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Whenever I try to boot up from a live cd, it starts to boot and then it tells me:

No bootable file system available.

It's an Early 2011 MacBook Pro 13" 8,1 with the 2.3 GHz Core i5.

What's going on?

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Macs use the EFI Firmware (BIOS for Windows).

You need to download a special Mac ISO that allows to boot on both BIOS and EFI Systems.

  • For Ubuntu 11.10 you can download the specific Mac image here:
    64-bit Mac (AMD64) desktop CD
  • By experience I know that the following distros allow to boot on EFI systems using the "standard" ISO: Debian, Fedora, Linux Mint

Your questions is related to this here on askubuntu.

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That's interesting because I was trying to boot the latest Fedora release. If I were to want to build arch on a new partition using that computer would it also cause me problems with EFI? – cafhacker Dec 20 '11 at 19:16

You'll probably want to take a look at rEFIt

That's how I booted and installed Linux on my Mac. It's a very nice piece of software.

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rEFIt will not make the iso bootable. It's only a 'butler' to make multi-booting more convenient. It will not help him, if the CD already doesn't boot even though he is holding . However, one should use rEFIt to sync partition tables after a linux installation. – gentmatt Dec 19 '11 at 9:08
rEFIt isn't maintained anymore. rEFInd is a fork that is still actively maintained (as of Nov 2013) – Nathan Wallace Dec 1 '13 at 23:57

I installed the rEFIt on my late 2011 Macbook Pro and it messed up the whole startup and login. I never got refit screen after startup which should appear after a few restarts. The opposite, after a few restarts I was not able to login in on the startup screen. The password was still workin, so I could login into the computer using ssh on another computer. Weird. I finally solved it with TimeMachine. Stay away from fEFIt if you're having the latest Macbook Pro with Lion.

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What other commenters have not made plain is that virtually all Linux live boot CDs presume that you'll be using them on a computer that uses BIOS (that's basically all PCs designed for Windows). BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) is computer software in the firmware of the motherboard itself that is the first thing to run at bootup of a PC.

Macs do not use BIOS at all. They use a completely different method of booting the computer, called EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface).

So you need to see if your preferred distribution of Linux has a live boot CD that will work with EFI and not BIOS.

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