How to Install PipeWire on Debian 11

A couple of days back, I received an email from one of my readers, and he asked me to help him because he was not able to install PipeWire on his Debian distribution by following the steps which were specifically written for Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distributions and not for Debian because the installation steps are slightly different in both distributions.

And that’s the reason he was not able to install PipeWire on his system.

If you are also facing some problems during installation or you want to ditch PulseAudio and experience PipeWire, then your favourite search engine has redirected you to the right place where you will learn how to install PipeWire on Debian along with steps to revert.

So, without wasting your time, open your terminal and execute the command as per the given sequence.

Install or Enable PipeWire on Debian 11

According to the official documentation, you will find that PipeWire is installed on your system, especially on Debian 10, 11, and 12, but it will not be in an active state to be used on your system.

So in order to make PipeWire the default audio service, you will need to make some changes to your system, which will enable and replace the PulseAudio server with PipeWire.

Before that, let me confirm whether PipeWire is installed or not. To check that, you can use the apt policy command, which will show you the required applications and dependencies that are already installed, as in the below-attached image.

Prior to that, execute the below code:

$ sudo apt policy pipewire pipewire-audio-client-libraries

The behaviour of the above command

Check PipeWire application is installed
Check PipeWire application is installed

For any reason, if the above utilities are not present on your system, then do copy and paste the below code into your terminal window to start the installation.

$ sudo apt install pipewire pipewire-audio-client-libraries 

Replace PulseAudio with a PipeWire server on Debian

Once you are aware of the required applications and libraries being installed on your system, then you are bound to replace PulseAudio with PipeWire by invoking the following commands.

Step 01: Create an empty file

So first of all, create an empty file in /etc/pipewire/media-session.d using the below command:

$ sudo touch /etc/pipewire/media-session.d/with-pulseaudio

Step 02: Create a pipewire-pulse service

After that, create a pipewire-pulse service by copying the example files from /usr/share/doc/pipewire/examples/systemd/user/pipewire-pulse.* has two different files, pipewire-pulse.service and pipewire-pulse.socket, to /etc/systemd/user/ to manage them using the systemctl command.

$ sudo cp /usr/share/doc/pipewire/examples/systemd/user/pipewire-pulse.* /etc/systemd/user/

Step 03: Reload the daemon file

Once the above step is performed successfully, execute the below command, which will reload the new service that we have created just now.

$ systemctl --user daemon-reload       

Step 04: Disable PulseAudio service

After that, execute the below code to disable the currently running PulseAudio service.

$ systemctl --user --now disable pulseaudio.service pulseaudio.socket

The behaviour of the above command

Disable PulseAudio service in Debian 11
Disable PulseAudio service in Debian 11

Step 05: Enable and start the PipeWire service:

Once you have disabled the PulseAudio server, execute the below code, which enables and starts the pipewire-pulse service.

$ systemctl --user --now enable pipewire pipewire-pulse

The behaviour of the above command

Enable PipeWire on Debian 11
Enable PipeWire on Debian 11

Verify Changes

After following the above steps, your system is now fully configured to use PipeWire over to PulseAudio, but how do I know whether my system is using PulseAudio or PipeWire? It is pretty simple to execute the pactl info command, which will list out the server name.

$ pactl info
Debian 11 using PipeWire
Debian 11 using PipeWire

Persist Changes even after Reboot

As of now, your system is currently using PipeWire, but once you restart your computer, it will automatically change the current audio server to PulseAudio, which means you have to manually enable PipeWire every time you restart your computer, which is not acceptable at all for anyone.

To prevent this kind of situation, you can mask the pulseaudio.service which will disable the PulseAudio service to use by default.

To make these changes permanent, execute the below code:

$ systemctl --user mask pulseaudio

After executing the above command, restart your system to implement the new changes.

$ sudo reboot

Replace PipeWire with PulseAudio server on Debian

Currently, PipeWire is not reliable to use as the default audio service, and even the official guide does not suggest you use PipeWire as a default audio service, which may give you unexpected results.

As per Simon McVittie, “This is not a supported scenario for Debian 11, and is considered experimental.”

It may break certain applications, lack certain functionality, or not work at all.

If you too face any kind of audio issue while using it, then you can follow the below steps, which will disable the PipeWire and enable the PulseAudio back.

Step 01: Unmask PulseAudio

If you have masked the PulseAudio server in the above step, then don’t forget to unmask it first. Otherwise, subsequent commands will throw an error.

$ systemctl --user unmask pulseaudio

Step 02: Disable PipeWire

After that, you can execute the below code to stop PipeWire.

$ systemctl --user --now disable pipewire pipewire-pulse

Step 03: Enable PulseAudio

Lastly, run the final command which will enable the PulseAudio service to be used as normal.

$ systemctl --user --now enable pulseaudio.service pulseaudio.socket

The behaviour of the above command

Enable PulseAudio
Enable PulseAudio

Step 04: Check Status

Once the above command is performed successfully execute pactl info command to check audio server if the output display the “pulseaudio” as a server name, then you are work is completed here.

PipeWire to PulseAudo
PipeWire to PulseAudo

And for any reason, if you get an error like “Connection failure: Connection refused pa_context_connect() failed: Connection refused”, then, first of all, try to restart your system, and even if that doesn’t get fixed, then you can comment down your query below. We will be happy to give you a hand.

Till then, I’m signing off!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kevin Fortin

    Thank you, Gagan! I have found these instructions as well as your pipewire instructions for Ubuntu-based distros very helpful.

    Best wishes,

  2. Brian Olsen

    At “Verify Changes” i got the “Connection failure: Connection refused pa_context_connect() failed: Connection refused”
    i rebooted and pactl info still said only pulseaudio server. Then i disabled pulseaudio service and socket again, enabled pipewire and pipewire-pulse again. still same connection failure, i then did the mask pulseaudio then rebooted.
    Now pactl said pipewire server. and pactl list sinks short confirmed deafult sink was using pipewire.

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