Native Linux support for Apple’s new ARM-based architecture isn’t ready yet, but you can run Linux on an M1, M1 Pro, or M1 Max with a virtual machine. That way, you can run 64-bit x86 Linux apps or try different distributions from the comfort of macOS.
What is Apple’s M1 Chip for Mac?
You can’t (yet) run Linux natively on Apple Silicon
Native Linux support for Apple silicon chips is coming. If you can’t wait any longer, you can now run Linux in a virtual machine.
You can do this for free using a virtual machine (VM) app called. to do UTM . There’s also a paid $ 9.99 Mac App Store version which you can purchase to support developers and access automatic updates through the store interface.
With this app you can emulate a variety of processor architectures, including x86-64 (“real” desktop Linux) as well POOR and PowerPC.
First, download UTM and a Linux distribution of your choice, then start creating a virtual machine with UTM.
Note: You can use UTM to run ARM64 versions of Linux at “near native” speeds, while lower performance emulation can be achieved in 32-bit and 64-bit x86 versions. It is up to you which you choose, but you will need to customize your version to suit your system architecture in the instructions below.
The easy way: use the UTM gallery
UTM offers some pre-built VMs that you can download and install so you can get started right away and not have to worry about configuring your own computer. This is by far the easiest way to go, with support for some popular distributions like Arch Linux (ARM), Debian (ARM), Ubuntu (x86-64, and ARM).
For Linux and similar open source projects, the VM downloads come with everything you need, including the disk image needed to run the operating system.
You can also use this gallery feature to download ready-to-use VMs for Windows 10 and 11, Windows XP, and macOS 9, but you’ll need to provide your own disk images.
Just go to the gallery page and select the VM you want to install. Click Download to save the configuration to disk, then open UTM and click File> Import Virtual Machine.
Select the downloaded UTM file and it will be imported. In the case of Linux, all you have to do is hit the “Play” button and your VM will start up. For performance reasons, we strongly recommend ARM64 images. In our tests, the x86-64 version of Ubuntu even ran at an icy pace on an M1 Max processor.
Note: If you get an error message like “Number of SMP CPUs requested (10) exceeds the maximum CPUs supported by machine ‘mach-virt’ (8)”, right click on your VM and select “Edit” , then go to “System” and check “Show Advanced Settings” then enter 8 under “CPU Cores” (or whatever the “max” is as stated in the error).
Create your own virtual machine with UTM
You can create your own VM too, but be ready to do some bug fixes to get everything working. as example, we were able to get x86-64 Puppy Linux 9.5 to boot to the point where the X Window Manager starts, which is where it (apparently) got stuck.
Start UTM and click the “Create a New Virtual Machine” button and give your new VM a name that you can recognize on the “Information” tab:
Go to the “System” tab and select your desired system architecture (you will need to match this with the downloaded Linux version) and select the desired amount of RAM that you want to dedicate to your computer.
Now go to the “Drives” tab and delete all existing drives by clicking the trash can icon next to it. Create a removable disk from which you want to install Linux by clicking on “New Drive”, then ticking the “Removable Disk” check box and selecting “USB” as the interface.
Click the “New Drive” button again and create a non-removable installation drive of the size of your choice, using “IDE” as the interface.
Confirm that your removable USB drive is at the top of the list (if not, click the up arrow to move it over your installation drive so that the VM looks for your USB virtual drive in front of your blank virtual hard drive .
Click the “Save” button and mark the machine you just created. Click the CD / DVD drop-down box and find the Linux ISO that you want to boot.
Finally, click the Play button to start your virtual machine and wait for Linux to load.
If you run into problems, you may want to change the “System” type under the “System” tab and turn on “Show advanced settings” to see even more options that you can change. You may find pleasure in emulating some of the settings provided in operational UTM Gallery VMs, as described in the section above.
The complete guide to speeding up your virtual machines
Parallels works too
UTM is free, but not without its quirks. If you already own Parallels or want to use Parallels for a more stable Windows 10 experience, you can also use Parallels to create Linux VMs on Apple Silicon.
You may also be interested in our guide on how to get Windows 11 working on Apple Silicon.