MacBook5,2 (early-mid 2009)

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Installing Archlinux on the Macbook5,2 (Polycarbonate, Mid-2009) has several pitfalls as of right now. I have written them into this article for people having trouble installing Archlinux on their 5,2 Macbook. This guide assumes you are also going to follow the Macbook install guide, and will point out a few modifications to get it working on this Macbook. Review these suggestions and then follow the guide. This guide also assumes you have rEFIt installed before hand.

Is This My Macbook?

This article applies to the Mid-2009 Polycarbonate Macbook5,2 with the 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (P7450) with model number MC240*/A


I suggest formatting your Arch Linux Partition using a GParted live disc, which works just fine. You will more than likely format /dev/sda3 to ext3. You can also use parted from the install disc if you like. However, no matter which option you choose, after formatting, you MUST reboot your Macbook and use rEFIt to resync the partition tables.

The Macbook5,2 seems to have trouble in general with Grub (but not grub2). Unless you use the ISOLINUX install disc, you probably will not make it past the grub boot selection screen. Assuming you are using the ISOLINUX disc, boot with:

# arch maxcpus=1

Without this, when the installer attempts to initialize the second CPU in your laptop the screen will go blank and you will be unable to proceed. This is a well known issue with the Macbook5,2. You can also boot the system with acpi=off. You will always need one of these options to boot, even after install.

# arch acpi=off

Install proceeds normally, except for during hard drive preparation. Manually select block devices, select /dev/sda3 and the filesystem you selected. If you used the Gparted live disc, say that you do not need to create the partition. Ignore warnings about swap drive, That will be handled later. Install should go okay. Do NOT install Grub, it will not work. The next section describes how to use grub2 as your Boot Loader for the Macbook.

Installing Grub 2

Some of this information is pulled from the Grub2 article. As an aside, some triple boot guides suggest using LILO, but I could not get LILO to work.

  • Ensure the network is properly configured.
  • From the installer's live shell, chroot to the installed system:
# mount -o bind /dev /mnt/dev
# chroot /mnt bash
  • Install the GRUB2 package:
# pacman -S grub2
  • Install GRUB2 to the Archlinux partition (Do not install to /dev/sda!)
# grub-install --recheck /dev/sda3

GRUB2 will probably inform you that this is not a suggested action. However, it is what must be done to boot the system. Use the following to force GRUB2 to install to /dev/sda3

# grub-install --recheck --force /dev/sda3

I found that GRUB2's grub-mkconfig function does not work on the MacBook. I suggest reading the Grub2 article for more advanced tips, but for convenience, here is my /boot/grub/grub.cfg:


set timeout=5
set default=0

menuentry "Arch Linux" {
set root=(hd0,3)
linux /boot/vmlinuz26 root=/dev/sda3 ro maxcpus=1 reboot=pci irqpoll noapic
initrd /boot/kernel26.img

If everything went alright, you should be looking at the command prompt.


The touchpad may not seem to work when you first try X. However, it does. It is just very unresponsive. I suggest preparing the "Advanced Policy Configuration" from the Touchpad Synaptics article. Increase the sensitivity, acceleration, min_speed, and max_speed greatly. Or, wait and use the gsynaptics package to increase them later, and use an external mouse in the interm.

To use the Gsynaptics package to make your trackpad useful, first get X setup, and then install the gsyanptics package using pacman

# pacman -S gsynaptics

Create and edit /usr/share/hal/fdi/policy/20thirdparty/11-x11-synaptics.fdi to contain, at minimum, the following:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
<deviceinfo version="0.2">
    <!-- Type -->
    <match key="info.capabilities" contains="input.touchpad">
      <match key="info.product" contains="Synaptics TouchPad">
        <merge key="input.x11_driver" type="string">synaptics</merge>
      <merge key="input.x11_options.SHMConfig" type="string">on</merge>

This gives you access to using the gsynaptics package in gnome under Preferences > Touchpad, and allows you to turn on two finger scrolling in Preferences > Mouse. You can also try expanding this configuration as defined in the Touchpad Synaptics article. If you do not use gnome, you make have to use

# gsynaptics-init

When you start X to restore your settings.


I found that to get Audio to work, you should use

# options snd_hda_intel model=mb5

In /etc/modprobe.d/modprobe.conf. This seems to work consistently across all MacBook5,2s

Further Reference

Ubuntu Guide For MacBook5,2Template:Linkrot