Can the MacBook Pro 13 (2022) run Linux?

Can the MacBook Pro 13 (2022) run Linux?

Alongside the all-new MacBook Air, Apple debuted a refresh to the MacBook Pro 13 at WWDC. Unlike the MacBook Air, the newest MacBook Pro 13 doesn’t get an updated design, it merely gets some juiced-up internals. And that means the brand-new Apple M2 chip.

It’s the first MacBook Pro to get the M2 inside and as it’s also the most affordable MacBook Pro, it’s an attractive proposition for various use cases. And that includes development.

Developers will often want to be able to run Linux on their Mac either natively or virtualized. The good news is that it’s perfectly possible to run Linux on the MacBook Pro 13 (2022), but with caveats.

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MacBook Pro 13 (2022) won’t natively run Linux

MacBook Pro 13 (2022)

 

As with the previous M1-powered MacBooks, the M2-powered MacBook Pro 13 cannot currently run Linux natively on bare metal. Even with an ARM-based Linux distro, right now you’re out of luck.

There are multiple projects working on porting Linux to Apple Silicon, right down to building support into the Linux kernel itself. One such project is Asahi Linux, which is currently available in alpha for some of the M1-powered Macs. But even this is nowhere near ready to use on a production machine.

Essentially, installing Linux natively should be considered a non-starter. So from there, we have to turn to virtualization. The news there is much better.

Various methods to run Linux virtual machines

VMWare Fusion for Apple Silicon

Virtual machines are very much possible on Apple Silicon and there are a few ways to do it. At WWDC, Apple outlined using the Virtualization Framework built into macOS to boot into a Linux VM. This requires a little bit of work with Swift coding, but, it’s free to use and the best overall performer.

The caveat is that you have to use a Linux distro with an ARM build, so that could rule out your favorite. But some of the biggest names are available for ARM, including Ubuntu and Debian. But the Virtualization Framework will not emulate an x86_64 Linux distro for use on ARM.

VMware Fusion is currently available as a technical preview for Apple Silicon, but it does allow you to run Linux VMs. The latest version of the preview build can be downloaded for free from the VMware website. Eventually, you’ll probably have to pay for VMware Fusion, but until then it’s worth checking out.

Ubuntu on UTM for Mac

Alternatively, you can go for Parallels, but at a cost. You’re looking at $100 for a perpetual license, but it works, it works well and it’s easy to use. Again, you’ll be requiring Linux distros with ARM builds, but Parallels makes it super simple to download and install them. The icing on the cake is the Coherence mode, allowing you to run Linux apps outside of the main Parallels window, almost as if they were native to the Mac. Right now this is a feature unique to Parallels and might be worth the cost alone.

UTM is another virtualization tool worth looking at, and it offers something the others currently do not. Under its skin is QEMU, a very old but still very good tool. UTM is free and open-source, but the paid version in the Mac App Store provides automatic updates and helps support development. UTM also has the ability to emulate x86_64 on ARM, albeit with performance penalties. With ARM-based Linux distros, UTM makes use of the Apple Virtualization Framework for near-native speeds.


The MacBook Pro, like all the best Macs, is a popular developer laptop and even with the transition to Apple Silicon, it’s still perfectly possible to use Linux. Getting comfortable with Apple’s Virtualization Framework is probably a good idea, but there are a number of good alternatives if you don’t fancy writing your own configurations.

The MacBook Pro 13 (2022) is due to hit the shelves in July, but if you can’t wait or want to save a few bucks, you could try grabbing a great deal on a refurbed MacBook Pro right now.

    The MacBook Pro 13-inch now comes with Apple's M2 processor, promising up to 39% more performance in games and image processing compared to the M1 model while delivering long-lasting battery life.
    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

Richard Devine
Richard Devine

Editor at XDA, I've been covering tech for over a decade from mobile to gaming and everything in between. Direct enquiries to [email protected]

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