I have a macbook pro 15" early 2011 model, which I would like to install linux on (dual boot setup). However, I don't have an optical drive for it since I replaced it with an SSD. I need some way to boot the linux installer. I have tried booting from a USB flash drive, from a partition on an external HDD connected over firewire, and even using a virtual machine (which surprisingly was the most successful attempt).

Should my computer be able to boot from some of these media I listed above, if so, are there any good resources that might show me what I was doing wrong?

I have an external optical drive that connects over USB if that helps.

Is there a way I could set up a network-boot solution? I have a mac mini running mountain lion that I can use.

  • Macs are some of the most flexible booting hardware around, so if it has a Firewire port, ethernet, WiFi, USB - and the media is properly set up - the Mac will boot. I'm guessing you really want help finding a distribution that's easy to boot but unless you state what OS currently runs or how you will select or prepare a specific Linux distribution, we can only guess what your needs are. – bmike Jul 7 '13 at 18:12

I would follow these steps to get Ubuntu on a freshly erased USB drive.

No need for rEFIt or other hybrid boot tools so you can get your feet wet booting with the option key held down and choosing the USB drive. Once you have a working linux, you can easily bootstrap to other OS if they don't have instructions that are as Mac friendly as Ubuntu.

  • Ok, I will try this as soon as I get the chance, but I've never had success booting from usb, and I've heard that many apple devices don't support it. Not sure if mine is one of those or if I had been doing something wrong. – adrusi Jul 7 '13 at 18:30
  • Apple devices have supported booting from USB since the G3 PPC days even when Apple didn't officially "support" it. When you don't see a device in the boot chooser, it's a partition or bless issue - see the man page for bless for details. Modern Mac use EFI to boot an there's never been BIOS so many people that assume "BIOS => need to boot" run into unexpected problems – bmike Jul 7 '13 at 18:51

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