Alongside the all-new MacBook Air, Apple debuted a refresh to the MacBook Pro 13 at WWDC 2022. Unlike the MacBook Air, the newest MacBook Pro 13 didn’t receive an updated design, it merely has some juiced-up internals, including the brand-new Apple M2 chip.
It was 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.
MacBook Pro 13 (2022) won’t natively run Linux
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
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 available for Apple Silicon and allows you to run Linux VMs. The latest version can be downloaded from the VMware website.
Alternatively, you can go for Parallels, but at a cost. You’re looking at $100 for a perpetual license, but it works well and it’s easy to use. Again, you’ll require 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 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 available now, but if you want to save a few bucks, you could try grabbing a great deal on a refurbed MacBook Pro right now.
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (2022)
Apple’s latest silicon is present inside the Apple MacBook Pro 13 (2022), allowing you to get more done when not at a desk.