Install Elementary OS on Old Mac Mini (late 2009)

This is part of the series on reviving old Mac Mini (late 2009). So far this is the best user experience we have on the Mac Mini. We have tried Linux Mint previously and it gave us very little problem except the Wifi connects intermittently. For elementary OS, the wifi driver works well with the OS. We have a little problem with Bluetooth audio but there is work around available. As far as user experience is concern, this is the most Mac liked OS.

Introducing Elementary OS

Elementary OS is based on Ubuntu. The main feature for this distro is the Pantheon desktop environment. This is the most Mac liked OS.

Preparing for Installation

First proceed to the website and download the iso image. To burn the image to USB, use the open source software, Etcher. You can follow this tutorial on creating USB drive for Ubuntu. The concept is the same, we just need to replace elementary OS image with Ubuntu image.

Booting up the Mac Mini

To boot up Mac Mini, press option (alt) key while booting. We must press the key when we hear the chimes from the Mac Mini during boot up. Then select the USB drive to boot from USB. As mentioned in the previous post, if you encounter any boot up issue; reset SMC and/or PRAM

Installing Elementary OS

Once the live image is booted up, you can test the live image before installing it on your SSD. To install the OS, double click on the installation app on the dock. The startup screen is as follows:

Select the language and click Continue.

For the screen above, we recommend that you select both option. Click Continue.

If you are installing on an empty disk, select the first option to erase the disk and install the OS. Click Install Now.

Next, a dialogue box will pop out and tell you how the system partition the disk. Click Continue.

Next, we need to select our time zone. Select the appropriate time zone and click Continue.

Next we need to select the keyboard layout. Usually we accept the default and click Continue.

On the next screen, we need to enter a username and host name (computer name). We also need to include the user password. Click Continue when done. The system will proceed with the installation as follows:

Once the system completed the installation, it will produce the following prompt for us to continue testing or reboot into our drive.

Reboot the System when done.

Post Installation Update

We can perform post installation update via AppCenter. We can also find any software over the AppCenter. To update the system select the update tab on the AppCenter and click update.

Please note that for better experience, please do not install any wifi driver or video driver recommended by the App Center. The wifi driver does not work at all. If you are going to use screen sharing via VNC, Nvidia driver is a no. You can install Nvidia driver if you are not going to use any screen sharing features.  For Mac Mini (late 2009) please use Nvidia-340 driver.

Installing Additional Software

To search for software, on the mains screen of AppCenter; search for any app you want.

Click Install if you found your software. Based on our experience, it is better to install app over AppCenter as some of the package has been renamed. We find it is easier to find and install software over AppCenter.

We can install Chromium over the AppCenter. However, to install Chrome, we need to download the package to install separately. Other apps available from the AppCenter are gparted, gnome disks, chromium and vlc.

Install Separate Software Package 

Please note that not all software is available from AppCenter. We can install them separately using the method below. Base on our requirement, we need to install Chrome, RealVNC server and Plex server. The installation method is the same.

Note: Chrome and Chromium are different software, Chrome is a Google branded product that is based on open sourced Chromium. Although we did not find any major difference between them, but if possible, we will install Chrome instead of Chromium.

First download the software from the website as shown below:

The software will be named with an extension .deb. Unfortunately, we can't just double click for the software to run. To install these separate software, we need to use command prompt suing the following steps:

Open a terminal and navigate to the download folder. Use the following command to install the app:

sudo apt install ./<package-name-google.deb>

You just need to substitute the package name with the actual deb filename.

We have managed to install Chrome, RealVNC server and Plex server using this method.

Bluetooth Audio Issue

We manage to connect and paired Bluetooth headset successfully, however, we could not manage to divert audio to the Bluetooth headset. This problem can be resolved by installing additional Bluetooth manager.

To resolve this issue, install the app Blueman from AppCenter. Once it its installed, you will see 2 Bluetooth icon as shown below. The icon on the left is the newly install Bluetooth manager Blueman.

First, we need to paired the headset if it has not been paired. After the headset has been paired, click on the blue icon to see the dropdown box. Click on Devices... as shown below.

On the paired device, you will see connection status as shown below:

Next, right click on the device, go to Audio Profile. The original setting is Off. Select "High Fidelity Playback" and we are done.

After audio profile has been selected, we can hear audio from Bluetooth again.

Update 11 Sep 2018

There is another alternative way. It is to install PulseAudio Control App using the package pavucontrol.  Use the app to set audio.

Install Wifi Driver

As we have mentioned a previous post, we encounter issue with our wifi for Mac Mini (late 2009).  The recommended driver from the AppCenter does not work at all. We need to install the driver firmware-b43-installer.

If you have installed bcmwl-kernel-source previously we must removed them first. Use the command:

sudo apt-get remove --purge bcmwl-kernel-source
If you have not yet installed any wifi driver, you can install firmware-b43 driver using the command below:

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

Next, we need to unblock this driver by editing the block file using the command below:

sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf 

Note: nano is our favorite editor, you can use any text editor such as vi or vim.

Once the file is open, we can unblock the driver by adding # in front of the line bcm43xx.

Reboot the system for the driver to be loaded.

Please note that we have use this method for Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Both OS is able to activate the wifi, however, both OS could not detect any wifi access point intermittently, including the known network.

Elementary OS however works perfectly with the driver. This make Elementary OS our favorite choice.


After testing other Linux distribution, Elementary OS becomes our favorite OS since all drivers works fine. In addition, it present a Mac like user experience which makes it perfect for an old Mac Mini.

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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