Debian Linux Running Bare Metal on Apple's M1 SoC

An Apple Mac Mini with M1 SoC running Debian.
(Image credit: Alyssa Rosenzweig)

If you loathe Apple's MacOS but envy the M1's performance and power efficiency, the door has just been opened for a sunnier future on your side of the OS wars. Alyssa Rosenzweig, a Linux developer leading the Panfrost and Asahi graphics drivers, has tweeted a running Debian GNU/Linux installation running bare metal on Apple's shining star SoC

This isn't the first time that we have seen Linux on the M1 but make no mistake that this takes nothing away from Rosenzweig's work. Rosenzweig's development follows months of work in reverse engineering the M1 SoC's workings, and represents one of the most complicated tasks in the software world - porting a working OS to what amounts to a hardware blackbox. While we're still a relatively long time before a set-it-and-forget-it installation process for Linux on M1, the work done by Alyssa and co opens up the frontier for that to happen. The current installation already features a working upstream mainline kernel with USB support, adding flexibility to further developments. The objective is to enable any Linux distro to be installed on and run through the M1 SoC, with ecosystem support and mainline kernel updates.

The M1's performance on MacOS is a known quantity - and it beats even some desktop Windows PCs that should punch above the M1's weight. However, is the same true for Linux? Will the M1 Linux implementation eventually offer higher performance (and performance per watt) than comparable x86 implementations? We'll have to wait and see, but if you love the M1's performance and energy efficiency but don't want to be locked into Apple's ecosystem, this is one development you should keep your eyes on.

Francisco Pires
Freelance News Writer

Francisco Pires is a freelance news writer for Tom's Hardware with a soft side for quantum computing.

  • JfromNucleon
    This be great news
  • domih
    Many thanks to Alyssa Rosenzweig and Asahi Linux.

    From about page:

    <<...Asahi Linux is a project and community with the goal of porting Linux to Apple Silicon Macs, starting with the 2020 M1 Mac Mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro.

    Our goal is not just to make Linux run on these machines but to polish it to the point where it can be used as a daily OS. Doing this requires a tremendous amount of work, as Apple Silicon is an entirely undocumented platform. In particular, we will be reverse engineering the Apple GPU architecture and developing an open-source driver for it...>>

    So they will be at it for quite some time even once they have a workable daily OS.

    Also as you mentioned this is not the only thing Alyssa Rosenzweig is doing