Can the Mac Studio run Linux? Yes, but not natively

Can the Mac Studio run Linux? Yes, but not natively

Apple’s latest desktop workstation, the Mac Studio, is very tempting. Thanks to the new Apple M1 Ultra processor, the Mac Studio could well the most powerful Mac yet, even competing with the “cheese grater” Mac Pro. Out of the box, the Mac Studio will run macOS Monterey, but what if you want to leverage that power in a different OS? If you’re wondering whether you can run Linux on the Mac Studio, we have both good and bad news for you.

The bad news is that it’s still not possible to run Linux – or Windows, for that matter – natively on macOS. While Intel-based models made it easier to install different operating systems, Macs running Apple Silicon are more locked down. The silver lining here is that you can run Linux on the Mac Studio, but it’ll have to be through a virtual machine.


Using a VM to run Linux on the Mac Studio

If you really want to use a Linux distribution with the Mac Studio, you’re first going to need virtualization software that supports the Arm architecture. There are some options here, but a great solution is Parallels Desktop 17. This virtualization software allows you to run Windows, Linux, and other operating systems on macOS, including Apple Silicon Macs. It’s paid software, though, so you’ll have to shell out at least $99.99 for a perpetual license, or $79.99 per year if you want the subscription model.

Parallels Desktop actually makes it very easy to run Linux on macOS, since you get the option to download your preferred Linux distribution, with options including Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, or Kali Linux. You may be able to use other distributions, but you’ll need to make sure they offer images for Arm devices, which many don’t. Most operating systems are still designed for x86 or AMD64 processors, so you’re probably better off using one of the images made available to you.

Linux distributions available in Parallels Desktop 17 for Apple Silicon Macs

This is actually easier than using Windows on macOS, since that requires you to download a preview version of Windows separately and set it up yourself (plus you’d be stuck running an unfinished version of Windows). Another advantage of running Linux in Parallels is that you can use something called Coherence mode. This actually makes it possible to open Linux apps right next to your Mac apps, to the point where you see your Linux apps on the macOS dock. You don’t have to go into the Linux interface every time, which is something you can’t do on Windows.

If you want a free solution to run Linux on the Mac Studio, another option is using an app called UTM. It’s available for free on the official UTM website or for $9.99 on the Mac App Store, and it also offers a relatively easy setup for Linux. Thanks to the gallery of available operating systems, you can also easily set up a new virtual machine and get started. However, you don’t get a feature like Coherence mode, but that’s something not everyone will need.

If this has convinced you to get the Mac Studio, you can order it below. Most configurations are only available from Apple directly, but buying from Best Buy may be more reliable for some customers. Shipping dates seem to be delayed by a couple of weeks due to high demand, which isn’t too surprising considering this is one of the best Macs you can buy right now. You can also bay Paralells Desktop below if you choose to go that route for virtualization.

    The new Mac Studio is powered by Apple Silicon, but it can run Windows through virtualization.
    Parallels Desktop virtualization software for running Windows or Linux on macOS. The latest version also supports Apple Silicon Macs and Windows on Arm.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.

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