Asahi Linux Is The First Linux Distro To Support Apple Silicon

Asahi Linux boot options
(Image credit: Asahi Linux on Twitter)

Asahi Linux for Apple Silicon has launched for the public. It is the first Linux distribution to offer native support for Apple M1 chips. As this is an alpha release, please be aware of the likelihood of easy to stumble upon bugs and some significant missing features. However, this critical milestone now made, “things will move even more quickly going forward,” promises the Asahi Linux development team.

Asahi isn’t just a beer. It is the Japanese word for ‘morning sun,’ so it is quite an apt name for a pioneering Linux distribution for M1-powered Apple Macs. “We’re really excited to finally take this step and start bringing Linux on Apple Silicon to everyone,” wrote the development team in a blog post. Importantly, installing Asahi Linux on your Mac doesn’t require a jailbroken device. In addition, it won’t affect the security level of your macOS install, so Mac features like FileVault, running iOS apps, and watching Netflix in 4K can continue.

While the team has shared a list of system requirements, an installation guide, and a list of (in)compatible features, this alpha release is intended primarily “for developers and power users.” In other words, “expect things to be a bit rough,” the devs candidly admit.

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To use Asahi Linux Alpha at present, you need an M1, M1 Pro, or M1 Max machine (Mac Studio excluded) with MacOS 12.3 or later, and at least 53GB of free space for the desktop install. After running the installer - which will prompt you through tasks like resizing your macOS partition (if necessary) and installing your new OS, you will have access to the Asahi Linux Desktop. The description is a "customized remix of Arch Linux ARM that comes with a full Plasma desktop and all the basic packages to get you started with a desktop environment." Moreover, it includes a setup wizard to get your system ready. There are also install options for a minimal Asahi Linux and a UEFI environment only (so you can boot an OS installer from a USB-connected drive). By default, the install sets up dual-boot mode so you can switch back to macOS as you wish.

Understandably, and given a big red flag by the developers, there are some significant wrinkles with Asahi Linux Alpha. There are a large number of Mac I/O, and hardware features that don't yet work, and the most important of these are:

  • DisplayPort
  • Thunderbolt
  • HDMI on the MacBooks
  • Bluetooth
  • GPU acceleration
  • Video codec acceleration
  • Neural Engine
  • CPU deep idle
  • Sleep mode
  • Camera
  • Touch Bar

However, the above are balanced against the excellent work by the developers to get this Linux distro working with support for essentials like Wi-Fi, USB, NVMe, screen, power, keyboard, Ethernet (desktops), battery information, and more.

Some apps also have difficulty with this alpha release of the OS. For example, Chromium doesn't work, and Emacs has issues. Still, a fix is already in the pipeline, and other apps using jemalloc and libunwind will not work correctly in this initial Alpha release.

For more info about Asahi Linux Alpha, install notes, and a FAQ, please visit the linked blog post, from where you will find plenty of help and further reading. It is also worth keeping up with the official Asahi Linux Twitter account, which will keep you up to date with all the fixes and features as they are released.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.