I have been messing around with my Mac Mini 2009 that I would like to setup as a standalone Ubuntu box. However, after several attempts the main disk is now fully wiped and I can not re-install osX anymore. I hence downloaded the Mountain Lion dmg and trying to build a USB installer stick.

What I previously did was to install rEFInd and Ubuntu 20.04 where I entirely formatted the whole disk to xfs (or so, don't remember). I installed the 3rd party wifi driver that worked but the NVidia driver failed. After a reboot, linux does not complete the boot. I see a Ubuntu spinwheel screen but then it does not load unity. Switching into text only terminal with ATL + F2 fails too so no way to communicate to the system, needs. a re-install. But how? My guess is a OSX USB installer. I have no OSX DVD here (Those minis have a disk drive, yes).

Long story short, how can I create a bootable USB stick out of the downloaded Mountain Lion DMG? I tried with dmg2iso but etcher tells me that there is no bootable partition on the iso.

ADD ON: I have a working Big Sur MBP sitting here where I am writing from. I can create a bootable USB there with Etcher or in a Debian VM I have here...

  • What machine and operating system are you using to create the installer? Does this machine and the 2009 Mac mini have a working DVD drive? Do you know if the Mac mini is a early or late 2009 model? Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 18:16
  • If you were able to install Ubuntu successfully, then why can you not follow the same procedure to reinstall Ubuntu? Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 18:26
  • You should stick to your initial choice of Ubuntu. That is the easiest way to keep your machine running with a modern system. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 19:56
  • @DavidAnderson why not same procedure - the CMD + R key did not work. But I see holding Option / Alt down still does to select the boot volume. I was under the impression that my full disk wipe would erase all Mac related software. Glad it seems it's sitting in a ROM or somewhere. I think I should be able to proceed now. However, my recovery volume is 10.11.6. Can I somehow downgrade that?
    – El Dude
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 20:06
  • On eBay you can find Snow Leopard installer DVD, hopefully universal. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


Your question do not entirely explain how you originally installed Ubuntu. The latest versions of Ubuntu can be installed on Macs to be EFI booted using the Mac Startup Manager. However, rEFInd and also be used to EFI or BIOS boot Ubuntu.

Your question does not address why you can not use the Ubuntu USB installer prepared using the instructions posted here or here.

Based on the information posted in your question, I am not entirely sure you can install Snow Leopard 10.6. The procedure for acquiring and creating a USB bootable Snow Leopard installer is given here. You may also try burning the ISO to a DVD.

You could also try installing El Capitan from USB. Apple's instructions for downloading and creating the USB installer are given here. Many alternate methods are given here.

Response to OP's ADD ON

You should be able to use the current version of Etcher on your MBP running Big Sur to create a USB EFI bootable Ubuntu 20.04 Installer. You can use this USB installer to try to install an EFI booting Ubuntu on your 2009 Mac mini. I say try because I do not believe the method used to install the previous Ubuntu has been established. Occasionally, a Mac can be found that can not EFI boot certain versions of Linux. You can also try installing Ubuntu to BIOS boot on your 2009 Mac mini, however the installation procedure is complicated by the inability of the firmware on your Mac mini to BIOS boot from USB.

  • Hi David, thanks for the links. I am sorry, I am half-assing the setup a bit and to be honest I am not familiar with the boot system of a Mac too much. I will try the "EFI booted using the Mac Startup Manager" way. Can any Ubuntu ISO do that? Never done this, no-one to ask and so many questions... :)
    – El Dude
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 19:40
  • Reinstalling Snow Leopard which is the original system for this machine should be feasible with the help of Apple. However, unless Apple changed its policy recently without me knowing it, Apple does not provide any more upgrades for old Macs so the OP won't get El Capitan easily. If he has no backup, he may have to ask from somebody else who can connect his machine in target mode. I would do it in a minute. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 19:52
  • I have my work Mac here but it's running Big Sur. The mini 2009 would not be supported. Is there a way setup the mini with my work Mac? Links?
    – El Dude
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 19:57
  • @PierreALBARÈDE: Could you explain what you mean by "Apple does not provide any more upgrades for old Macs"? I am confused by this statement since Apple allows El Capitan to be downloaded. See Apple's website How to get old versions of macOS. Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 4:17
  • @PierreALBARÈDE: How do you know Snow Leopard is the original system for the OP's 2009 Mac mini as you have stated in your above comment? I have reason to believe you can not know that, so I thought you could enlighten me. Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 4:30

I have a Macbook pro 2009 booting both Ubuntu 21.04 (and before 20.10, 20.04 LTS) and Mac OS X El Capitan. I had tried rEFInd initially but finally abandoned it. rEFInd is at best useless.

On this machine, USB booting would be very slow, you should use Firewire instead.

Your Mac can boot from the original DVD sold with it and possibly with the recovery partition that should be present unless you erased it.

Your Ubuntu does not boot but this does not prove that Mac OS does not boot. Try by pressing alt at boot then select the Mac OS X or recovery partition.

Command V gives verbose mode for Mac OS X.

Resetting the PRAM (NVRAM) may help.

You will find useful information on AskUbuntu, including my own.

If you have valuable data, you should not do such things unless you have two backups, done with Carbon Copy Cloner for example.

You will also narrow your question after some tests.

  • An 09 should have no problem at all booting from USB. 08 & earlier, sure… they struggle.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 16:50
  • I'm not really sure about the boot system. I am heavy mac user but never dealt with hybrid setup (usually run linux in a VM on mac). All boot logic knowledge I have is from BIOS based machines...
    – El Dude
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 16:54
  • This Mac supports EFI. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 16:58
  • Anyway building a bootable image is not in the Mac OS X logic (because each Mac model has a special OS X version). The logic is just to reinstall. Internet recovery may work if original DVD has been lost. Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 17:06
  • 1
    @PierreALBARÈDE - There's no Internet Recovery on an 09 Mac. It will boot from USB, but the image must be done properly - that's the issue, find out how to do this from Win or nix, or find another Mac to do it on. BTW, "each Mac model has a special OS X version" only applies to the grey installer DVDs. Other than that a Mac will boot from anything it can boot from. You can even swap boot drives between totally different Macs with zero issues. An installer or running OS drive will boot any Mac within 10 years of the OS date.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 17:41

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