It's taken a while but all of the pieces are finally in place to run successfully through Debian Installer on ARM64 using the Debian ARM64 port.

So I'm now running nightly builds locally and uploading them to

If you have CACert in your CA roots then you might prefer the slightly more secure version.

Hopefully before too long I can arrange to have them building on one of the project machines and uploaded to somewhere a little more formal like people.d.o or even the regular Debian Installer dailies site. This will have to do for now though.


The arm64 port is currently hosted on Debian Ports which only supports the unstable "sid" distribution. This means that installation can be a bit of a moving target and sometimes fails to download various installer components or installation packages. Mostly it's just a case of waiting for the buildd and/or archive to catch up. You have been warned!

Installing in a Xen guest

If you are lucky enough to have access to some 64-bit ARM hardware (such as the APM X-Gene, see for setup instructions) then installing Debian as a guest is pretty straightforward.

I suppose if you had lots of time (and I do mean lots) you could also install under Xen running on the Foundation or Fast Model. I wouldn't recommend it though.

First download the installer kernel and ramdisk onto your dom0 filesystem (e.g. to /root/didaily/arm64).

Second create a suitable guest config file such as:

name = "debian-installer"
disk = ["phy:/dev/LVM/debian,xvda,rw"]
vif = [ '' ] 
memory = 512
kernel = "/root/didaily/arm64/vmlinuz"
ramdisk= "/root/didaily/arm64/initrd.gz"
extra = "console=hvc0 -- "

In this example I'm installing to a raw logical volume /dev/LVM/debian. You might also want to use randmac to generate a permanent MAC address for the Ethernet device (specified as vif = ['mac=xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx']).

Once that is done you can start the guest with:

xl create -c cfg

From here you'll be in the installer and things carry on as usual. You'll need to manually point it to as the mirror, or you can preseed by appending to the extra line in the cfg like so:

mirror/country=manual mirror/http/ mirror/http/directory=/debian

Apart from that there will be a warning about not knowing how to setup the bootloader but that is normal for now.

Installing in Qemu

To do this you will need a version of which supports qemu-system-aarch64. The latest release doesn't yet so I've been using v2.1.0-rc3 (it seems upstream are now up to -rc5). Once qemu is built and installed and the installer kernel and ramdisk have been downloaded to $DI you can start with:

qemu-system-aarch64 -M virt -cpu cortex-a57 \
    -kernel $DI/vmlinuz -initrd $DI/initrd.gz \
    -append "console=ttyAMA0 -- " \
    -serial stdio -nographic --monitor none \
    -drive file=rootfs.qcow2,if=none,id=blk,format=qcow2 -device virtio-blk-device,drive=blk \
    -net user,vlan=0 -device virtio-net-device,vlan=0

That's using a qcow2 image for the rootfs, I think I created it with something like:

qemu-img create -f qcow2 rootfs.qcow2 4G

Once started installation proceeds much like normal. As with Xen you will need to either point it at the debian-ports archive by hand or preseed by adding to the -append line and the warning about no bootloader configuration is expected.

Installing on real hardware

Someone should probably try this ;-).