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/powerpc/ for more details on PowerPC architecture systems which have been tested with Debian.

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

2.1.1. Supported Architectures

Debian 3.1 supports eleven major architectures and several variations of each architecture known as “flavors”.

Architecture Debian Designation Subarchitecture Flavor
Intel x86-based i386   vanilla
Motorola 680x0 m68k Atari atari
Amiga amiga
68k Macintosh mac
VME bvme6000
DEC Alpha alpha    
Sun SPARC sparc   sun4cdm
ARM and StrongARM arm   netwinder
IBM/Motorola PowerPC powerpc CHRP chrp
PowerMac pmac
PReP prep
APUS apus
HP PA-RISC hppa PA-RISC 1.1 32
PA-RISC 2.0 64
Intel ia64-based ia64    
MIPS (big endian) mips SGI Indy/Indigo 2 r4k-ip22
Broadcom BCM91250A (SWARM) sb1-swarm-bn
MIPS (little endian) mipsel Cobalt cobalt
DECstation r4k-kn04
Broadcom BCM91250A (SWARM) sb1-swarm-bn
IBM S/390 s390 IPL from VM-reader and DASD generic
IPL from tape tape

This document covers installation for the PowerPC 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, Main Boards, and Video Support

There are four major supported powerpc subarchitectures: PMac (Power-Macintosh), PReP, APUS (Amiga Power-UP System), and CHRP machines. Each subarchitecture has its own boot methods. In addition, there are four different kernel flavours, supporting different CPU variants.

Ports to other powerpc architectures, such as the Be-Box and MBX architecture, are underway but not yet supported by Debian. We may have a 64-bit port in the future. Kernel Flavours

There are four flavours of the powerpc kernel in Debian, based on the CPU type:


Most systems use this kernel flavour, which supports the PowerPC 601, 603, 604, 740, 750, and 7400 processors. All Apple Power Macintosh systems up to and including the G4 use one of these processors.


The POWER3 processor is used in older IBM 64-bit server systems: known models include the IntelliStation POWER Model 265, the pSeries 610 and 640, and the RS/6000 7044-170, 7043-260, and 7044-270.


The POWER4 processor is used in more recent IBM 64-bit server systems: known models include the pSeries 615, 630, 650, 655, 670, and 690.

The Apple G5 is also based on the POWER4 architecture, and uses this kernel flavour.


This kernel flavour supports the Amiga Power-UP System. Power Macintosh (pmac) subarchitecture

Apple (and briefly a few other manufacturers — Power Computing, for example) makes a series of Macintosh computers based on the PowerPC processor. For purposes of architecture support, they are categorized as NuBus, OldWorld PCI, and NewWorld.

Macintosh computers using the 680x0 series of processors are not in the PowerPC family but are instead m68k machines. Those models start with “Mac II” or have a 3-digit model number such as Centris 650 or Quadra 950. Apple's pre-iMac PowerPC model numbers have four digits.

NuBus systems are not currently supported by debian/powerpc. The monolithic Linux/PPC kernel architecture does not have support for these machines; instead, one must use the MkLinux Mach microkernel, which Debian does not yet support. These include the following:

  • Power Macintosh 6100, 7100, 8100

  • Performa 5200, 6200, 6300

  • Powerbook 1400, 2300, and 5300

  • Workgroup Server 6150, 8150, 9150

A linux kernel for these machines and limited support is available at http://nubus-pmac.sourceforge.net/

OldWorld systems are most Power Macintoshes with a floppy drive and a PCI bus. Most 603, 603e, 604, and 604e based Power Macintoshes are OldWorld machines. The beige colored G3 systems are also OldWorld.

The so called NewWorld PowerMacs are any PowerMacs in translucent colored plastic cases. That includes all iMacs, iBooks, G4 systems, blue colored G3 systems, and most PowerBooks manufactured in and after 1999. The NewWorld PowerMacs are also known for using the “ROM in RAM” system for MacOS, and were manufactured from mid-1998 onwards.

Specifications for Apple hardware are available at AppleSpec, and, for older hardware, AppleSpec Legacy.

Model Name/Number Generation
Apple iMac Bondi Blue, 5 Flavors, Slot Loading NewWorld
iMac Summer 2000, Early 2001 NewWorld
iMac G5 NewWorld
iBook, iBook SE, iBook Dual USB NewWorld
iBook2 NewWorld
iBook G4 NewWorld
Power Macintosh Blue and White (B&W) G3 NewWorld
Power Macintosh G4 PCI, AGP, Cube NewWorld
Power Macintosh G4 Gigabit Ethernet NewWorld
Power Macintosh G4 Digital Audio, Quicksilver NewWorld
Power Macintosh G5 NewWorld
PowerBook G3 FireWire Pismo (2000) NewWorld
PowerBook G3 Lombard (1999) NewWorld
PowerBook G4 Titanium NewWorld
PowerBook G4 Aluminum NewWorld
Xserve G5 NewWorld
Performa 4400, 54xx, 5500 OldWorld
Performa 6360, 6400, 6500 OldWorld
Power Macintosh 4400, 5400 OldWorld
Power Macintosh 7200, 7300, 7500, 7600 OldWorld
Power Macintosh 8200, 8500, 8600 OldWorld
Power Macintosh 9500, 9600 OldWorld
Power Macintosh (Beige) G3 Minitower OldWorld
Power Macintosh (Beige) Desktop, All-in-One OldWorld  
PowerBook 2400, 3400, 3500 OldWorld  
PowerBook G3 Wallstreet (1998) OldWorld  
Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh OldWorld  
Workgroup Server 7250, 7350, 8550, 9650, G3 OldWorld  
Power Computing PowerBase, PowerTower / Pro, PowerWave OldWorld
PowerCenter / Pro, PowerCurve OldWorld
UMAX C500, C600, J700, S900 OldWorld
APS APS Tech M*Power 604e/2000 OldWorld
Motorola Starmax 3000, 4000, 5000, 5500 OldWorld PReP subarchitecture

Model Name/Number
Motorola Firepower, PowerStack Series E, PowerStack II
MPC 7xx, 8xx
IBM RS/6000 40P, 43P
Power 830/850/860 (6070, 6050)
6030, 7025, 7043
p640 CHRP subarchitecture

Model Name/Number
IBM RS/6000 B50, 43P-150, 44P
Genesi Pegasos I, Pegasos II APUS subarchitecture

Model Name/Number
Amiga Power-UP Systems (APUS) A1200, A3000, A4000

2.1.3. Graphics Card

Debian's support for graphical interfaces is determined by the underlying support found in XFree86's X11 system. Most AGP, PCI and PCIe video cards work under XFree86. Details on supported graphics buses, cards, monitors, and pointing devices can be found at http://www.xfree86.org/. Debian 3.1 ships with XFree86 version 4.3.0.

2.1.4. Multiple Processors

Multi-processor support — also called “symmetric multi-processing” or SMP — is supported for this architecture. However, the standard Debian 3.1 kernel image does not support SMP. This should not prevent installation, since the standard, non-SMP kernel should boot on SMP systems; the kernel will simply use the first CPU.

In order to take advantage of multiple processors, you'll have to replace the standard Debian kernel. You can find a discussion of how to do this in Section 8.4, “Compiling a New Kernel”. At this time (kernel version 2.6.8) the way you enable SMP is to select “Symmetric multi-processing support” in the “Platform support” section of the kernel config.