Home > Linux, MacBook Air > Install Linux Mint 12 (Lisa) on 13inch MacBook Air 4.2 (2011 model)

Install Linux Mint 12 (Lisa) on 13inch MacBook Air 4.2 (2011 model)

December 5th, 2011

Linux Mint 12 (Lisa) is based on Ubuntu 11.10 so the script created by Joshua Dillon that is referenced on the Ubuntu MacBook Air site would in theory work, however as I found I needed to do a little tweaking to get this to occur. Below are the steps that enabled me to run Mint 12 on my MacBook Air.

NOTE:It is assumed in the how-to that you have already partitioned your MacBook Air ready for linux, if you have not done this already then follow this link, as I explain it in another blog post.

Step 1: Install Linux Mint 12 (Lisa)

Attach installation medium to MacBook Air, I used an external DVD drive connected to the USB using the DVD ISO downloaded from the Linux Mint site, located here.. I used the torrent of the 64-bit version, which can be found here.

Boot up MacBook, then select the Linux icon with the little CD located next to it.

Step 2: Alter Boot Parameters

If you let the boot up run as normal, the system will not boot. You need to tell the the GRUB loader that it does not need to load any of the default drivers. As the MacBook display with the Sandy Bridge Chipset does not seem to play well with the default drivers.

When the countdown to automatic boot is on the screen, press “TAB”, then press “TAB” again to edit the boot up parameters. You need to add “nomodeset” before the “–“, as shown below:

Then press enter and the Mint 12 Live DVD will now boot as expected.

Step 3: Configure Installation

Double click on the “Install Linux Mint” icon the desktop, then select your language. When the installation type option is on the screen ensure you select “Something Else”

Now you will be presented with the option for selecting your partition to install Linux on. For my system this was “sda4″, be cautious here as you do not want to format the wrong partition. When you select the correct partition, ensure that you select “EXT4″ and to format the partition, then you need to set the mount point to “/”

Now select the partition that has been set aside for the “Linux Swap”, this was “sda5″ on mine, a 4GB partition. When you select this partition, you need to choose the file system as “swap”.

The last and Very Important step is to set the “Device for boot loader installation”, this needs to be set to the partition that was configured with the mount point “/”, on my system this was “sda4″.

Now you will be able to select the keyboard, this step does not really matter as this will be set later, but I chose “English (Macintosh)”

Now continue through the installation and select reboot when asked.

Step 4: Resolve “Missing Operating System” Error

If when selecting to boot Linux after the installation has finished and you are presented with the error below, don’t be alarmed.

Reboot and load up MacOS, once up and running download GPT fdisk from Sourceforge, at time of writing current version was 0.8.1 located here.

Once installed open a terminal and run the following:

sudo gdisk /dev/disk0

Then complete these options:


It should look like the below:

This will now display the partitions currently setup on the system. These will be used in the next part, next a hybrid partition table is needed. To do this select “h”.


Now the partitions that need to be included in the new partition table are to be listed out based on the information just printed out to the terminal. The first partition (the GPT partition) and the linux swap are not required to be listed in the new partition table. So on my system the included partitions were 2, 3 and 4. This is selected in the following way:

2 3 4

–Take note of SPACES between the numbers

Then each of the partitions need to configured, select “y” to placing the EFI GPT partition first in the MBR, then for all the other partitions select the default MBR Hex code and select “n” for bootable. The only difference is change the MBR Hex code to “83” for the Linux partition and set this to bootable. As shown below:

Once done, select “o” will display the changes that are about to be made. Once 100% sure they are correct type “w” to write them.


NOTE: If you are unsure at all about this do some research, as doing this step wrong will BRICK your MacBook Air.

STEP 5: Boot Linux Mint 12 for the first time

Reboot the system then select the Linux icon from the boot screen.

When the GRUB loader is on the screen you will need to select “e” on the top line to adjust the default options, as the default boot will still not start correctly.

Add the “nomodeset” as done before, but this time press “ctrl+x” once complete to boot.

STEP 6: Updating Linux

Once Mint 12 has started, open a terminal window and run the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

This will take quite some time, so let this finish.

STEP 7: Configure source.list to include source (SRC)

By default Mint 12 does not have any source repositories included in the sources.list for apt-get, these will be required later as the script for the required drivers downloads and recompiles the kernel. At a terminal run the following command:

sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

Modify this to look like the below, copy each line and add the “-SRC”

Save the file and close, now update the apt-get listing:

sudo apt-get update

STEP 8: Update the Kernel

When Mint 12 was released the Kernel version was at 3.0.0-12, when writing this the Kernel was at version 3.0.0-13, so I updated my Kernel to the latest, as the script that will be run later appeared to have issues if the Kernel version on the system was not the latest version obtained from apt-get.

To update you kernel first determine what kernel version you have by running at a terminal

uname -r

It will show something like the below, this was run on my system after updating, so a default Mint 12 will be 3.0.0-12-generic.

Now search the apt-cache to see what is available:

apt-cache search linux-image-

The results will look like the following, remember the latest version, in the case of the image below this is “linux-image-3.0.0-13-generic”

To install the latest version run the following command, with the x’s being replaced with what you have found out above:

sudo apt-get install linux-image-x.x.x-xx-generic"

Wait for this to occur then reboot the system, when it boots up again you will need to complete the “nomodeset” fix still.

Once up and running, check the installed kernel version by running this command again

uname -r

STEP 9: Update Kernel Dependencies

To ensure everything is configured correctly and the source information is accessible, update the Kernel’s source dependencies, by running the following command:

sudo apt-get build-dep --no-install-recommends linux-image-$(uname -r)

If this works correctly move onto the next step, if not you will need to resolve this before moving on.

STEP 9: Configure the Correct Drivers

Download this script to you system, post-install-oneiric.sh (I saved this script to “Downloads”). Then run the follow script.

cd ~/Downloads/
chmod a+x post-install-oneiric.sh
sudo ./post-install-oneiric.sh

When asked to select “y/n” answer all the questions with a “y” on the first run through.

This again will take quite some time to complete so please be patient.

STEP 10: All Complete

Now if everything has gone well you should be able to reboot you MacBook Air, when the GRUB Loader appears, just let it run through as default. The screen everything else should function as per the list on the Ubuntu page.

Again a special thank you to Joshua Dillon for creating this script to get the MacBook Air drivers working correctly.

  1. MacBook Air 4,2
    December 12th, 2011 at 07:49 | #1

    Hi Dan.
    First of all great post: i think it’s the only article that manage accurately the installation of this O.S. on the MacBook Air of fourth generation.
    I have a problem at the end of installation: all step are ok (i jumped the step of gfdisk because it recognize Linux Mint without other operations).
    After running the post-install-oneiric script, near the end of its execution the terminal returns an error message: “Error stating file ‘/usr/share/color/icc/Apple_MacBookAir4.icc': No such file or directory”.
    And then the installation fails. Do you have any ideas? Thank you :)

    P.S. I tried the installation of Ubuntu 11.10 with the same script and all went well.

  2. December 14th, 2011 at 18:27 | #2

    @MacBook Air 4,2
    Thanks for the good feedback.

    The icc file is the color profile for the LCD display. The script attempts to mount the Mac OS partition then copy the color profile. This will then attempt to calibrate your display based on these settings. It is in reality a step that does not really need to be completed, so if you receive an error for this step I would not be that worried, The reason that the installation fails at this point is that this is the last step the script will perform.

    If you really want this step to occur, you can do it manually by mounting the Mac OS drive and copying the following file “/media/Mac\ OS/Library/ColorSync/Profiles/Displays/ColorLCD-00000610-0000-9C??-0000-000004273??0.icc” to “/usr/share/color/icc/” and renaming the file to “Apple_MacBookAir4.icc” then at a terminal run the following command “gcm-import /usr/share/color/icc/Apple_MacBookAir4.icc”


  3. Mike
    December 15th, 2011 at 11:17 | #3

    Thanks for the detailed write up. Was this done with Snow Leopard or with Lion? I’ve heard that rEFIt doesn’t work properly with Lion (I get as far as “missing operating system”). My concern with Lion is that there is also a “recovery partition” for MacOS. Would this change your method?

    • December 15th, 2011 at 21:33 | #4

      I completed this with Lion. I did completely kill the partition table at one point and it was not booting into anything. After some searching I found that the only way to recover with Lion was online, so I attempted this but it also failed.

      After only owning the Mac for 2 weeks at this point I was a little concerned. However I then stumbled across a way to clear the PRAM and NVRAM, found here. Completing this on the boot-up, got Lion booting again, I then completed the rEFIt installation again then attempted the whole process again. With slight changes of course, but the results of what worked for me are listed in the article.


  4. Antoine
    December 16th, 2011 at 20:19 | #5

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you so much for this great tutorial… My MBA is now running Lisa beautifully. Most steps produced the expected results except that I just got a black screen with blinking cursor instead of the “missing operating system” error message.

    Also Joshua’s post install script would not update the graphics due to the OS not being Ubuntu so I downloaded fix-i915.sh from his website and removed the OS check.

    Thanks again for your hard work, it’s really appreciated.


  5. MacBook Air 4,2
    December 26th, 2011 at 05:37 | #6


    I followed your route: otherwise video driver didn’t work.

  6. Alan
    February 23rd, 2012 at 15:48 | #7

    You’re my hero. Just wanted to let you know. This is fantastic. Absolutely fantastic!

  7. bill n
    March 1st, 2012 at 02:09 | #8

    The post-install script does not work. The Touchpad is unaffected by the script. None of the apple function buttons work. To set up the LCD the script tests for Ubuntu 10.11 and fails, as noted by Antoine above. Flailing around on Dillon’s various websites I found the “fix”, ran it, and now the mouse/touchpad does not work at all. Etc…

    I get similar but different results on Ubuntu 10.11.

    How -anyone- got this to work is beyond me. I guess Dillon’s hints and guesses would allow someone to eventually get this stuff running on a mac. Actually I’m trying to debug a bit of the script every day. But so far not much progress. I can;t spend much time on it.

    Aside from the fact that the mac, via the post-install script, does not work with an Ubuntu-based system, this post by Dan is extremely well done.

  8. Nick S
    March 10th, 2012 at 07:13 | #9

    Hi Dan.
    Great post.
    Everything went as expected, except that when I try to boot into linux with the default on grub, all I get is a string of errors “dropping a frame with invalid src mac address.
    I can still get in using “nomodeset”, though.
    Any thoughts?

  9. Doc. Caliban
    March 20th, 2012 at 21:47 | #10


    I am considering installing Mint 12 on my 4.2 MBA as the only OS. I see in the comments here that the script access the OS X partition at some point … is it possible to install ‘bare metal’ as the only OS?

    Thank you,


  10. Daniel
    March 27th, 2012 at 17:25 | #11

    First of all thank you so for this great tutorial !
    My Touchpad doesn’t work and i still have no Sound.. someone can help here?


  11. Ji
    April 3rd, 2012 at 12:38 | #12

    Hi Dan.
    Thank you for such a thorough post.

    After following through all the steps, I changed my mind and decided that I’m going to just dual boot linux ubuntu and lion.

    But I think tweaking the partition table stuff (im a total noob) is not letting me go back.
    I keep on getting errors like “the ext4 file system creation in partition #5 of SCSI4 (0,0,0) (sdb) failed.”

    Is there a way to simply revert everything and change the partition table to the way it was before? I just want to go back to a clean machine with just lion on it so I can dual boot just ubuntu.

    PLEASE let me know. Thank you.

    • April 3rd, 2012 at 19:39 | #13

      So a way to revert back to original is to either use the Lion Recovery Mode by holding down “Command-R” during the boot sequence, here is the link from apple . However this will wipe your macbook completely and restore it to “As New” from the shop.

      If you wish to save all the information still on your Lion Partition, I would boot up in Lion and using the “Disk Utilities” remove the unwanted partitions and expand the remaining parition to fill the space. Keep in mind any partition you remove will DELETE all the data on that partition.

      Hope this helps.

      Remember BACK-UP any data you don’t want to lose before removing partitions or running a recovery.

  12. Ji
    April 4th, 2012 at 14:43 | #14

    Thank you for the detailed instructions!
    However, I the partition seems to be still weird..
    I say this because I had a picture of my original MBR partition.

    Right now, it says:
    MBR partitions:

    Number Boot Start Sector End Sector Status Code
    1 1 490234751 primary 0xEE

    It used to say:
    MBR partitions:

    Number Boot Start Sector End Sector Status Code
    1 1 39 primary 0xEE
    2 40 409639 primary 0x0B
    3 * 409640 363965175 primary 0xAF
    4 363965176 365234711 primary 0xAF

    I’m GUESSING this means that my partition is still messed up. I have no clue.
    But when I still try to install Ubuntu by following the method on Ubuntu’s official website, (sudo dd if=blahblah of=/dev/diskX…)
    I still get the same error (“the ext4 file system creation in partition #5 of SCSI4 (0,0,0) (sdb) failed.”) when I click on install along side of Mac OS X

    I don’t know what to do!!

  13. Adam
    April 12th, 2012 at 11:28 | #15

    First of all, wonderful guide, this has been extremely helpful as I’ve been setting up my triple boot of OSX, Win 7, and Mint.

    However, I’ve run into a hitch during the correct driver installing with the script. There are quiet a few “No such file or directory” errors, “E: Failed to fetch some archives” errors, and “Unable to connect to archive.ubuntu.com:http: [IP: ___________]”

    Any ideas what might be going on here and/or how to fix it? Thanks!

  14. Dennis Ferron
    May 3rd, 2012 at 13:38 | #16

    This is a great tutorial, thanks for writing it!

    Just a note for others: I was not able to start the graphical install (or even start X at all) using a USB or SD card medium created by Startup Disk creator on Ubuntu. I tried several different media and This might have to do with the USB startup disk using a different bootloader, possibly a SYSLINUX vs. GRUB issue. It did work once I burned the same ISO to a DVD and hooked up a USB DVD drive.

    When I did sudo apt-get upgrade, it asked me if I wanted to keep my old version of /etc/gnome/defaults.list or use the package version. I don’t know what that is (looks like program menu info) but I wanted the package version but accidentally hit “enter” while reaching for a different key, and no matter what I did or I couldn’t get apt-get to give me another chance to accept the file. I learned three things from this – after you’ve declined to replace a file, apt-get never asks again, even if you uninstall and reinstall the package. There is a log file – /var/log/dpkg.log – you can use to find out what the file was (/etc/gnome/defaults.list) and what package tried to install it (gnome-desktop-utils). And finally, something I didn’t notice until I’d almost hosed my system reinstalling things: the other file I wanted to switch to, after I accidentally declined it, was simply placed alongside the other in the same directory with a “.dpkg-dist” extension added.

  15. Dennis Ferron
    May 3rd, 2012 at 14:25 | #17

    Unfortunately after completing the post-install script, I still have to use “nomodeset” (graphics hardware not detected) and my touchpad has completely stopped working.

  16. Dennis Ferron
    May 3rd, 2012 at 14:41 | #18

    @Dennis Ferron

    Aha! I think I know why. When you’ve upgraded to kernel version 3.0.0-19 and the script attempts to patch the files hid-ids.h and hid-ids.c, the patch fails! That must be why I still need nomodeset; I’m actually booting an unpatched kernel.

    I’ll troubleshoot this more tomorrow.

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  19. Jonas
    January 4th, 2013 at 02:06 | #21


    thanks for the help. Works fine on my Macbook Unibody with Mint Nadia (14) and MacOS Lion. Only the Wireless driver sometimes doesn’t reconnect after Suspend.


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