer. Since there are no limitations, the Linux distribution you install is entirely a matter of choice. Aside from CoreDuo Macs, any Mac made from 2006 will take a 64-bit Linux distribution.

How to Do It

You can use virtualization software, such as Parallels Desktop or VirtualBox, for easier installation. Alternatively, you can follow this process:

  1. Download an ISO of the Linux distribution you want to install on your Mac.

  2. Burn it to DVD and insert it into your powered MacBook

  3. Boot the MacBook from DVD by pressing and holding “C”.

This process is used only if you are doing a dual boot. If you want to replace OSX completely, there is a great guide on Macworld.

Linux Does More than Let You Keep Your MacBook

  • Performance
    If you are lucky enough to be able to upgrade your old Mac to the latest OSX, you may experience issues with performance. Apple is a corporate beast, and wants you to upgrade your OS and change your device when new models become available. Their business model is to entice people with the latest, hottest tech. That sometimes means a bit of stick as well as carrot. With Linux, however, you can work around these limitations very comfortably. Enjoying a fully functional MacBook can be as easy as using simple distributions and desktop environments, like Openbox, to run the latest version of your chosen Linux distribution.

Brendan Wilde from freeparking.co.nz;

“I installed Linux on my old power book and now it functions as a fully capable Web Design environment with Brackets and GIMP for my current projects. I enjoy using Linux and it has given a whole new life to an older machine that had become unviable.”

  • Updates
    If you are using Power Mac version of MacBook, you cannot upgrade to newer OSX versions. With a Linux distribution, you can easily enjoy up-to-datesecurity patches, latest software from any solution, and modern browsers on your old Mac. You can even download and run versions of some Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Debian for much older Macs (older than 2006) and then run them using any lightweight distribution environments. You can run Power Mac G4 and G5 using Ubuntu PowerPC. But don’t expect much efficiency with this especially if you want to test software for multiple-case scenarios.

Word of Caution

While being able to keep your beloved, old MacBook is an attractive proposition, you should consider other liabilities like power consumption and
reliability. Quite frankly, there may be cases where you are best served to upgrade your device than slug it out with an obsolete Mac.

For example, installing a Linux distribution on a Mac is not always easy or even successful. If your Mac has a 32-bit UEFI but comes with a 64-bit CPU, you may not be able to work with a 64-bit Linux distribution especially if the Linux distribution does not have EFI System Partition (ESP) for both 32 and 64- bit systems. But rEFInd may bail you out in such situation. So, before you put your beloved Mac in the storage room, give Linux on OSX a try and you may just have a powerful PC on your hands again.

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