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 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 ARM, this section contains general information and pointers to where additional information can be found.

2.1.1. Supported Architectures

Debian GNU/Linux 8 supports eight major architectures and several variations of each architecture known as flavors.

Architecture Debian Designation Subarchitecture Flavor
Intel x86-based i386    
AMD64 & Intel 64 amd64    
ARM armel Marvell Kirkwood kirkwood
Marvell Orion orion5x
Marvell MV78xx0 mv78xx0
Versatile versatile
ARM with hardware FPU armhf multiplatform armmp
multiplatform for LPAE-capable systems armmp-lpae
MIPS (big endian) mips SGI IP22 (Indy/Indigo 2) r4k-ip22
SGI IP32 (O2) r5k-ip32
MIPS Malta (32 bit) 4kc-malta
MIPS Malta (64 bit) 5kc-malta
MIPS (little endian) mipsel MIPS Malta (32 bit) 4kc-malta
MIPS Malta (64 bit) 5kc-malta
IBM/Motorola PowerPC powerpc PowerMac pmac
PReP prep
64bit IBM S/390 s390x IPL from VM-reader and DASD generic

Debian GNU/kFreeBSD 8 supports two architectures.

Architecture Debian Designation
Intel x86-based kfreebsd-i386
AMD64 & Intel 64 kfreebsd-amd64

This document covers installation for the 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.

2.1.2. CPU, Main Boards, and Video Support

ARM systems are a lot more heterogenous than the i386/amd64-based PC architecture, where all systems share a common system firmware (BIOS or/and UEFI) which handles the board-specific basic hardware initialization in a standardized way. The ARM architecture is used mainly in so-called systems-on-chip (SOCs). These SOCs are designed by many different companies with vastly varying hardware components even for the very basic functionality required to bring the system up. Systems using them usually lack a common system firmware interface and as a result, on ARM systems the Linux kernel has to take care of many system-specific low-level issues which are handled by the mainboard's BIOS in the PC world.

At the beginning of the ARM support in the Linux kernel, this resulted in the requirement of having a seperate kernel for each ARM system in contrast to the one-fits-all kernel for PC systems. As this approach does not scale to a large number of different systems, work has started to be able to provide a single ARM kernel that can run on different ARM systems. Support for newer ARM systems gets implemented in a way that allows the use of such a multiplatform kernel, but for several older systems a seperate specific kernel is still required. Because of this, the standard Debian distribution only supports installation on a selected number of older ARM systems in addition to the newer systems which are supported by the ARM multiplatform (armmp) kernel.

The ARM architecture has evolved over time and modern ARM processors provide features which are not available in older models. Debian therefore provides two ARM ports, the Debian/armel and the Debian/armhf port. Debian/armel targets older ARM processors without support for a hardware floating point unit (FPU), while Debian/armhf works only on newer ARM processors which implement at least the ARMv7 architecture with version 3 of the ARM vector floating point specification (VFPv3). Debian/armhf makes use of the extended features and performance enhancements available on these models.

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

2.1.2.1. Platforms supported by Debian/armel

The following platforms are supported by Debian/armel; they require platform-specific kernels.

Kirkwood

Kirkwood is a system on a chip (SoC) from Marvell that integrates an ARM CPU, Ethernet, SATA, USB, and other functionality in one chip. We currently support the following Kirkwood based devices: OpenRD (OpenRD-Base, OpenRD-Client and OpenRD-Ultimate), plug computers (SheevaPlug, GuruPlug and DreamPlug), QNAP Turbo Station (all TS-11x, TS-21x and TS-41x models), and LaCie NASes (Network Space v2, Network Space Max v2, Internet Space v2, d2 Network v2, 2Big Network v2 and 5Big Network v2).

Orion5x

Orion is a system on a chip (SoC) from Marvell that integrates an ARM CPU, Ethernet, SATA, USB, and other functionality in one chip. There are many Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices on the market that are based on an Orion chip. We currently support the following Orion based devices: Buffalo Kurobox, D-Link DNS-323 and HP mv2120.

MV78xx0

The MV78xx0 platform is used on the Marvell DB-78xx0-BP development board.

Versatile

The Versatile platform is emulated by QEMU and is therefore a nice way to test and run Debian on ARM if you don't have the hardware.

2.1.2.2. Platforms no longer supported by Debian/armel

IOP32x

Intel's I/O Processor (IOP) line is found in a number of products related to data storage and processing, such as the GLAN Tank from IO-Data and the Thecus N2100. Debian has supported the IOP32x platform in Debian 7, but does not support it anymore from version 8 on due to hardware constraints of the platform which make it unsuitable for the installation of newer Debian releases.

IXP4xx

The Intel IXP4xx processor series has been used in network attached storage devices like the the Linksys NSLU2. Debian has supported the IXP4xx platform in Debian 7, but does not support it anymore from version 8 on, as the formerly supported devices do not provide enough flash capacity for the kernel used in Debian 8.

2.1.2.3. Platforms supported by Debian/armhf

The following systems are known to work with Debian/armhf using the multiplatform (armmp) kernel:

Freescale MX53 Quick Start Board

The IMX53QSB is a development board based on the i.MX53 SOC.

Versatile Express

The Versatile Express is a development board series from ARM consisting of a baseboard which can be equipped with various CPU daughterboards.

Certain Allwinner sunXi-based development boards and embedded systems

The armmp kernel supports several development boards and embedded systems based on the Allwinner A10 (architecture codename sun4i) and A20 (architecture codename sun7i) SOCs. Full installer support is currently available for the following sunXi-based systems:

  • Cubietech Cubieboard 1 + 2 / Cubietruck

  • LinkSprite pcDuino

  • Mele A1000

  • Miniand Hackberry

  • Olimex A10-Olinuxino-LIME / A10s-Olinuxino Micro / A13-Olinuxino / A13-Olinuxino Micro / A20-Olinuxino Micro

  • PineRiver Mini X-Plus

System support for Allwinner sunXi-based devices is limited to drivers and device-tree information available in the mainline Linux kernel. The android-derived linux-sunxi.org 3.4 kernel series is not supported by Debian.

The mainline Linux kernel generally supports serial console, ethernet, SATA, USB and MMC/SD-cards on Allwinner A10 and A20 SOCs, but it does not have local display (HDMI/VGA/LVDS) and audio support. The NAND flash memory that is built into some sunXi-based systems is not supported.

SolidRun Cubox-i2eX / Cubox-i4Pro

The Cubox-i series is a set of small, cubical-shaped systems based on the Freescale i.MX6 SOC family. System support for the Cubox-i series is limited to drivers and device-tree information available in the mainline Linux kernel; the Freescale 3.0 kernel series for the Cubox-i is not supported by Debian. Available drivers in the mainline kernel include serial console, ethernet, USB, MMC/SD-card and basic local display support over HDMI.

Generally, the ARM multiplatform support in the Linux kernel allows running debian-installer on armhf systems not explicitly listed above, as long as the kernel used by debian-installer has support for the target system's components and a device-tree file for the target is available. In these cases, the installer can usually provide a working userland installation, but it probably cannot automatically make the system bootable, as doing that in many cases requires device-specific information.

When using debian-installer on such systems, you 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.

2.1.2.4. Platforms no longer supported by Debian/armhf

EfikaMX

The EfikaMX platform (Genesi Efika Smartbook and Genesi EfikaMX nettop) has been supported in Debian 7 with a platform-specific kernel, but is not supported anymore from Debian 8 onwards. The code required to build the formerly used platform-specific kernel has been removed from the upstream Linux kernel source in 2012, so Debian cannot provide newer builds.

Using the armmp multiplatform kernel on the EfikaMX platform would require device-tree support for it, which is currently not available.

2.1.3. Graphics Card Support

Details on supported graphics cards and pointing devices can be found at http://xorg.freedesktop.org/. Debian 8 ships with X.Org version 7.7.

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

2.1.5. 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.