Install Debian on Old Mac Mini (late 2009)

This article is part of the series on installing various Linux distribution on Old Mac Mini. In this post, we are going to install Debian on our old Mac Mini (late 2009) version.  Installing Debian on Mac Mini presents no major issue. We might need to reboot the machine to get the wifi to work occasionally, but most of the time the wifi works well without any issue. This is the second best Linux distribution that we have tried. Since we have been trying various Gnome desktop environment, this time we will use KDE Plasma desktop environment with Debian. There is one minor issue, KDE Plasma seems eat up CPU and memory resources. You might want to try Gnome instead.

Preparing USB

We downloaded Debian for KDE iso image. There are many type of Debian images. We use the 2.89GB version of Debian for KDE. Once we downloaded the image we burn the iso image to USB using Etcher. For those who need a tutorial for burning image to USB please refer to the Ubuntu tutorial.

Installing Debian

Once we boot up the iso image, we select Graphical Debian Installer. The first screen appear as shown below:

Select the language of your chose and click Continue.

Select the location of your choice. Click Continue.

Select your preferred keyboard layout. Click Continue when done. The system will copy component from the image and start to configure network.

Debian will detect our wifi but it could not find the drivers. The following screen appear to ask us to supply the driver.

Select no as we will configure the wifi after the installation. Click Continue. After the network is configured, the following screen will appear as below:

Enter your preferred host name of the Debian system. Click Continue.

Enter the domain name. Usually we leave it blank. Click Continue.

Enter the root password and click Continue.

Enter the full name of system user. Click Continue when done.

Enter the username and click Continue.

Enter the password of the user. Click Continue.

Configure time zone. Click Continue when done. After that, the system will start performing disk partition. The following screen will appear:

Over here, we choose to use the entire disk for Debian or we should use the free partition space. In this case, we choose to use entire disk. Click Continue.

The installer would ask to confirm which disk drive to use for the Debian system installation. Select the appropriate disk. Click Continue when done.

This screen will ask if you want separate home partition. For simplicity, choose to use all files in a single partition. Click Continue when done. Finally, the system will present the partition summary as shown below.

Please check carefully if the partition is done on the right disk if you have more than one had disk in a system. Click Continue to proceed,

This screen presents you the final confirmation of disk partition. Select Yes and click Continue. The system will proceed to install the base system and start copying the system files. Once the installation of the base system is done, the system will check and configure package manager.

Select Yes to use network mirror. Click Continue.

Select the country of the mirror. The closest the mirror the fastest the download. Click Continue when done.

Next you select the mirror within the country you have selected. Click Continue when done.

Finally, we are given the choice of configuring the proxy server. Usually, we skip this part. Enter the proxy server if you are suing one. Click Continue. The system will proceed with the installation.

The system will ask to configure boot loader.

Click Yes and Continue.

Click Continue.

Reboot the system when done.

Post Installation Setup


Once the system is rebooted, the first thing is to update the system. The best method of system update is to use the app Software Management. Open the app as shown below.

Select Updates and the system will check for any updates. You may need to use root password to apply the updates.

Administrator (Sudo)

Next, we need to add our user as administrator. To do that go to favorites and select System Settings

Select Account Details > User Manager, then we just need to check the box mark administrator.

We need to logout and log back in for it to be effective.

Install Wifi

To install wifi, we need to modify the repository list.  Use the command below to open up the source list.

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

In the source file, you should see something similar as below

deb stable main
deb-src stable main

For each line we need to append contrib and non-free so that each line has
deb stable main contrib non-free

deb stable main contrib non-free
deb-src stable main contrib non-free

There are a total of 6 lines to append.

To install wifi driver use the command

sudo apt-get install firmware-b43-installer b43-fwcutter

After the installation is completed, we need to reboot the system. Please note that there is no need to modify the blacklist.conf file.

Install RealVNC Server

To install RealVNC server, we need to download the deb file from RealVNC site. To run the deb file use the command below:

sudo apt install ./VNC-Server-6.3.1-Linux-x64.deb

For configuration of RealVNC please refer to the post Install and Configure RealVNC in Linux Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

Related Post

Please also check out the main post on re-purposing old Mac Mini.  This post also include the installation of Ubuntu on Mac Mini. We have also include hardware specification and other consideration in the main post.

Please also check out the summary result of testing various Linux distribution on Mac Mini (late 2009).
Install Linux on Mac Mini (late 2009) Result Summary



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