Hardware Software

Updating a Legacy MacBook Air to Manjaro Linux

I repurposed a 7 year old MacBook Air with Manjaro Linux to breathe new life into it.

I’ve got a 2015 MacBook Air version 7,2 which had been sitting on the counter for a few months untouched. My daughter was the last one to use this laptop and that was primarily for YouTube videos. Since she got her iPad for her birthday there hasn’t been much of a need of the MacBook. Never to let a perfectly good laptop go to waste. I had one the latest MacOS’s on it, but it wasn’t the latest. It was also a bit slow if you ask me. It’s a Core i5 2.5 Ghz with 8 GB of mem and a 128 GB SSD. So not a powerhouse, but a nice little laptop.

I run Manjaro Linux on my desktop PC so I am familiar with Arch and I had an installer USB ready. First thing I did was boot from the USB (you need to hold down the alt key while booting) to see if Manjaro would run. The “Live CD” version on the installer seemed to work great but no Wifi or networking. Of course, the installer needs wifi to update. I figured out that I could plugin my mobile phone via USB and it would provide networking support via the tether. I installed Manjaro and updated with all basic setting. Full wipe and install. I rebooted and happily it started without issue.

After a big smile an relief, I went about checking all the hardware to make sure everything was working. Arch Linux has a great webpage on installing and configuring Arch on MacBooks. The only bit of hardware that didn’t work was the web-camera. I followed this article to download, compile and install the required kernel module to use the web-cam. Remember that you must have kernel headers for your kernel loaded for the compilation to work! The first few times I’ve installed kernel modules in Manjaro/Arch, I’ve forgotten to install the proper kernel headers so it didn’t work properly. Anyways, I tested with the Cheese app after a quick reboot to ensure that everything was working fine.

Next, came the keyboard. I chose typical default US keyboard layout. Most of the function keys worked fine, volume, start/stop, mute, screen brightness and keyboard backlight brightness. Two function keys didn’t work out of the box. Those were for Expose and Mac Applications list. I went into Keyboard shortcuts and remapped the Expose key to Screenshot capture interactive since I don’t have a print key on this keyboard. I remapped the Applications function key to show all desktops in Gnome. Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that I’m running Gnome 42 on Manjaro. You can choose different window managers/desktop environments for Manjaro and I’m most comfortable in Gnome from my days in Pop _OS and before.

Lastly, the trackpad, oh the trackpad. It was just frustrating to me that I was randomly doing right mouse clicks based on the location I clicked on the trackpad. My work laptop does this as well and it really bothers me. I like to click with my thumb on my right hand and it’s not always comfortable to go on the left side of the trackpad. I found the following Gnome setting that you must run in the terminal to change from “areas” clicking to “fingers”. Fingers means two fingers on the trackpad to right click which is way more natural for me.

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.peripherals.touchpad click-method 'fingers'

Update 21-Aug-22: I’ve also added the mbpfan service to autostart on my MacBook Air running Manjaro Linux. More details on mbpfan here. This service uses the coretemp and applesmc kernel modules to read the system temp and ramp up the internal (puny) fan. I have also installed a few of Luke Smith’s voidrice utility scripts to monitor the weather forecast and system temperature from the menu bar. More details at

By Rich

Lover of science, technology, ice hockey and the outdoors. Houston is home.

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