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 32-bit hard-float ARMv7 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 hard-float ARMv7 , 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 32-bit hard-float ARMv7 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. 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 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 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.

2.1.4. 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 (MX53 LOCO 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 daughter boards.

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), A10s/A13 (architecture codename sun5i), A20 (architecture codename sun7i), A31/A31s (architecture codename sun6i) and A23/A33 (part of the sun8i family) SoCs. Full installer support (including provision of ready-made SD card images with the installer) is currently available for the following sunXi-based systems:

  • Cubietech Cubieboard 1 + 2 / Cubietruck

  • LeMaker Banana Pi and Banana Pro

  • LinkSprite pcDuino and pcDuino3

  • Olimex A10-Olinuxino-LIME / A20-Olinuxino-LIME / A20-Olinuxino-LIME2 / A20-Olinuxino Micro / A20-SOM-EVB

  • Xunlong OrangePi Plus

System support for Allwinner sunXi-based devices is limited to drivers and device-tree information available in the mainline Linux kernel. Vendor-specific kernel trees (such as the Allwinner SDK kernels) and the android-derived linux-sunxi.org kernel 3.4 series are not supported by Debian.

The mainline Linux kernel generally supports serial console, ethernet, SATA, USB and MMC/SD-cards on Allwinner A10, A10s/A13, A20, A23/A33 and A31/A31s SoCs. The level of support for local display (HDMI/VGA/LCD) and audio hardware varies between individual systems. For most systems, the kernel doesn't have native graphics drivers but instead uses the simplefb infrastructure in which the bootloader initializes the display and the kernel just re-uses the pre-initialized framebuffer. This generally works reasonably well, although it results in certain limitations (the display resolution cannot be changed on the fly and display powermanagement is not possible).

Onboard flash memory intended to be used as a mass storage device generally exists in two basic variants on sunXi-based systems: raw NAND flash and eMMC flash. Most older sunXi-based boards with onboard flash storage use raw NAND flash for which support is not generally available in the mainline kernel and therefore also not in Debian. A number of newer systems use eMMC flash instead of raw NAND flash. An eMMC flash chip basically appears as a fast, non-removable SD card and is supported in the same way as a regular SD card.

The installer includes basic support for a number of sunXi-based systems not listed above, but it is largely untested on those systems as the Debian project doesn't have access to the corresponding hardware. No pre-built SD card images with the installer are provided for those systems. Development boards with such limited support include:

  • Olimex A10s-Olinuxino Micro / A13-Olinuxino / A13-Olinuxino Micro

  • Sinovoip BPI-M2 (A31s-based)

  • Xunlong Orange Pi (A20-based) / Orange Pi Mini (A20-based)

In addition to the SoCs and systems listed above, the installer has very limited support for the Allwinner H3 SoC and a number of boards based on it. Mainline kernel support for the H3 is still largely work in progress at the time of the Debian 9 release freeze, so the installer only supports serial console, MMC/SD and the USB host controller on H3-based systems. There is no driver for the on-board ethernet port of the H3 yet, so networking is only possible with a USB ethernet adaptor or a USB wifi dongle. Systems based on the H3 for which such very basic installer support is available include:

  • FriendlyARM NanoPi NEO

  • Xunlong Orange Pi Lite / Orange Pi One / Orange Pi PC / Orange Pi PC Plus / Orange Pi Plus / Orange Pi Plus 2E / Orange Pi 2


The NVIDIA Jetson TK1 is a developer board based on the Tegra K1 chip (also known as Tegra 124). The Tegra K1 features a quad-core 32-bit ARM Cortex-A15 CPU and Kepler GPU (GK20A) with 192 CUDA cores. Other systems based on the Tegra 124 may work, too.

Seagate Personal Cloud and Seagate NAS

The Seagate Personal Cloud and Seagate NAS are NAS devices based on Marvell's Armada 370 platform. Debian supports the Personal Cloud (SRN21C), Personal Cloud 2-Bay (SRN22C), Seagate NAS 2-Bay (SRPD20) and Seagate NAS 4-Bay (SRPD40).

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 display support over HDMI (console and X11). In addition to that, the eSATA port on the Cubox-i4Pro is supported.


The Wandboard Quad, Dual and Solo are development boards based on the Freescale i.MX6 Quad SoC. System support is limited to drivers and device-tree information available in the mainline Linux kernel; the wandboard-specific 3.0 and 3.10 kernel series from wandboard.org are not supported by Debian. The mainline kernel includes driver support for serial console, display via HDMI (console and X11), ethernet, USB, MMC/SD, SATA (Quad only) and analog audio. Support for the other audio options (S/PDIF, HDMI-Audio) and for the onboard WLAN/Bluetooth module is untested or not available in Debian 9.

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 installation, but it may not be able to automatically make the system bootable. Doing that in many cases requires device-specific information.

When using debian-installer on such 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.

2.1.5. Platforms no longer supported by Debian/armhf


The EfikaMX platform (Genesi Efika Smartbook and Genesi EfikaMX nettop) was supported in Debian 7 with a platform-specific kernel, but is no longer supported 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.

2.1.6. Multiple Processors

Multiprocessor support — also called symmetric multiprocessing or SMP — is available for this architecture. The standard Debian 9 kernel image has been compiled with SMP-alternatives support. This means that the kernel will detect the number of processors (or processor cores) and will automatically deactivate SMP on uniprocessor systems.

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.

2.1.7. 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.

2.1.8. 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 32-bit hard-float ARMv7 , most built-in Ethernet devices are supported and modules for additional PCI and USB devices are provided.

2.1.9. 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.