How to make a bootable Linux Live USB on your Mac.

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Installing Linux on your old Mac is an easy way to give it a new lease of life. For best results, choose a lightweight Linux distribution and revert to some performance that lost heavy MacOS updates.

Booting on Apple Silicon.

Unfortunately, as of this writing in July 2021, this technique will not work on the new Apple Silicone Max M1 system on-chip or later. Corellium has already managed to port Linux to run locally on the M1 chip, but the process is much more complicated than just writing a disk image file to a USB stick.

Linux kernel version 5.13 includes support for new ARM-based chips, so hopefully support for mainstream distros like Ubuntu isn’t far off. Before you get started, make sure you’re using an Intel-based Mac. You can find out what kind of Mac you have used about Apple> this Mac menu.

Related: How to check if your Mac is using Intel or Apple Silicon Processor.

Creating a bootable Linux USB drive in Mac OS.

Format your drive.

For best results, it’s a good idea to format your USB drive to FAT before you start. Different Linux distributions have different space requirements, but approximately 4 GB should be sufficient for most distributions.

Disk utility in macOS.

Launch Disk Utility (find it with Spotlight, or find it in the Applications> Utilities folder), then click your USB drive. If you are satisfied, you can delete the drive without losing data, click “Erase” and then select “MS-DOS (FAT)” as the format and give it a name. Click Delete and wait for the process to complete.

Change your ISO.

With your Linux ISO download, it’s time to convert it to IMG format so that it can be written as a mountable disk image. Open the terminal and enter the following command:

hdiutil convert /path/to/downloaded.iso -format UDRW -o /path/to/image

Change /path/to/downloaded.iso With the location of your downloaded Linux ISO, for example. ubuntu.iso In your Downloads folder, you can type. ~/Downloads/ubuntu.iso.

Similarly, you will need to provide a destination in which the DMG will be placed (no need to add the extension “.dmg”). For convenience, we recommend using the same location for both. Following the example above, you can type. ~/Downloads/ubuntu.

Convert ISO to IMG with HD util command.

Write USB.

Your IMG file is ready to go, now it’s time to write to USB. Switch to the terminal and type the following to get the list of drives:

diskutil list

You are looking for an identifier for the USB drive that you just formatted. If you named it as “LINUX” you should look for it under the “NAME” column. The size of the disk (for example, 8 GB) can also give it.

Disk Utility Listing Drives

Now that you know your identifier, you need to mount this specific drive so that you can write your DMG file to it. To do this, change the following command. diskX With identifier (e.g., disk3 In the screenshot above).

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskX

Finally, it’s time to write your DMG file to your USB drive. You can do this with the following command.

sudo dd if=/path/to/image.dmg of=/dev/diskX bs=1m

You will need to change. /path/to/image.dmg With the DMG file path created above, and /dev/diskX With the disk identifier used above (for example, disk3). You will be asked for your administrator password. Type it, then press Enter to start copying. You may also be asked to allow a terminal to access the removable volume, which you must grant.

Wait for your Mac to write DMG content to your drive. This may take some time depending on the size of the DMG and the speed of your Mac or USB drive. If you see that “the disk you inserted was not readable by this computer” error, click “Ignore” and continue.

Disk unreadable error message after creating a bootable drive.

Boot Linux on your Intel Mac.

Power your Intel Mac, then insert your USB drive if you haven’t already. Press and hold the “Option” button then press and release the power button to start your Mac.

Hold down your finger on the “Options” button until you see a list of devices on the screen. You should see your boot drive, possibly “Macintosh HD” and a separate USB drive titled “EFI Boot” as a different icon.

Click on your USB drive, then click the up arrow to start Linux. Your Mac will now boot via USB. If you decide to install Linux, consider dual boot management for your Mac.

Hate the terminal? Use ballast instead.

Although the terminal provides a way to do this without relying on additional software, text-based commands are not for everyone. If you want to use an app instead, try Belinature.

This open source app handles everything from changing your image to securely copying it to an external volume.

Do you have a Windows PC on which you also want to boot Linux? See our instructions on how to create a bootable Linux drive in Windows.

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