2.1. Supported Hardware

Debian does not impose hardware requirements beyond the requirements of the Linux or kFreeBSD kernel and the GNU tool-sets. Therefore, any architecture or platform to which the Linux or kFreeBSD kernel, libc, gcc, etc. have been ported, and for which a Debian port exists, can run Debian. Please refer to the Ports pages at http://www.debian.org/ports/arm/ for more details on 64-bit ARM architecture systems which have been tested with Debian GNU/Linux.

Rather than attempting to describe all the different hardware configurations which are supported for 64-bit ARM , this section contains general information and pointers to where additional information can be found.

2.1.1. Supported Architectures

Debian GNU/Linux 9 supports ten major architectures and several variations of each architecture known as flavors.

Architecture Debian Designation Subarchitecture Flavor
Intel x86-based i386 default x86 machines default
Xen PV domains only xen
AMD64 & Intel 64 amd64    
ARM armel Marvell Kirkwood and Orion marvell
ARM with hardware FPU armhf multiplatform armmp
64bit ARM arm64    
32bit MIPS (big-endian) mips MIPS Malta 4kc-malta
Cavium Octeon octeon
64bit MIPS (little-endian) mips64el MIPS Malta 5kc-malta
Cavium Octeon octeon
Loongson 3 loongson-3
32bit MIPS (little-endian) mipsel MIPS Malta 4kc-malta
Cavium Octeon octeon
Loongson 3 loongson-3
Power Systems ppc64el IBM POWER8 or newer machines  
64bit IBM S/390 s390x IPL from VM-reader and DASD generic

This document covers installation for the 64-bit ARM architecture using the Linux kernel. If you are looking for information on any of the other Debian-supported architectures take a look at the Debian-Ports pages.

This is the first official release of Debian GNU/Linux for the 64-bit ARM architecture. We feel that it has proven itself sufficiently to be released. However, because it has not had the exposure (and hence testing by users) that some other architectures have had, you may encounter a few bugs. Use our Bug Tracking System to report any problems; make sure to mention the fact that the bug is on the 64-bit ARM platform using the Linux kernel. It can be necessary to use the debian-arm mailing list as well.

2.1.2. Three different ARM ports

The ARM architecture has evolved over time and modern ARM processors provide features which are not available in older models. Debian therefore provides three ARM ports to give the best support for a very wide range of different machines:

  • Debian/armel targets older 32-bit ARM processors without support for a hardware floating point unit (FPU),

  • Debian/armhf works only on newer 32-bit ARM processors which implement at least the ARMv7 architecture with version 3 of the ARM vector floating point specification (VFPv3). It makes use of the extended features and performance enhancements available on these models.

  • Debian/arm64 works on 64-bit ARM processors which implement at least the ARMv8 architecture.

Technically, all currently available ARM CPUs can be run in either endian mode (big or little), but in practice the vast majority use little-endian mode. All of Debian/arm64, Debian/armhf and Debian/armel support only little-endian systems.

2.1.3. Variations in ARM CPU designs and support complexity

ARM systems are much more heterogeneous than those based on the i386/amd64-based PC architecture, so the support situation can be much more complicated.

The ARM architecture is used mainly in so-called system-on-chip (SoC) designs. These SoCs are designed by many different companies, often with vastly varying hardware components even for the very basic functionality required to bring the system up. Older versions of the ARM architecture have seen massive differences from one SoC to the next, but ARMv8 (arm64) is much more standardised and so is easier for the Linux kernel and other software to support.

Server versions of ARMv8 hardware are typically configured using the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) standards. These two provide common, device-independent ways to boot and configure computer hardware. They are also common in the x86 PC world.

2.1.4. Platforms supported by Debian/arm64

Arm64/AArch64/ARMv8 hardware became available quite late in the Debian Stretch release cycle so not many platforms had support merged in the mainline kernel version by the time of this release; this is the main requirement to have debian-installer working on them. The following platforms are known to be supported by Debian/arm64 in this release. There is only one kernel image, which supports all the listed platforms.

Applied Micro (APM) Mustang/X-Gene

The APM Mustang was the first Linux-capable ARMv8 system available. It uses the X-gene SoC, which has since also been used in other machines. It is an 8-core CPU, with ethernet, USB and serial. A common form-factor looks just like a desktop PC box, but many other versions are expected in the future. Most of the hardware is supported in the mainline kernel, but at this point USB support is lacking in the Stretch kernel.

ARM Juno Development Platform

Juno is a capable development board with a 6-core (2xA57, 4xA53) ARMv8-A 800Mhz CPU, Mali (T624) graphics, 8GB DDR3 RAM, Ethernet, USB, Serial. It was designed for system bring-up and power testing so is neither small nor cheap, but was one of the first boards available. All the on-board hardware is supported in the mainline kernel and in Stretch.

When using debian-installer on non-UEFI systems, you may have to manually make the system bootable at the end of the installation, e.g. by running the required commands in a shell started from within debian-installer. flash-kernel knows how to set up an X-Gene system booting with U-Boot.

2.1.4.1. Other platforms

The multiplatform support in the arm64 Linux kernel may also allow running debian-installer on arm64 systems not explicitly listed above. So long as the kernel used by debian-installer has support for the target system's components, and a device-tree file for that target is available, a new target system may work just fine. In these cases, the installer can usually provide a working installation, and so long as UEFI is in use, it should be able to make the system bootable as well. If UEFI is not used you may also need to perform some manual configuration steps to make the system bootable.

2.1.5. Multiple Processors

Multiprocessor support — also called symmetric multiprocessing or SMP — is available for this architecture. Having multiple processors in a computer was originally only an issue for high-end server systems but has become common in recent years nearly everywhere with the introduction of so called multi-core processors. These contain two or more processor units, called cores, in one physical chip.

The standard Debian 9 kernel image has been compiled with SMP support. It is also usable on non-SMP systems without problems.

2.1.6. Graphics Hardware Support

Debian's support for graphical interfaces is determined by the underlying support found in X.Org's X11 system, and the kernel. Basic framebuffer graphics is provided by the kernel, whilst desktop environments use X11. Whether advanced graphics card features such as 3D-hardware acceleration or hardware-accelerated video are available, depends on the actual graphics hardware used in the system and in some cases on the installation of additional firmware images (see Section 2.2, “Devices Requiring Firmware”).

Nearly all ARM machines have the graphics hardware built-in, rather than being on a plug-in card. Some machines do have expansion slots which will take graphics cards, but that is a rarity. Hardware designed to be headless with no graphics at all is quite common. Whilst basic framebuffer video provided by the kernel should work on all devices that have graphics, fast 3D graphics invariably needs binary drivers to work. The situation is changing quickly but at the time of the stretch release free drivers for nouveau (Nvidia Tegra K1 SoC) and freedreno (Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs) are available in the release. Other hardware needs non-free drivers from 3rd parties.

Details on supported graphics hardware and pointing devices can be found at http://xorg.freedesktop.org/. Debian 9 ships with X.Org version 7.7.

2.1.7. Network Connectivity Hardware

Almost any network interface card (NIC) supported by the Linux kernel should also be supported by the installation system; drivers should normally be loaded automatically.

On 64-bit ARM , most built-in Ethernet devices are supported and modules for additional PCI and USB devices are provided.

2.1.8. Peripherals and Other Hardware

Linux supports a large variety of hardware devices such as mice, printers, scanners, PCMCIA/CardBus/ExpressCard and USB devices. However, most of these devices are not required while installing the system.