Install ArchLinux on MacBook 2016 and later

15 minute read

This passage introduces a way to install Arch Linux on MacBook that releases in 2016 and 2017

Caution: You should be aware that some functions may not work properly. Do it on your own risk!

1. Overview

What works:

1. On booting

  • Booting
  • Disks
  • HiDPI
  • Accelerated Video
  • Keyboard Backlight
  • USB
  • Screen Brightness Control
  • Sensors
  • Bluetooth

2. Require modules installed

  • Keyboard, touchbar and trackpad

3. Partly Working

  • WiFi (Has some improving method)

4. Not work

  • Suspend/Resume
  • Audio (two cards show up, and intel driver is loaded, but no sound)

Notice: You may refer to roadrunner’s Gist for a more accurate list.

2. Preparation

2.1 Hardware

In this installation, you need a USB Stick more than 2 GB, a Keybord, A stable internet connection through tethering, and also, USB Hubs.

Notice: This guide uses phone USB tethering and you had better not directly connect to WiFi as it is unstable.

2.2 Software

  1. Download the latest ArchLinux iso
  2. Burn it to your USB sticker - Use the command dd to achieve this.
  3. rEFInd Boot Manager - Used to boot your MacBook to ArchLinux

Notice: Refer to dd and rEFInd’s manual for more information!

3. Basic Installation

3.1 Booting & Setting up

  1. Insert USB Sticker and reboot your MacBook, in the rEFInd menu, select the efi option for booting ArchLinux, and enter the Installation Environment.
  2. Connect your keyboard and your phone to MacBook (your phone may need to connect to WiFi in order to not result in high Cellar fee.)
  3. Set up tethering: In your phone, click Settings > Network & Internet > Hotspot & tethering > USB Tethering and turn it on.
  4. In the computer, type dhcpcd to set up the carrier interface and use ping to test your connection.

Note: Now, if you boot Arch Linux directly, the console is broken (for me), so in the EFI menu, apped nomodeset to the kernel command line. Generally, you can press e in the menu and edit the command line. Refer to ArchLinux Wiki for more information.

3.2 Partitioning

Warning: Do it carefully!

  1. Use fdisk -l to check your partition table.
  2. Look for the disk you want to install ArchLinux (sda sdb …)
  3. Use the Macbook’s boot partition which may be labelled as nvme0n1p1
  4. Use fdisk sdX to dig into your disk. Enter p for a table.
  5. Partition your Disk.
  6. Format

    mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdXy
  7. Mount

    mount /dev/sdXy /mnt
    mkdir -p /mnt/boot
    mount /dev/nvme0n1p1 /mnt/boot

3.3 Install

Notice: You may need to edit /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist to choose a mirror

   pacstrap /mnt base base-devel grub efibootmgr wireless_tools vim
   genfstab -U /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

3.4 Chroot

Chroot into the system

arch-chroot /mnt

and follow the official ArchLinux Instruction set up your hostname timezone etc.

3.4.1 Install GRUB ( Loader )

Stay in the chroot mode and use the following command:

grub-install --efi-directory=/boot
grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg

4. MacBook Specified Configurations

4.1 Make Keyboard Work

Install the Driver:

pacman -S linux-headers
git clone
pushd macbook12-spi-driver
git checkout touchbar-driver-hid-driver
sudo ln -s `pwd` /usr/src/applespi-0.1
sudo dkms install applespi/0.1

Configure mkinitcpio.conf

sudo nano /etc/mkinitcpio.conf

and in the modules section add :

Modules = (applespi intel_lpss_pci spi_pxa2xx_platform appletb)

Then use mkinitcpio -p linux to load them on next boot.

Change sensitivity: Save the two following two files to /etc/udev/hwdb.d/:

61-evdev-local.hwdb 61-libinput-local.hwdb

Note: You can also see them in the appendix.

Reboot and enjoy.

Warning: You may boot into broken console if you don’t install and enable a graphical interface! Append nomodeset to use console but DO NOT use nomodeset for graphical mode.

4.2 WiFi improvements

There are two ways to change the bad WiFi condition and the discussion is here.

4.2.1 Edit the driver

As here suggests: Use hex editor to change the /lib/firmware/brcm/brcmfmac43602-pcie.bin

  offset     0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F 0123456789ABCDEF    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F 0123456789ABCDEF
0x00000000  80f140b882f1a4b982f1b0b982f1bcb9 [email protected]   80f140b882f1a4b982f1b0b982f1bcb9 [email protected]
0x00000010  82f1cbb982f1dab982f1e9b982f1f8b9 ................   82f1cbb982f1dab982f1e9b982f1f8b9 ................
0x0007c820! 30643a66343a33650063636f64653d58 0d:f4:3e.ccode=X   30643a66343a33650063636f64653d30 0d:f4:3e.ccode=0
0x0007c830! 30007265677265763d31350061613267 0.regrev=15.aa2g   00007265677265763d30000061613267 ..regrev=0..aa2g
0x0007c840  3d3700616135673d370061676267303d =7.aa5g=7.agbg0=   3d3700616135673d370061676267303d =7.aa5g=7.agbg0=
0x0007c850  37310061676267313d37310061676267 71.agbg1=71.agbg   37310061676267313d37310061676267 71.agbg1=71.agbg

Note: As I changed the file, I cannot connect to any WiFi networks. More Investigation required.

4.2.2 Change the txpower

This is simple (see #10)

ip link set wlp2s0 up   # if not already up
iwconfig wlp2s0 txpower 10dBm

5. Appendix


# MacBook8,1 (2015), MacBook9,1 (2016), MacBook10,1 (2017)
evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBook8,1:*
evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBook9,1:*
evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBook10,1:*

# MacBookPro13,* (Late 2016), MacBookPro14,* (Mid 2017)
evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBookPro13,1:*
evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBookPro13,2:*
evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBookPro14,1:*
evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBookPro14,2:*

evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBookPro13,3:*
evdev:name:Apple SPI Touchpad:dmi:*:svnAppleInc.:pnMacBookPro14,3:*


 libinput:name:*Apple SPI Touchpad*:dmi:*

6. Credits

  1. Roadrunner’s gist
  2. Many awesome people in bugzilla

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