Install Linux on an M1 Mac With Apple Silicon - - Windows Tips and Tricks with Geek

Friday, November 12, 2021

Install Linux on an M1 Mac With Apple Silicon

 Debian ARM virtual machine on M1 Max

The Easy Route: Use UTM Gallery

UTM provides some ready-made VMs that you can download and install, which lets you hit the ground running and not worry about configuring your own machine. This is by far the easiest route to take, with support for some popular distros like Arch Linux (ARM), Debian (ARM), Ubuntu (x86-64 and ARM).

For Linux and similar open source projects, the VM downloads are provided with everything you need including the disk image required to run the operating system.

Ubuntu and Arch Linux VMs courtesy of UTM Gallery

You can also use this Gallery feature to download ready-to-run VMs for Windows 10 and 11, Windows XP, and macOS 9 but you’ll need to provide your own disk images.

Simply head to the Gallery page and select the VM you would like to install. Click “Download” to save the configuration to disk, then open UTM and click File > Import Virtual Machine.

Select the UTM file you downloaded and it will be imported. In the case of Linux, all you have to do is click the “play” button and your VM will begin. We strongly recommend ARM64 images for performance reasons. In our testing the x86-64 version of Ubuntu ran at a glacial pace, even on an M1 Max processor.

Ubuntu on Apple Silicon via UTM

Note: If you receive an error like “Number of SMP CPUs requested (10) exceeds max CPUs supported by machine ‘mach-virt’ (8)” right click on your VM, and select “Edit”, then head to “System” and check “Show Advanced Settings” then under “CPU Cores” enter 8 (or whatever the “max” is quoted as in the error).

Creating Your Own Virtual Machine With UTM

You can also create your own VM, but be prepared to do some troubleshooting to get everything working. As an example, we were able to get x86-64 Puppy Linux 9.5 to boot up to the point where the X window manager is launched, at which point it would (seemingly) hang.

Launch UTM and click on the “Create a New Virtual Machine” button, then give your new VM a name you can recognize in the “Information” tab:

Create a new VM and name it

Move on to the “System” tab and select your desired system architecture (you’ll need to match this to the version of Linux you downloaded) and select the desired amount of RAM you want to dedicate to your machine.

Match your system architecture and RAM requirements to your Linux distro

Now head to the “Drives” tab and delete any existing drives by clicking the trash can icon next to them. Create a removable drive from which to install Linux by clicking “New Drive” then checking the “Removable” box and choosing “USB” as the interface.

Create a removable bootable drive

Click on the “New Drive” button again and create a non-removable installation drive with a size of your choice, choosing “IDE” as the interface.

Create an installation drive

Confirm that your removable USB drive is at the top of the list (if it isn’t, click the “up” arrow to move it above your installation drive so that the VM looks for your virtual USB drive before your empty virtual hard drive.

Click the “Save” button and highlight the machine you just made. Click on the “CD/DVD” drop-down box and locate the Linux ISO you would like to boot.

Locate your disk image

Finally hit the “Play” button to start your virtual machine and wait for Linux to load.

The Puppy Linux bootloader

If you encounter problems you may want to change “System” type on the “System” tab, and check “Show Advanced Settings” to see even more options you can change. You may have joy emulating some of the settings provided in ready-to-run UTM gallery VMs, as per the section above.

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