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The Raspberry Pi 3 is built with a 64 bit chip. Yet the Raspberry Pi Foundation has only released Linux distros are 32 bit.

Can I install a 64-bit version of Debian on the RPi 3?

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Not unless you have a 64 bit version compiled for the ARM architecture. You can't install the AMD64 or x86-64 version as the architecture is different.

Quoting from the Pi Foundation's blog post announcing the Pi3:

At launch, we are using the same 32-bit Raspbian userland that we use on other Raspberry Pi devices; over the next few months we will investigate whether there is value in moving to 64-bit mode.

The switch to a 64 bit processor was primarily because of the gains it provided in clock speed.

  • So I guess the answer is not yet but I can't believe that there won't be an enterprising developers out there who will put together build a cross-compiling tool-chain on non-Pi hardware - or will the absence of 64-bit versions of the non-free bits (the binary blobs loaded in at start-up) be an issue? – SlySven Mar 5 '16 at 13:42
  • @SlySven I agree this will come to pass, I don't think the binary blobs will pose a problem but I can't say for sure. – Steve Robillard Mar 5 '16 at 13:48
  • I was just reading the other day that config.txt is supposed to have a setting now that tells the binary blob whether it should be instantiating the processor with 64bit support or not. I'll post later if I can find the source. – Jacobm001 Apr 21 '16 at 4:57
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Neither Debian 7 (wheezy) or Debian 8 (jessie) support the Raspberry Pi3 in AArch64 mode. Debian 9 (stretch) will very likely support the Pi3 in 64bit mode , though. Progress can be monitored here: https://wiki.debian.org/RaspberryPi3

  • very good news, the debian team is preparing it. @steve-robillard - isn't there some synergy with both? – jaromrax Feb 9 '17 at 13:42
  • The only thing you'd need to get Debian's Arm64 port working would be a 64-bit Pi kernel -- which has been compiled if you search around, although I dunno if it comes out fully functional. – goldilocks Feb 9 '17 at 14:25
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If you can't wait for the official stretch release you can take a look at the pi64 image on GitHub. It is basically a Debian stretch with the raspberry kernel.

pi64 is an experimental 64-bit OS for the Raspberry Pi 3. It is based on Debian Stretch and backed by a 4.11 Linux kernel.

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In case it helps - you can download and use free for a year (requires registration) the "Evaluation copy of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP2 for Raspberry Pi" - here

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They've been working on it for a few years, I was running an earlier version a year ago. But see https://wiki.debian.org/RaspberryPi3

It's not completely up to Debian release standards so they're still calling it a preview (unofficial, unsupported, etc.). It's Debian Buster.

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