This is the tale of my adventures installing Arch Linux on a Retina MacBook pro and dual-booting with OS X.


Make sure your system is backed up with Time Machine before attempting this. I take no responsibility for you losing your precious cat pictures if this messes up.

The first thing you need to do is grab a current copy of the installation media. This can be downloaded here. Once the ISO is downloaded, you should burn it onto a spare USB flash drive using the following commands in the OS X Terminal:

diskutil list

find the USB drive that you want to burn to. For me it was /dev/disk3 Make sure you type the correct disk number in the next command.

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk3

This will copy the ISO you downloaded onto the flash drive. This is a destructive process, so make sure you save the important files on the drive, since they will be erased.

sudo dd if=archlinux-2015.04.01-dual.iso of=/dev/rdisk3 bs=1m

Partitioning the drive

Since we want to dual-boot our computer, we'll need to resize the OS X partition on the SSD and create a partition for the linux install.

You'll need to disable FileVault disk encryption in order to do this. It can be re-enabled after you resize the partitions

Open Disk Utility on your Mac.

Select your SSD on the left, go to the partition tab, and resize your Mac partition. Then create a new partition that is FAT formatted.

I was also able to do this using the command line as follows

diskutil resizeVolume /dev/disk0s2 225G MS-DOS "BOOT" 128M MS-DOS "ARCH" 0b

This resizes the volume disk0s2 to be 225 GB and creates a 128M boot partition and a linux partition that fills the rest of the space.

Booting from the USB

With the USB inserted in the laptop, restart it while holding the 'option' button. Select the USB drive and boot, choosing "Arch Linux" from the menu.

Once you get to the root prompt, you can increase the console font by typing setfont sun12x22 into the prompt.


Either use a Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter, which should work automatically, or you'll have to compile broadcom-wl to get WiFi drivers. Refer to the Internet section on this page for more information.

Formatting disks

I created a boot partition and a system partition. You may do this other ways if you'd like.

Install dosfstools to be able to format the boot partition FAT32

pacman -S dosfstools

I formatted the boot partition FAT using

mkfs -t vfat /dev/sda3

then formatted the system partition EXT4 using

mkfs -t ext4 /dev/sda4

then mounted them by running

mount -t ext4 /dev/sda4 /mnt
mkdir /mnt/boot
mount -t vfat /dev/sda3 /mnt/boot


If you have any issues with this part, take a look at the Arch Linux Installation Guide

Selecting mirrors

Make a backup of your current mirror list by running

cp /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist.backup

Then uncomment all the mirrors (optional)

sed -i 's/^#Server/Server/' /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist.backup

Then run the rankmirrors command to find the six fastest mirrors (this might take a while)

rankmirrors -n 6 /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist.backup > /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist

Installing base packages

Use this command to install the base packages to your system.

pacstrap /mnt base

Configuring the system

Generate an fstab file like this:

genfstab -U -p /mnt >> /mnt/etc/fstab

Chroot into the new system

arch-chroot /mnt

Set a hostname and time zone

echo Ian-Laptop-Arch > /etc/hostname
ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/America/Chicago /etc/localtime

Edit /etc/locale.conf and enable your locale then run locale-gen

echo LANG=en_US.UTF-8 > /etc/locale.conf

Set your console font

echo FONT=sun12x22 > /etc/vconsole.conf

You’re going to modify your /etc/mkinitcpio.conf file to insert “keyboard” after “autodetect” in the HOOK section. Then run this to create the initial RAM disk

mkinitcpio -p linux

Set the root password


Setting up the bootloader

First install the grub package from the Arch repositories

Modify the following line in /etc/default/grub

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet rootflags=data=writeback libata.force=noncq"

Let's set up the boot directory to work with Apple's bootloader:

cd /boot
mkdir -p System/Library/CoreServices
touch mach_kernel

Then run the following commands to create a boot.efi file

grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
grub-mkstandalone -o /boot/System/Library/CoreServices/boot.efi -d /usr/lib/grub/x86_64-efi -O x86_64-efi /boot/grub/grub.cfg

Put the following in a new file at /boot/System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<plist version="1.0">
    <string>Arch Linux</string>

Now we must reboot into OS X to 'bless' the disk to make it bootable (replace disk0s2 with your boot partition)

sudo bless --device /dev/disk0s2 --setBoot

If all things go well, you can restart holding option, and boot into your new install.