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 https://www.debian.org/ports/arm/ for more details on 32-bit soft-float 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 32-bit soft-float ARM, this section contains general information and pointers to where additional information can be found.
Debian GNU/Linux 12 supports 9 major architectures and several variations of each architecture known as “flavors”.
|AMD64 & Intel 64
|default x86 machines
|Xen PV domains only
|Marvell Kirkwood and Orion
|ARM with hardware FPU
|64bit MIPS (little-endian)
|32bit MIPS (little-endian)
|IBM POWER8 or newer machines
|64bit IBM S/390
|IPL from VM-reader and DASD
This document covers installation for the 32-bit soft-float 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.
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.
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 with vastly varying hardware components even for the very basic functionality required to bring the system up. System firmware interfaces have been increasingly standardised over time, but especially on older hardware firmware/boot interfaces vary a great deal, so on these systems the Linux kernel has to take care of many system-specific low-level issues which would be handled by the mainboard's BIOS/UEFI in the PC world.
At the beginning of the ARM support in the Linux kernel, the hardware variety resulted in the requirement of having a separate 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 was done to allow booting with a single ARM kernel that can run on different ARM systems. Support for newer ARM systems is now implemented in a way that allows the use of such a multiplatform kernel, but for several older systems a separate specific kernel is still required. Because of this, the standard Debian distribution only supports installation on a selected number of such older ARM systems, alongside the newer systems which are supported by the ARM multiplatform kernels (called “armmp”) in Debian/armhf.
The following platforms are supported by Debian/armel; they require platform-specific kernels.
Kirkwood is a system-on-chip (SoC) from Marvell that integrates an ARM CPU, Ethernet, SATA, USB, and other functionality in one chip. Debian currently supports the following Kirkwood based devices:
LaCie NASes (Network Space v2, Network Space Max v2, Internet Space v2, d2 Network v2, 2Big Network v2 and 5Big Network v2)
OpenRD (OpenRD-Base, OpenRD-Client and OpenRD-Ultimate)
Orion is a system-on-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. Debian currently supports the following Orion based devices: Buffalo Kurobox.
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 real hardware.
Support for all QNAP Turbo Station models (TS-xxx) has been dropped for Debian 11, since the Linux kernel for them can no longer being built, due to hardware limitations.
Support for HP Media Vault mv2120 has been dropped for Debian 11, since the Linux kernel for it can no longer being built, due to hardware limitations.
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” blobs (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 bookworm 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 https://wiki.freedesktop.org/xorg/. Debian 12 ships with X.Org version 7.7.
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 32-bit soft-float ARM, most built-in Ethernet devices are supported and modules for additional PCI and USB devices are provided.