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Choosing the Best Linux Distro for Your MacBook Pro

If you‘re a MacBook Pro owner looking to try something new, installing Linux is an excellent option to consider. Linux offers increased customization, stellar security, access to loads of free open source software, and other major advantages over macOS.

But with dozens of Linux distributions (distros) out there, how do you pick the right one for your Mac? This comprehensive guide examines the top Linux distros that work great on MacBook Pro models. Let‘s dive in!

Benefits of Running Linux on a MacBook Pro

Here are some of the biggest reasons why you‘d want to install Linux on your MacBook Pro rather than sticking with the default macOS:

  • Greater flexibility and customization options for your desktop interface, themes, launcher menu, etc.
  • Tighter security and better privacy controls for your files, browsing data, and communications
  • An enormous selection of free, open source software alternatives
  • Ability to breathe new life into an older MacBook Pro model
  • More development environment and programming language options for coders

For advanced users especially, the level of control and tweaking you can do with Linux far surpasses what‘s possible through macOS.

Factors for Picking the Right Linux Distro

With the basics covered, let‘s look at key factors to evaluate when selecting a Linux distro for your Mac:

Hardware Compatibility – The distro needs to fully support your MacBook Pro‘s hardware like the WiFi/Bluetooth adapters, function keys, GPU, webcam, etc.

User-Friendliness – Some distros have simpler, more intuitive interfaces than others which is important for Linux newcomers.

Mac OS Integration – Features to seamlessly dual boot or run macOS apps from your Linux desktop are a bonus.

Software Repositories – Having a well-stocked repo of installable apps and packages is extremely convenient.

Stability & Reliability – You‘ll want a distro that‘s resilient to crashes and technical gremlins.

There is no single "best" Linux distro for all Mac users. You‘ll need to balance these factors based on your own needs. With that said, let‘s look at some stellar Linux options specifically tailored for MacBooks.

Top Linux Distributions for MacBook Pro

1. Ubuntu

Ubuntu is arguably the world‘s most popular desktop Linux distro and a great starting point for Mac switchers. The Ubuntu repository contains over 55,000 installable applications covering every task you can imagine.

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, offers tailored versions of their distro specifically optimized for MacBook Pro hardware. This includes out-of-the-box support for features like keyboard/trackpad gestures, Thunderbolt ports, and function keys. Their easy-to-use installer enables dual booting Ubuntu alongside macOS.

Overall, Ubuntu offers an exceptionally smooth transition for those looking to dip their toes into the Linux waters using tried and tested Mac-friendly tools.


  • Massive software selection via built-in Snap and APT package managers
  • Excellent MacBook Pro hardware compatibility
  • Mature, well supported distro with Long Term Support (LTS) versions
  • New user-friendly interface and thousands of online troubleshooting guides


  • Lacks some deeper customization options offered by other distros
  • Certain Ubuntu versions have higher system requirements

2. Linux Mint

Linux Mint is another famously easy to use Linux distro built atop Ubuntu. The Cinnamon desktop environment delivers a polished, intuitive interface closely resembling macOS.

Linux Mint requires fewer system resources than stock Ubuntu, so it‘s great for breathing new life into aging MacBooks. The distro also gives you more customization flexibility regarding themes, docks, app launchers, and so on.

You gain Ubuntu‘s phenomenal software support along with various usability tweaks that improve the experience for converted macOS users. It‘s a winning combo!


  • Light-weight OS ideal for older hardware
  • Cinnamon UI looks and feels familiar for Mac users
  • Good selection of available software like Ubuntu
  • Highly customizable desktop environment


  • Smaller community than bigger distros like Ubuntu
  • Relies more heavily on online forums/wikis versus official support

3. Elementary OS

If you want a Linux distro that looks positively stunning out of the box, Elementary OS is tough to beat. Every aspect of the desktop interface features sleek animated effects paired with a neutral monochrome color scheme.

Don‘t mistake Elementary‘s elegantly designed exterior for lacking features though. The distro is highly optimized for daily usage with smart touch gestures, workspace management, system notifications, and multitasking capabilities.

Elementary OS does an exceptional impression of macOS while letting you extensively customize its look via themes and add-ons. The combination of form and function works fantastically.


  • Gorgeous aesthetic mimics the macOS minimalist style
  • Mature, flexible desktop environment optimized for usability
  • Solid app library leveraging Ubuntu‘s extensive repos
  • Developer-friendly distro great for programming


  • Smaller user community than larger distros
  • Hardware compatibility lags behind Ubuntu
  • Learning curve for brand new Linux users

4. Fedora Workstation

Fedora Workstation comes from the storied Red Hat Linux family tree. It pioneered the innovative GNOME desktop environment now used in dozens of Linux distros.

The Fedora team maintains tight integration with GNOME delivering a reliably polished experience. From the onset everything feels rock solid and coherently designed.

Under the hood, Fedora leverages cutting edge open source technologies that eventually make their way into Linux at large. If you want a peek at the future of Linux on your MacBook, Fedora is a safe bet.


  • Excellent balance of stability and latest innovations
  • Mature GNOME desktop environment
  • Industry standard package manager with massive software selection
  • Large knowledge base and active user community


  • Six month release cycle means frequent major updates
  • Demands slightly newer hardware than some distros
  • Not designed explicitly for MacBooks so some tweaking needed

5. openSUSE

Originally launched by Linux pioneer SuSE Linux AG, openSUSE remains a staple distro uniquely designed for flexibility. Their Tumbleweed and Leap versions target bleeding edge users versus stability focused ones.

openSUSE gives you more environment, desktop, and customization options than most other user-friendly distros. Choose from GNOME, KDE Plasma, Xfce, LXQt and more depending on your tastes. openSUSE is especially popular among developers and Linux/UNIX power users compared to casual ones.

If you want rock solid Linux fundamentals without a bunch of flashy extras get in the way, openSUSE is a wonderful fit for Mac. Their broad architecture support ensures seamless deployment across MacBook generations.


  • Mature codebase with over 25 years of open source development
  • Extensive hardware compatibility spanning MacBook models
  • Caters well to developers with latest build tools
  • Extremely customizable environments to suit any user


  • Dated interface and artwork out of the box
  • Default software selection not as robust as Debian/Ubuntu based distros
  • Hit-or-miss documentation/community support

How to Install Linux on a MacBook Pro

Once you‘ve picked the right Linux distro, let‘s briefly cover how you actually get it up and running on your Mac.

The two options are:

Dual Boot – Instead of completely replacing macOS, this setup allows choosing between macOS and your Linux distro at boot time. It‘s safest for testing the waters.

Erase & Replace macOS – Alternatively, you can wipe macOS entirely in favor of a standalone Linux installation. Only recommended for Mac power users.

For either scenario, you‘ll need to create Linux install media on a USB flash drive then boot into it. The installer will guide partitioning your MacBook‘s drive and transfer the Linux files.

Some handy tips:

  • Back up any important macOS data first as a precaution
  • Allocate at least 50GB of drive space for Linux if dual booting with macOS
  • Disable Secure Boot in your Mac firmware settings if the distro has issues
  • Consider an Ethernet connection for ensuring all drivers successfully install

From there reboot, select your Linux distro from the boot menu, finish the desktop configuration wizard, and you‘re off to the races!

Maintaining Your Linux Distro on MacBook

Here are some best practices for keeping your Linux distro running smoothly long-term:

  • Enable auto updates for easy access to the latest patches, bug fixes and improvements
  • Periodically check your available drive space and clear unnecessary files
  • Backup critical files both locally and to external media in case issues emerge
  • Review hardware vendor sites for new MacBook Linux drivers as they are released
  • Bookmark Linux community support forums to leverage if trouble strikes

Following these basic guidelines will ensure your Linux distro stays resilient over months and years of use on MacBook Pro.

Transform Your Mac with Linux

As you can see, there is clearly no shortage of Linux distro options for revitalizing your MacBook Pro. Each strikes the right balance across design, hardware support, software, usability and customization to suit a variety of needs.

Weigh each distro across factors like use case and technical ability to select the best one fitting your goals. Fortunately the Linux installation process makes it easy to safely test alternatives risk-free.

So back up your MacBook, create bootable Linux media, and unlock a whole new open source world today!