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This isn't so much a "how do I install Linux on Apple hardware" question, but rather a "could this do any sort of damage" one.

I've heard a few people speak of "burning out" the Apple hardware by installing a non-Apple operating system on the computer. In specific, I've heard it has to do with OS X and the way it manages CPU voltages via the SMC, and how a non-Apple OS does not interact with the SMC in a similar way, which in turn puts the CPU under too much load for too long a time, and burns it out.

I've done some research online, and haven't heard any mention of this being possible, but I'm curious if anyone has any experience in killing a Mac by installing Linux (specifically Ubuntu, or Fedora).

tl;dr – can installing Linux bare-metal on my MacBook Pro (early 2011, i7 13") have any ill effects on my hardware?

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The explanation you've heard is highly suspect. While installing an alternate OS might (if you're not careful) hose the partition table on your hard drive, I highly doubt you'd accidentally over-volt the CPU so hard it breaks.

There might be issues with power management (or a lack thereof) running the CPU too hot and not running the fans at full-tilt, but that oughtn't ruin the machine.

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im not overly concerned with partition tables, as i plan on having linux as the primary (and only) OS on the MBP. the only reason i question this is the information comes from a former apple "genius" and fellow sysadmin. the only document referencing the above i could find, was written by the colleague in question. sometimes, its tough to sort out the propaganda from the facts ;) i personally have never heard of an OS damaging hardware by simply running. – adamfield Oct 4 '11 at 1:12
    
@adam I mentioned that as the most likely cause I could think of of someone thinking they'd hosed their computer. If you know what partition tables are enough to not be worried with a good reason, you should be fine. – CajunLuke Oct 4 '11 at 1:15

Well, there is a distro called Yellow Dog which is supposed to work with Mac systems. It is designed for Mac, but what I have seen on most modern day Macs that the kernel is Linux 2.4. So burning out a system with a Linux distro seems kind of odd. Mac like these are designed from Unix, if these work that would mean that BSD will work too. Best way is to check out a site called http://distrowatch.com. Here they have plenty of distributions to pick from.

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Yellow Dog is designed to work on PowerPC systems. No Mac with a PPC processor has been sold for nearly six years. Sure it'll work with older systems, but I don't believe they ever made the Intel transition. – CajunLuke Oct 4 '11 at 4:58
    
+1 @CajunLuke on that one. this is an intel i7 MBP. my end goal is to run awesomeWM. (truthfully, if i could have awesomeWM running instead of OSX chrome, i wouldnt need to install ubuntu to begin with) – adamfield Oct 4 '11 at 5:02

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