Trying to install NixOS on a ~2015 MacBook Pro - Poor experience


I have an old Intel MacBook Pro on which I’d like to install NixOS.

I have already made several failed attempts. The installer complains that there is no Wifi and doesn’t want to proceed.

I’ve done some googling and it appears highly non-trivial. Cf. for instance: Day 4: (Re)Installing NixOS on my Macbook Pro - DEV Community

IIUC, there are some hoops that one needs to jump through to have the Wifi working, then issues with the keyboard, the trackpad, the screen resolution, etc.

Also, I’m now puzzled by the last post of his series, Day 7: Uninstalling NixOS from my Macbook Pro - DEV Community “Yes, you read that right. NixOS on MBP was a mistake. Now, almost a year later, I am ready to undo this nightmare.”

Another person mentions persistent GPU issues (“However, I’ve experienced significantly lower battery life and louder fans due to higher (~15C) CPU idle temperatures and not being able to switch GPUs on-demand (Nvidia GPU is always active). These problems are not specific to NixOS, I’ve experienced the same issues in other major distributions on this laptop.”) Installing NixOS on a MacBook Pro

So, good idea or not ? And if it is a good idea, how to make the installation process as painless as possible ?

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Hi abdul, and welcome.

One vote for good idea! Having read those same articles I was pleasantly surprised during a recent install on a similar older model MacBook Pro. The NixOS ISO recognized the keyboard, trackpad, and screen resolution with no problems.

Internet for the install will take a little effort. It’s really not too bad, depending on your definition of painless. :slight_smile: I suppose this is only fair; the licensing for my WiFi driver (and yours) means that the drivers aren’t bundled with the installer. Another issue is that my device (and yours) do not offer Ethernet ports. I looked at using a USB Ethernet adapter but perhaps this would not be ideal for some reason or another. For instance, we can prove to ourselves that WiFi will work on the eventually installed NixOS by first testing it with the installer.

So, first question: Have you seen and thoroughly read Especially the section Additional drivers or firmware? This is what helped me figure it out.

If you did follow those steps, you would have created a file modules/installer/cd-dvd/installation-cd-graphical-gnome-macbook.nix (or similar) with which to create a custom installer.

Second question: What were the values (the elements of the lists) you may have assigned to

boot.initrd.kernelModules = [ ? ]
boot.kernelModules = [ ? ]
boot.extraModulePackages = [ ? ]

in that file? A discrepancy here may help to explain why previous attempts failed.


If you have an Android phone, you can use plug it in and turn on USB tethering to get internet on your MacBook.


“thoroughly”, no, but I was aware that building an image is the recommended approach. OTOH, I don’t have Nix system so it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg issue.