Ubuntu on Macbook Black Screen

Ubuntu on Macbook Black Screen

Today Fael writes:

Matt, I’m tired. I am trying to install Ubuntu 16.04 on my macbook pro early 2011 with El Capitan, but, no matter how I try to boot it from USB Pen Drive, it always stucks at the first screen getting totally black as I choose to install or test Ubuntu. No article or tutorial could help me, the same errors just happen over and over. I’ve been trying for the last 2 days, all day long, and nothing. Please: give me some light here!

(Second email I received after I asked for additional details)


1) Older OSX yes. Since Leopard. Ubuntu: never.
2) Attached image.

If you need more info, just tell me.

Thank you in advance, dude, for your attention!

Hi Fael,

I’m going to level with you – Linux support on Macs is a dark art. Some will claim that most of the time stuff works out of the box. In reality, it simply depends on the Mac in question. I can tell you that historically Linux support on iMac(s) is far better than with Macbook Pro(s). When it comes to Macs, it’s perfectly possible to have a successful installation on one model and a complete failure with another one, both of the same form-factor. My reason for sharing this is that I have not personally installed Ubuntu onto your specific model of Macbook Pro nor have I tried it with the latest OS X.

According to your second email, you are running a Macbook Pro 8,2. This means you’re running likely running a Radeon HD 6750M graphics card. Based on this information, I’d first make sure you setup your partition on the Mac itself and formatted your USB drive correctly or it won’t be detected correctly. When working with the partitions, make sure to pay special attention to this part.

Setup your USB flash drive so that it’s using a GUID partition table.

My iMac guide will walk you through the rest of the installation process. This includes installing a boot manager for OS X like rEFIND. Unlike holding down the Option key, which doesn’t always work, rEFIND has a far greater success rate of displaying your USB flash drive loaded with Ubuntu.

Now, if you’ve followed my linked guide, installed rEFIND in OS X and still are seeing a black screen after choosing the USB flash drive option, there is one more thing you can try.

Assuming you can get to the GRUB menu during the boot before it goes black, click F6 and choose nomodeset. If that’s not available, then you may need to add the following manually.

nomodeset quiet splash

This should get you booted to a graphical environment.

Should this be successful, you could even add this function to your grub menu after Ubuntu is installed. If this doesn’t work, you could try blacklisting the AMD/ATI card when it boots to the USB drive.


This will blacklist the radeon driver and thus, prevent the AMD/ATI card from being activated. If all goes well, your Intel graphics should be the only thing running at that time. You are then free to install, reboot to a shell and add

blacklist radeon

to your


to make the blacklisting permanent.

Understand that these are quick/dirty hacks to get you to a live installation. This assumes that you’re able to get to grub, that you’re using rEFIND and you’ve setup your USB flash drive as described above. You may find it still doesn’t work. But my gut tells me either the nomodeset or the modprobe.blacklist=radeon should get you in so long as you can get to Grub.

My experiences with a Macbook Pro differ in that my tests were done with a model 6,2 and it came with the NVIDIA/Intel combination. Needless to say, it was far easier to get working. Also once  you get it installed, I have a MBP guide for the 6,2 that works with NVIDIA/Intel. There are some tidbits that might be useful in that article as well. Best of luck!

Do you have Linux questions you’d like Matt to help with? Hit the link here and perhaps you too, can Just Ask Matt!

Matt Hartley
Freedom Penguin’s founder & talking head – Matt has over a decade working with Linux desktops, his operating system experience consists of both Windows and Linux operating platforms. In addition to writing articles on Linux and open source technology for Datamation.com and OpenLogic.com/wazi, Matt also once served as a co-host for a popular Linux-centric podcast.

Matt has written about various software titles, such as Moodle, Joomla, WordPress, openCRX, Alfresco, Liferay and more. He also has additional Linux experience working with Debian based distributions, openSUSE, CentOS, and Arch Linux.

5 thoughts on “Ubuntu on Macbook Black Screen”

  1. One of the distro’s and at this point I don’t care which. Needs to make an installer that gives Mac users and out of the box install experience. One that guarantees that everything works first time every time. Imagine if you get a dialog box where you put in the model number or something. All of the tweaks and fixes happen at install and Apple hardware just works. Even if it’s just something us Linux users can point to and say use this distro and you Apple laptop will be just fine.

  2. One spelling correction needed for your article: The kernel option is [code]nomodeset[/code] not, repeat NOT nomodset. Notice two ‘e’s in the spelling. nomodset will simply give you an error. Since I have had to use nomodeset numerous times with my hardware, this leaps out at my scan of the article.

  3. I have a MacBook Pro Early 2015 with Intel Core i5-5257U and Graphics Intel Iris 6100. Ubuntu Gnome 16.04 ran just fine in this machine thanks to kernel 4.4, and almost all hardware work out of the box. There are a few things that didin’t work: the webcam (iSight) and the laptop didin’t always sleep when closing lid.

    At the moment I’m writting this, I’m running OpenSuse Tumbleweed and it works even better. I choose this Rolling Release mainly because of kernel 4.6 and Gnome 3.20. Webcam still doesn’t work and sleeping works better (not as good as in OSX).

    In retina screens I don’t recommend using full resolution because application scaling is awful. It’s better to use a lower resolution (1680×1050 in this machine).

    Good luck!.

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