Raspberry Pi OS Gets the Debian 12 “Bookworm” Upgrade


Based on Debian 12 “Bookworm,” the latest Raspberry Pi OS is now available. It’s the first operating system to officially support the new Raspberry Pi 5, though it’s also available in 32- and 64-bit flavors for older Pi models. You can write this Pi OS release to an SD card using the Raspberry Pi Imager or by downloading the standalone image and flashing it yourself.

This is a major version upgrade that changes the underlying architecture of Pi OS. Longtime Raspberry Pi users will appreciate this upgrade, but there’s one notable downside—you need to re-image your SD card and start clean. The Raspberry Pi Foundation states that updating from a previous image will “almost certainly” result in a “non-booting desktop and data loss.”

Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff. The biggest change here is the transition to Wayland, a display system that’s been adopted by several other Linux distros. Unlike the decades-old X11 system that was previously utilized by Pi OS, Wayland treats window positioning and window content as a single task under one compositor application. Plus, Wayland prevents applications from sending data to each other at the compositor level, which should improve user security.

A screenshot of the Raspberry Pi OS Bookworm desktop with a few windows open.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation

This upgrade also replaces the “slow and cumbersome” Mutter window manager with a Wayfire compositor. As the name suggests, Wayfire is one of the standard compositors for Wayfire. Raspberry Pi OS retains its old look, though it feels snappier and has a few visual improvements, such as window shadows and window animations. (The Wayland and Wayfire systems are currently limited to Raspberry Pi 5 and Raspberry Pi 4. Older Raspberry Pi models can install the “Bookworm” upgrade, but they’ll continue using X11 and Mutter until Wayland and Wayfire are ported over.)

Evidently, the transition to a Wayland and Wayfire required quite a bit of work. This Pi OS release uses an all-new wf-panel-pi toolbar, but it looks identical to the old lxpanel toolbar and offers the same plugins (volume control, wireless settings, etc). Most of Raspberry Pi’s preinstalled applications are already Wayland-compliant, but some still use the GTK and Qt toolkits (or make direct calls to the old X11 system). To ensure broad app compatibility, Pi OS uses a software called XWayland to manage outdated applications and pass graphical data over to the Wayland display system. XWayland only turns on when an app attempts to interact with X11.

Other improvements include the Pi-optimized Firefox browser, a new PipeWire audio system (which should provide more consistent Bluetooth functionality), and the use of the modern NetworkManager network controller. Unfortunately, this release uses a more restrictive wayvnc service for remote desktop access (wayvnc isn’t compatible on 32-bit systems yet). Display overscan is still buggy, and old applications must be updated to work with the new Raspberry Pi system tray.

Again, the Raspberry Pi OS “Bookworm” release is available for all 32- and 64-bit models of Raspberry Pi. There isn’t a reliable upgrade path from previous Pi OS releases, so you must re-image your SD card to prevent data loss and other problems. Use the Raspberry Pi Imager to write this release to an SD card, or download the standalone image if you want to flash it yourself.

Source: The Raspberry Pi Foundation

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