After swapping the DVD drive with an SSD, I installed Debian Linux on it. I left the original SSD with OS-X untouched.

  • After a reboot, OS-X (El Capitan) started.
  • After another reboot, pressing Command-R, Linux started.
  • After yet another reboot, without pressing any key, Linux started by default, without the option to boot OS-X.

How can I have the option to boot in OS-X again? Do I have to set grub somehow?

I am using a MacBook Pro 17" 2009 with the original drive running Mac OS X El Capitain.

This is the output of diskutil list:

/dev/disk0 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *251.0 GB   disk0
   1:                        EFI EFI                     209.7 MB   disk0s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS Macintosh HD            250.1 GB   disk0s2
   3:                 Apple_Boot Recovery HD             650.0 MB   disk0s3
/dev/disk1 (internal, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *500.1 GB   disk1
   1:                        EFI                         248.5 MB   disk1s1
   2:                 Linux Swap                         16.0 GB    disk1s2
   3:           Linux Filesystem                         150.0 GB   disk1s3
   4:           Linux Filesystem                         300.0 GB   disk1s4
   5:                  Apple_HFS shared                  20.0 GB    disk1s5
  • I would suggest that you post the output from the OS X command diskutil list. Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 18:17

2 Answers 2


I installed debian on my computer. I probably did not choose the same configuration as you did. The output from diskutil list disk1 is shown below.

/dev/disk1 (external, virtual):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        +109.3 GB   disk1
   1:                        EFI NO NAME                 536.9 MB   disk1s1
   2:           Linux Filesystem                         30.0 GB    disk1s2
   3:                 Linux Swap                         1.1 GB     disk1s3
   4:           Linux Filesystem                         77.7 GB    disk1s4

The output above shows the label on my disk1s1 is NO NAME. What concerns me about your output from diskutil list is that there is no label given for disk1s1. Your comment states you can not mount this volume. My conclusion is the FAT32 volume was never created in this partition. One possible explanation is your installation of debian never completed correctly.

Another possibility is you have not included all the steps you preformed before posting your question. For example, it is fairly unlikely the debian installer added partition with the identifier of disk1s5.

If you had installed Debian correctly to your second internal disk, then you have to preform the following steps in macOS to finish the installation. Here, I assume 64 bit version of Debian was installed to use the EFI boot method.

The steps below copy the boot file for grub to the correct location in the EFI partition. This is not only a requirement for the Mac Startup Manager, but is also defined in the UEFI specification.

  1. From a Terminal application window, enter the command diskutil mount disk1s1. A new device representing this partition should appear in the Finder application. If you view the contents of this volume a Finder application window, you should see the same as in the image below.


  2. Using the Finder application, navigate to this device.

  3. Create a folder labeled boot in the folder EFI.
  4. Copy the file grubx64.efi found in the EFI/debian folder to the EFI/boot folder.
  5. Rename the grubx64.efi file in the EFI/boot folder to bootx64.efi.
  6. From a Terminal application window, enter the command diskutil unmount disk1s1.

If you can boot to the correctly installed Debian operating system, then the above steps can be replaced by commands given below. These commands need to be entered in a Debian Terminal window.

Note: To enter these commands, you will have to know the root users password.

mkdir  /boot/efi/efi/boot
cp  /boot/efi/efi/debian/grubx64.efi  /boot/efi/efi/boot/bootx64.efi

Once the changes are made, you can do the following to choose an operating system.

  1. Start or restart your Mac and immediately hold down the option key until the Startup Manager appears.
  2. Select the icon for the desired operating system. Debian will appear with label EFI Boot.
  3. To boot the desired operating system, select the arrow below the chosen icon .

    Note: If you hold down the control key while selecting the arrow, the chosen operating system will be come the default.

  • After: sudo diskutil mount disk1s1, I get the error: "Volume on disk1s1 failed to mount. If the volume is damaged, try the "readOnly" option". Trying with the readOnly option I get the same error message. The disk is not damaged, since I can boot in Linux in recovery mode.
    – Pietro
    Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 23:58
  • Yes, this is why I asked you to post the output from the command diskutil list. I have made certain assumptions when I posted my answer. I need this output to be sure of which partition you need to mount. Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 0:26
  • Sorry David, I just updated my question.
    – Pietro
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 0:37
  • 1
    I updated my answer. Sorry, I could not have been more help. Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 7:31
  • David, I succeeded following your second approach, from Debian terminal. Thank you!
    – Pietro
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 15:21
  • To boot back in OSX, at startup: press [Alt] key.
  • To boot Linux, at start up: press [Command]+R.
  • CMD+R is to boot into recovery mode, not Linux. I would think you would choose which OS after clicking the Alt key at startup
    – Matthew
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 13:06
  • @MatthewN: If I click the Alt key at startup, all I can choose from are "Machintosh HD" (OSX) and Recovery-10.11.6. The only way I found to boot Linux is pressing [Command]+R.
    – Pietro
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 15:00
  • Hmm, that’s weird. CMD+R is meant to boot into Recovery mode which uses the recovery partition. Though it’s normal for Linux not to appear after clicking Alt because because the Mac doesn’t detect it because it’s not a macOS. What happens if you boot into Internet Recovery Mode??(Option + CMD + R)
    – Matthew
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 15:08
  • With (Option + CMD + R) I can still select Linux, only, and I seem to get the same environment I get with (CMD + R), i.e. the command line.
    – Pietro
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 15:14
  • Consider that OSX and Linux are installed on two physically separate SSD drives.
    – Pietro
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 15:15

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