booting linux on a mac
May 17, 2013 10:25 AM   Subscribe

How can I make a bootable USB on a mac to be used to boot linux on a mac? I could also use linux on my other computer to make the USB, but I don't have windows, and I want to be able to boot from the mac.

So, booting linux on a pc is pretty easy and simple. In fact I installed xubuntu over windows on my PC (take that, windows!), so now I can't really use windows anymore to make my bootable USBs. So now I can either use xubuntu or my MacBook (OS 10.5.8) to make them. I can't use unetbootin because I want to boot the USB on a Mac (only works for PC's), and I can't use Penguintosh because my MacBook is too old.

So, I heard of BootCamp and diskutil and rEFIt but I think they are only used for partitioning? I want to be able to make .iso images into bootable USBs, too. In fact I think I am more interested in live booting (puppy linux!) than actually partitioning my Mac's hard drive, at least for right now.

So, how can I make a bootable USB from an .iso image, using either xubuntu or Mac Leopard (OS X 5), that would be bootable on a Mac? And how would I live boot said USB from my Mac?
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and I'm not afraid of the command line, fwiw.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 10:27 AM on May 17, 2013

Googling "Ubuntu live mac" took me to How to install Ubuntu on MacBook using USB Stick, which looks like it'll create you a USB stick that's Mac bootable, and let you boot it on a Mac.

Did this not work?
posted by straw at 10:38 AM on May 17, 2013

Having goofed around with it....

You can do it, but unless there's been a new development in the last year and a bit, it's a pain in the butt.
Prepare for agony.
posted by TravellingDen at 10:39 AM on May 17, 2013

Response by poster: straw: unetbootin-made USBs only boot on PC's, it says it right in the window as it makes the USB...weird that it's on the ubuntu website...and I don't really want ubuntu and it seems that that link is only for ubuntu .img and i have a puppy linux .iso...

TD: yeah....that's the vibe I'm getting. ha.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 10:46 AM on May 17, 2013

Look at rEFIt. It doesn't require partitioning to install or use. It essentially installs a new System Folder that you can, clumsily, set up as a the startup folder. This loads up the EFI system which should let you...

...Ok, confession time. I've never, ever, been able to boot from a flash drive on my mac with the exception of the Mac OS flash drives. I've read all the blog post and help forums I can find, I've partitioned this way and that, I've made drives under all 3 major OSes and I've always come up short.

But rEFIt will certain boot up and, in theory, let you boot whatever. It's easy to install and uninstall.

Best of luck and may God have mercy on your soul.
posted by chairface at 2:19 PM on May 17, 2013

Sugar on a Stick might provide a good starting point. Following those directions got me a Mac-bootable USB stick about six months ago.

I did have to do some fussing. I don't remember the details but it wasn't too bad.
posted by alms at 2:23 PM on May 17, 2013

Just for completeness, note that those Ubuntu instructions discount UNetbootin in the first paragraph for exactly the reason you mentioned. They then go on to describe a procedure which uses diskutil a lot.

But as a long-time Ubuntu user, I sympathize with your desire to run something else... It's gone way downhill in the past half-decade...
posted by straw at 2:51 PM on May 17, 2013

do you have a working optical drive? the puppy docs recommend installing to USB when booted from CD.
BOOT FROM USB - While booted from CD or DVD, install Puppy to USB and use it for booting (see Setup in the menu for the installer).
alternatively, have you actually tried unetbootin or any of the other "only works on PC" methods? different Mac models have various quirks in their EFI implementations so making a disk that is guaranteed to work on all Macs is fiddly, but many of them will in fact boot plain PC USB media if you try. I know I have successfully booted the regular Debian isohybrid and various extlinux USB sticks on my last few Apple laptops without having to jump through any hoops other than one system where I needed to install rEFInd (an updated version of rEFIt).
posted by russm at 5:58 PM on May 17, 2013

I spent way too much time dicking around with native boot (BootCamp) of Linux and Windows when I got a new MBP a couple of years ago. I ended up just using Parallels under MacOS to run Win7 and Ubuntu. Yeah, you can get one or the other (or maybe both) to boot natively, but the universe is against you. Weird Mac hardware that has no OSS driver, wonky partition shit that wastes half a day while you try to sort it out...

For $50 (or $80 or whatever) you get a solid VM that's close to 100% of metal speed, and no headaches. If you need anything more, buy a dedicated machine for it. Life is too short.
posted by spacewrench at 6:55 PM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: I realized I was totally misreading the ubuntu unetbootin thing, and when I actually read the whole page, I tried out the method and it wrote to the USB and...didn't show up in rEFIt.

Well, it looks like this is a well-known thing and not just my ineptitude, which makes me feel better at least. Thanks for the moral support so far guys~
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:40 PM on May 17, 2013

Which Mac do you have? This can make a difference! Some Macs support USB boot for non-OSX not at all, others support it well, for others it's quirky.

I agree with others that USB booting Linux on a Mac doesn't always work well. Here are the options I'd recommend looking into, from most likely to work to least:

1. Boot from a CD. Obviously only works if you have a CD drive.
2. Use a virtual machine. You can but VMware Fusion, or use VirtualBox for free.
3. Partition your disk, and do a real installation on a physical partition, instead of live booting. There are several ways to get this done: CD boot, VM with access to physical partiton, Firewire disk mode, dd, etc.
4. Boot from an ISO file that's just lying around on your Mac partition. Yes, this is possible! You'll want to use Grub-EFI and the "iso-scan/filename" boot option.
5. Actually attempt a USB boot. On my MacBook4,1 i was able to do this with this guide, I have no idea if it works with Puppy though.
posted by vasi at 8:26 PM on May 17, 2013

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