Installing Ubuntu 12.04 on a MacBook Pro 9.2 (mid 2012) with 13 inch screen

Note: this guide is for advanced users. Installing Ubuntu on a MacBook Pro is at your own risk!

MacBook Pro's are nice laptops. But with a working Ubuntu installation on it they are even nicer... Here's my guide to installing Ubuntu 12.04.1 on a MacBook Pro 9.2 (13 inch, mid 2012). All went fine after I figured out some problems.

1. The first thing you have to do when you want to install Ubuntu on a MacBook Pro is boot up Mac OS X and download and install rEFIt. Choose the Mac disk image (.dmg) and install rEFIt: a bootmenu for MacBooks. When you are going to install (and boot) Ubuntu you can choose it from the rEFIt-menu.

rEFIt bootmenu

2. Create a partition for Ubuntu. Start Disk Utility in Mac OS X and create an empty partition (free space) at the end of the disk by resizing the Mac OS X partition. Here are detailed instructions from the MacTel Support Team. Of course be careful with partitioning!

3. For a day or so I tried all kinds of live-cd's, live-dvd's and alternate cd's of all kinds of Ubuntu-versions (10.04, 12.04.1, 12.10 beta) but nothing worked. I could choose the cd/dvd from the rEFIt bootmenu but it stopped loading after a few seconds and left me with a blinking cursor. It didn't install. Aaargh!

Then I tried making a bootable usb stick with Startup Disk Creator in Ubuntu (on another machine). It didn't work and also showed the dreaded blinking cursor after booting the usb stick. Aaargh! Something seems to be wrong with the Startup Disk Creator in Ubuntu (I used Ubuntu 12.10 beta, so maybe that's the problem).

Finally I tried to make a startup disk on a Windows-machine. With the recommended Pendrive Universal USB Installer I made a Ubuntu startup disk. And it worked!

a. Download the Universal USB Installer (in Windows)
b. Start the Universal USB Installer (in Windows) and make a Ubuntu startup disk. Read instructions here. You can automatically let Universal USB Installer download the Ubuntu iso (12.04 or later is recommended).

4. Boot up your MacBook Pro with the usb stick with Ubuntu 12.04 (or later) on it. In rEFIt you have to choose the Penguin. Sometimes rEFIt doesn't recognize the usb stick the first time. Then you have to restart your MacBook (sometimes a few times).

5. After choosing the usb drive with Ubuntu the installation process will start. Install Ubuntu just like you did so many times before... Just make sure you do a dual boot to keep Mac OS X.

Wireless isn't working out of the box, so you have to plug in the ethernet cable!

6. When the installation has finished you have to reboot your MacBook (and remove the usb stick) and choose the penguin from the rEFIt bootmenu. On my MacBook Pro 9.2 all went well and I could boot to the Ubuntu desktop!

After the installation there are a few - important - things to take care of.

Fix wireless network
First of all: wireless network isn't available because you have to manually install the appropriate driver. In my MacBook Pro 9.2 the BCM4331 Wireless driver was missing (and that's the case in more, newer, MacBook Pro's). On Tim Hentenaars blog I found the solution to get the wireless card working. Here a short excerpt of his instructions.

Open a terminal and paste (one by one) the following commands:

  • sudo apt-get install b43-fwcutter firmware-b43-installer
  • sudo dpkg-reconfigure firmware-b43-installer
  • sudo modprobe b43
  • export FIRMWARE_INSTALL_DIR="/lib/firmware"
  • wget ; tar -xjf broadcom-wl-5.100.138.tar.bz2
  • sudo b43-fwcutter -w "$FIRMWARE_INSTALL_DIR" broadcom-wl-5.100.138/linux/wl_apsta.o
  • dmesg | tail -2

You will get some messages back in the terminal. After this don't forget the final step: Enable/Disable Wireless in the network menu in Ubuntu and your wireless network is ready!

Add MacTel PPA
Second, you should add the MacTel Support PPA to your software repositories:

Open a terminal and paste:

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mactel-support/ppa
  • sudo apt-get update

Now you can install some useful packages to improve your experience with Ubuntu on a MacBook. On Ubuntu 12.04 you can add these packages: for fancontrol macfanctld, for sensor reading applesmc-dkms for multitouch xf86-input-multitouch and for touchpad xserver-xorg-input-synaptics.

For other versions of Ubuntu you can get an overview of the packages here (filter by series). Use the terminal or Software Center to install these packages.

Well, Ubuntu is running very smoothly now on my MacBook Pro. There are, however, a few disadvantages:
- battery life is not as good as on Mac OS X. Not 7 hours, but 4 to 5 hours at most on Ubuntu (and this is with powertop tweaks).
- sometimes the fan is getting very loud. It's like the MacBook is getting ready for a take off. On Mac OS X I didn't notice this. Maybe the fancontrol-package from MacTel (macfanctld) needs to be tweaked?

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I have found the solution for Ubuntu 12.10!!! Wireless is now working perfectly. :-)

Simply install linux-firmware-nonfree as below

sudo apt-get install linux-firmware-nonfree

Thanks, for the addition!

Please could you update for 12.10

I have found that using your guide the WiFi device is installed and detected but no wireless networks are detected.

lspci gives me:

Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4331 802.11a/b/g/n (rev 02)


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