Linux on a 2012 Mini?

Has anybody installed a Linux flavor as the primary OS on a 2012 Mini? I know that macOS is almost certainly always going to be on the drive somewhere, but I have enough computers running macOS. I’d like something that could run some VMs and other misc. stuff.

I could put them on my 2018 Mini, but I’m using that for Plex and a few other things - so I’d like to be able to use the 2012 that’s basically “retired” at this point.

Any thoughts / cautions / tips before I go down this rabbit hole? :slight_smile:

Piece of cake, no issues that I recall, and btw I use Arch. :slight_smile:

Also, you CAN get rid of all macOS if you delete the EFI partition(s)


It’s a great way to breathe new life into an old machine.

I use Ubuntu on my machines (none are Apple).
QEMU can run VMs. I have it running TrueNAS on Ubuntu on my Dell server.
Dockers are an option too.


Or you can run Linux as a virtual machine on the Mac. Here is a screenshot on my iMac of a Screen Sharing of my 2009 Mac mini running El Capitan running a VirtualBox virtual machine running Xubuntu.

Normally that mini is used as a Plex Client or iTunes music server in our living room, but I’ve got it for remote access of old 32-bit programs. It also has this Linux OS installed. I also have some old Windows VMs I can run on it if I need to. It’s my retro escape when I eventually go to Apple Silicon.

With the (upgraded) SSD and 8GB of RAM it’s quite snappy, even with Linux in a VM. Major performance problem is the slowness of display updates with Screen Sharing.


I used to boot my iMac into Xubuntu from a flashdrive.
Ditto for Tails Linux, Fedora, and Ubuntu.

Coming out the other side of an Arch install, just noting that guide is dated to the point of not being very useful (i.e. “follow the guide and your system won’t boot because there’s no kernel”). I followed the main Arch install guide.

I wound up doing a manual GRUB EFI install, and noting that Arch didn’t give me the network driver for the Mini in its base system (broadcom-wl) or the DHCP client (dhcpcd). But installing those couple things got me to where I’m at least online in a fresh boot - and that means I can fix anything that comes up. :slight_smile:

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Thanks. Removed it from my post so Future People™ won’t be misled.

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While installing Arch is a time honored test of courage,
there is a GUI installer…

Arch Linux GUI

But the docs are very insistent that the GUI isn’t any easier, despite any perceptions otherwise. :wink:

I got it sorted - it’s easiest with another computer viewing the Arch docs.

Can you provide a good to me? I’d like to do this when I finally retire my 2009 iMac.

surely we should be all installing Slackware 15 to see whether the 6 year wait was worth it :rofl:


IMHO the Arch docs are the best in the business (you’re welcome)

Wow, lots of choices.
Which Edition is most Mac-like?

NVM, I’ll stick with Ubuntu.

The Arch docs are very, very thorough and helpful, once you’ve cleared a basic hurdle of being basically Linux-literate. Everything is there somewhere. The thing they frequently miss, IMHO, is context / the bigger picture for newbies. “Exhaustive docs” can turn into “exhausting reading” pretty quick.

Random example - quite literally, following that old guide @JohnAtl had posted, my install didn’t have a Linux kernel. Apparently the Linux kernel isn’t part of “base” or “base-devel” anymore. Which is simultaneously mystifying (who installs Linux without wanting a kernel so they can boot?) and yet copiously documented in the Right Places for Those Who Know Where To Look. :smiley:

If you’re asking how to install Arch Linux on a 2009 iMac, the most obvious answer is probably “you shouldn’t”. It’s a hassle, especially if it’s your first experience installing Linux, and there are much easier ways to get a nice Linux on that Mac.

Probably easier to dip your toe in the water with Ubuntu or something that’s a little more user-friendly and forgiving. And given that it’s an older iMac, Xubuntu or Lubuntu will make the most of your resources.

What I can tell you is that my 2012 at least uses the broadcom-wl Arch package to run the network card, which is kind of a useful thing after you’ve installed the base system and want to actually use the computer. :slight_smile: Whatever Linux flavor you go for, look up what it uses for at least your network card and make sure the appropriate drivers get installed from the get-go.

Best of luck when you take the plunge!

No, I was planning on installing Linux Mint or PopOS. I just meant changing a decommissioned Mac mini into a Linux machine. The process for that.

For something like Mint it’s not that hard. Download the ISO of the OS you want to install, make a bootable USB (the different Linux distros give directions for doing it, usually on the same page where you download the ISO), then reboot from the bootable USB.

When the installer asks you about disk partitions, nuke all the partitions EXCEPT possibly the EFI partition if you have it, and let the GUI guide you regarding the install process. Most of them are relatively user-friendly, and on the off chance you screw something up you can always just reboot from the USB again. :slight_smile:

But will things like bluetooth, wifi, etc work or should I have everything wired to start?

It’ll all work, but possibly not immediately after the initial install. The installation will definitely go smoother if you wire the network.

Keyboard/mouse are the same deal. Having a wired option never hurts.

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