Apple's M1 Chip Boots NetBSD Operating System

M1 iPad specs
(Image credit: Apple)

Today, thanks to the Twitter user Jared McNeill, we have witnessed a first boot-up process of NetBSD OS on Apple's M1 processor. NetBSD is an open-source "UNIX-like" operating system, with an emphasis on speed, security and portability. This is one more step toward enabling the M1 chip for operating systems other than Apple's own macOS.

NetBSD is an open-source project based on Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). It follows UNIX's ideals of simplicity, careful design, and most importantly - portability. As NetBSD is one of the most portable operating systems, it was just a matter of time before its developer community ported it to Apple's M1 chip.

That said, the M1 features a custom SoC, making it a rather tricky CPU to port any foreign OS to. The processor needs accompanying drivers in order to function, and on Linux, it is a work in progress (WIP) solution at the time of writing.

However, the developer has managed to boot a WIP implementation of NetBSD version 9.99.85 on the Apple M1 chip and posted an entire boot sequence online. He used the dmesg command to record the system message buffer's content and store it in the /var/run/ path as dmesg.boot file. It can be accessed here.

While this achievement is not entirely related to the Linux enablement of the M1 chip, it is important to note that these open-source efforts are very important as they help illustrate new solutions to the problem. As we await further Linux enablement of the M1 chip, we are happy to see a developer bringing support for a new OS, enabling a whole new platform to function on Apple's custom silicon.

  • delaro
    That shouldn't have been hard it's worked on ARM and RISC for years 🤷‍♂️
  • artk2219
    delaro said:
    That shouldn't have been hard it's worked on ARM and RISC for years 🤷‍♂️

    You'd think that but Apple's current lack of complete documentation makes this chip a bit of a block box, which is intentional. So getting new things to work requires more work than normal as you cant just RTFM up an answer when you run into a technical issue.
  • ggascoigne
    Slight clarification, NetBSD isn't a "UNIX-like" operating system, it's one of the few OSs around that can actually claim to be UNIX, period. Darwin, AIX, HP-UX, FreeBSD and NetBSD, it's a pretty short list.