2.1. Supported Hardware

Debian does not impose hardware requirements beyond the requirements of the Linux kernel and the GNU tool-sets. Therefore, any architecture or platform to which the Linux 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/sparc/ for more details on SPARC architecture systems which have been tested with Debian.

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

2.1.1. Supported Architectures

Debian 4.0 supports twelve major architectures and several variations of each architecture known as “flavors”.

Architecture Debian Designation Subarchitecture Flavor
Intel x86-based i386    
AMD64 & Intel EM64T amd64    
DEC Alpha alpha    
ARM and StrongARM arm Netwinder and CATS netwinder
Intel IOP32x iop32x
Intel IXP4xx ixp4xx
RiscPC rpc
HP PA-RISC hppa PA-RISC 1.1 32
PA-RISC 2.0 64
Intel IA-64 ia64    
MIPS (big endian) mips SGI IP22 (Indy/Indigo 2) r4k-ip22
SGI IP32 (O2) r5k-ip32
Broadcom BCM91250A (SWARM) sb1-bcm91250a
Broadcom BCM91480B (BigSur) sb1a-bcm91480b
MIPS (little endian) mipsel Cobalt cobalt
DECstation r4k-kn04
Broadcom BCM91250A (SWARM) sb1-bcm91250a
Broadcom BCM91480B (BigSur) sb1a-bcm91480b
Motorola 680x0 m68k Atari atari
Amiga amiga
68k Macintosh mac
VME bvme6000
IBM/Motorola PowerPC powerpc CHRP chrp
PowerMac pmac
PReP prep
Sun SPARC sparc sun4m sparc32
sun4u sparc64
IBM S/390 s390 IPL from VM-reader and DASD generic
IPL from tape tape

This document covers installation for the SPARC architecture. 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 and Main Boards Support

Sparc-based hardware is divided into a number of different subarchitectures, identified by one of the following names: sun4, sun4c, sun4d, sun4m, sun4u or sun4v. The following list describes what machines they include and what level of support may be expected for each of them.

sun4, sun4c, sun4d

These subarchitectures include some very old 32-bit machines, which are no longer supported. For a complete list please consult the Wikipedia SPARCstation page.


sun4m is the only 32-bit subarchitecture (sparc32) that is currently supported. The most popular machines belonging to this class are Sparcstation 4, 5, 10 and 20.

Note that symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) — the ability to run processes on multiple processors — is not supported on this hardware, due to stability problems with such configurations. The available uniprocessor (UP) sparc32 kernel will boot fine on multiprocessor machines, although it will activate and use only the first CPU.


This subarchitecture includes all 64-bit machines (sparc64) based on the UltraSparc processor and its clones. Most of the machines are well supported, even though for some you may experience problems booting from CD due to firmware or bootloader bugs (this problem may be worked around by using netbooting). Use the sparc64 or sparc64-smp kernel in UP and SMP configurations respectively.


This is the newest addition to the Sparc family, which includes machines based on the Niagara multi-core CPUs. At the moment such CPUs are only available in T1000 and T2000 servers by Sun, and are well supported. Use the sparc64-smp kernel.

Note that Fujitsu's SPARC64 CPUs used in PRIMEPOWER family of servers are not supported due to lack of support in the Linux kernel.

2.1.3. Graphics Card Support

Debian's support for graphical interfaces is determined by the underlying support found in X.Org's X11 system. Most AGP, PCI and PCIe video cards work under X.Org. Details on supported graphics buses, cards, monitors, and pointing devices can be found at http://xorg.freedesktop.org/. Debian 4.0 ships with X.Org version 7.1.

Most graphics options commonly found on Sparc-based machines are supported. X.org graphics drivers are available for sunbw2, suncg14, suncg3, suncg6, sunleo and suntcx framebuffers, Creator3D and Elite3D cards (sunffb driver), PGX24/PGX64 ATI-based video cards (ati driver), and PermediaII-based cards (glint driver). To use an Elite3D card with X.org you additionally need to install the afbinit package, and read the documentation included with it on how to activate the card.

It is not uncommon for a Sparc machine to have two graphics cards in a default configuration. In such a case there is a possibility that the Linux kernel will not direct its output to the card initially used by the firmware. The lack of output on the graphical console may then be mistaken for a hang (usually the last message seen on console is 'Booting Linux...'). One possible solution is to physically remove one of the video cards; another option is to disable one of the cards using a kernel boot parameter. Also, if graphical output is not required or desired, serial console may be used as an alternative. On some systems use of serial console can be activated automatically by disconnecting the keyboard before booting the system.