November 29, 2023

PBX Science

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Debian will allow installation of non-free firmware

2 min read

Debian will allow installation of non-free firmware


Debian will allow installation of non-free firmware.


Consider that more and more devices these days have open source Linux drivers, but they require closed source firmware for any level of functionality. 

Debian developers had previously hoped to vote on a new scheme to deal with non-free firmware. 

Currently, the voting on non-free firmware is now closed and the results of the votes have been counted:

In the vote on whether to allow non-free firmware to be loaded by default, there are six options :

  • Option 1 “Only one installer, including non-free firmware”
  • Option 2 “Recommend installer containing non-free firmware”
  • Option 3 “Allow presenting non-free installers alongside the free one”
  • Option 4 “Installer with non-free software is not part of Debian”
  • Option 5 “Change SC for non-free firmware in installer, one installer”
  • Option 6 “Change SC for non-free firmware in installer, keep both installers”
  • Option 7 “None of the above”


The final fifth option – “Change SC for non-free firmware in installer, one installer” was selected .

SC stands for Social Contract , a basic document of the Debian project, which will add a sentence stating that the Debian project official media will contain non-free firmware that is not originally part of Debian, and will be loaded and installed by default if the hardware works.

“The Debian official media may include firmware that is otherwise not part of the Debian system to enable use of Debian with hardware that requires such firmware.”


The Debian project says that nonfree firmware will be enabled by default if the hardware requires it, and it considers providing both a boot menu option and a kernel command line to allow users to disable nonfree firmware at boot time. 

Nonfree firmware is allowed to improve accessibility. 

Blind users who need to run the installer in text-to-speech mode may need to load the audio firmware first.

When the installer/live system runs, they will provide the user with information about the loaded firmware (free and non-free), which Debian will also store on the target system so the user can find it later.

 In cases where non-free firmware is found to be required, the target system will also be configured by default to use the non-free firmware components in the apt sources.list file. 

Users can receive security updates and critical fixes for firmware binaries like any other installed software.


Additionally, the team will release these images as official Debian media, replacing media sets that currently do not contain non-free firmware packages.

Debian will allow installation of non-free firmware


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