Thursday, 11 July 2013

How to buy a laptop pre-installed with Linux

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  23:41 47 comments

Introduction

Since the introduction of Windows 8 there have been more and more questions appearing on the /r/linux, r/linuxquestions and /r/linux4noobs sub-reddits at Reddit asking how to install Linux on laptops that come with UEFI secure boot enabled.

For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past year, Microsoft have come up with a clever scam where they have said to computer manufacturers that to be certified for Windows 8 they must enable secure boot on their devices. 

To install Linux you have to enter the UEFI settings and disable secure boot before being able to install your distribution of choice. This whole process has made it even harder for the average Joe who wants to use Linux. 

Some people may have not tried Linux because they are operating system agnostic. Some people use Windows just because it happens to be installed when they buy the computer. The thought of installing any other operating system would not occur to them.

What happens though if you want to try Linux but you aren't confident enough to install it for yourself?

The first thing you can do is to download a distribution and burn it to DVD yourself. If you aren't sure which version of Linux to try visit Distrowatch and look at the list of popular distributions on the right hand side. Each link in the list will give you access to a page with a description of the distribution, links to reviews and links to the project homepage. Many versions of Linux have a live version that can run straight from the USB drive or DVD.

New users to Linux are better off choosing one of the major distributions such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint and for Windows users there is always Zorin. 

The idea of downloading a distribution and burning it to a disk or USB may be a step too far for some people. This is not a reason to dismiss Linux out of hand though. There are companies out there that make it possible to buy Linux distributions on DVD and USB drives

The main point of this article is to show that you can actually buy laptops computers with Linux pre-installed.

The Manufacturers

My first port of call was to see which manufacturers actually provide Linux as an option when buying their laptops.

I am ashamed to say that whilst many manufacturers say that they support Ubuntu there are actually very few that actually sell computers with any form of Linux installed.

Dell were the only real manufacturer in the UK to come up trumps. They ship the XPS 13 Ultrabook with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS 64-bit edition. 

Other big manufactuers including Acer, Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, ASUS, Samsung all claim to have good support for Linux (especially Ubuntu) but none of them make any version of Linux available for their top of the range laptops on their websites.

If only the UK had System 76. If you listen to the Linux Action Show then you would have heard of System 76 as they are one of the segment sponsors. System 76 specialise in computers that run Ubuntu.

The High Street

In the UK we are very limited when it comes to high street computing. Basically there are three main computing chains Apple, Sony and PC World/Currys. Other shops such as department stores sell computers but the chances of getting anything other than Windows is little to none.

Obviously Apple do not sell anything with Linux and neither do Sony. PC World is the biggest computer retailer on the high street in Britain with stores all over the country. Do not expect to get anything with Linux on it though (excluding Android).

Buying Online

So where can you buy computers with Linux pre-installed? My first port of call was to Google Shopping.

I searched for "Linux Laptops" and the choice is fairly sparse. 

The Dell XPS 13 may be a little pricey at £899. If you want something a little bit more on the bargain basement side then there is the Meenee 3rd Generation Laptop.

Meenee is obviously a brand most of us haven't heard about. 

The Meenee comes with a dual core Intel Atom processor running at 1.66 ghz.

The screen is 13 inches, there is a 320 gigabyte hard drive and 2 gigabytes of RAM. 


Google Play was exhausted very quickly but Amazon was a little more helpful.

I started off searching for Linux Laptops but it was clear that the only Linux that seems to ship with laptops is Ubuntu. I therefore changed the search to "Ubuntu Laptops".

The ASUS EEE PC comes in at £279. ASUS is a more well known name than Meenee but the spec for this netbook is fairly similar with a dual core processor, 500 gigabyte hard drive, 2 gigabytes of RAM and comes pre-installed with Ubuntu 12.04.

The ACER Ubuntu E-104 comes somewhere in the middle between the DELL XPS 13 and the ASUS and costs £579.

The processor is an Intel I5 dual core with 4 gigabytes RAM and a 500 gigabyte hard drive. Again the operating system is Ubuntu.

What if you don't want Ubuntu?

All the laptops thus far come with Ubuntu but I am well aware that Ubuntu isn't everybody's cup of tea.  Buying a laptop pre-installed with Ubuntu with a view to replacing it with Linux Mint is not really a much better solution than buying a laptop with Windows on it.

The main difference however is that because the laptops above come with Ubuntu you can probably rest easy knowing that secure boot is taken care of.

Trying to find laptops with any other version of Linux is a fairly difficult task. I did however find a laptop that shipped with no operating system at all.

This means you can load the operating system of your choice including Debian, Fedora, Mint, Zorin, PCLinuxOS and Arch.


Zoostorm (no I hadn't heard of them either) sell laptops and desktop computers with no operating system at all.

The laptop above comes with an Intel I3 dual core processor, 4 gigabytes of RAM and a 320 gigabyte hard drive and costs £359.99.

The obvious question of course is does this laptop provide good support for Linux. Well somebody already asked this question on the Ubuntu forums (http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1998458) and by all accounts yes it does. Support for Ubuntu doesn't of course mean it is guaranteed to work with every version of Linux but it is a good starting point.

What if I buy a computer with Linux installed and I don't like it?

I can't speak for the rest of the world but in the United Kingdom we have something called distant selling regulations.

If you order any item online in the UK then you are entitled to try the item out and if you do not like the item return it. You must return the item within 7 days and it must be in the same condition as when you purchased the item. As long as you follow these instructions you should incur no costs at all. For more information read the Which? guide to distance selling regulations.

If you buy a computer such as the Zoostorm laptop above with no operating system then you can always install Windows or try another version of Linux.

Summary

Getting a computer pre-installed with Linux is still a fairly challenging process (excluding Android). The major manufacturers all have the "We recommend Windows 8" stickers everywhere and although their hardware is very well supported by Linux there isn't the push to sell laptops with Linux pre-installed.

Where Linux is pre-installed on laptops it is generally Ubuntu and trying to get a laptop pre-installed with other versions of Linux is even more challenging.

Thankyou for reading.


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About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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47 comments:

  1. I highly recommend Thinkpenguin. Not only do they sell a range of linux laptops (and desktop) computers, but their hardware works out-of-the-box with almost any recent linux distro because they make sure all the components of the machine are have open-source drivers.

    I've been a customer of theirs for about two years now, and I'm very happy with their products and customer support. I wish more people knew about them so that Thinkpenguin can be rewarded for supporting the linux computer and (more importantly) encouraging hardware vendors to supply hardware supported by open-source drivers.

    They are based in the US, but I think they have a sales rep or outlet in the UK (not sure because I'm from Australia and only noticed this in passing)

    Their website is at: https://www.thinkpenguin.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been a customer of theirs for about two years now, and I'm very happy with their products and customer support. I wish more people knew about them so that Thinkpenguin can be rewarded for supporting the linux computer and (more importantly) encouraging hardware vendors to supply hardware supported by open-source drivers.

      They are based in the US, but I think they have a sales rep or outlet in the UK (not sure because I'm from Australia and only noticed this in passing)

      Well, can you tell me where the store is?

      Delete
  2. What about ZaReason? From what I understand they will put any Linux OS on your computer that you specify.

    Supporting Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Fedora, Mint, and Debian Linux

    https://zareason.com/shop/home.php

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I heard of ZaReason too, and some other vendor, that do sell laptops with different GNU/Linux distributions installed, both programed or on demand (you pick your distro and they install it). I think this is great, eventhough Ubuntu is a good choice, too.

      Delete
    2. ZAREASON is over-priced but okay, except for sound. I've had several laptops, and have never had one with sound as bad as this.

      Delete
    3. I have found a custom PC builder before that allows you to choose which operating system is installed after the build(Any Linux/BSD distro, or Windows.) I don't exactly remember the website name(been awhile since I went there) but if I find it i'll edit this post and link to it.

      Just keep on searching for it and you might find it :)

      Delete
  3. Look at http://linuxpreloaded.com/. Linux laptops worldwide.

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  4. I'm sorry to read about the hardships to acquire a Linux computer in UK; of course, the so called "secure boot" -- mainly secure for proprietary software vendors, that is -- is bound to make the users' life more miserable.

    Living in Brazil, I have been able to purchase PCs and notebooks with pre-installed Linux. Inevitably, certainly due to manufacturing constraints, such Linux versions are somewhat outdated -- e.g. purchasing a two-year old version with your brand new notebook.

    Thus, it's specially important to pay attention to what Linux is installed, because some updating will be needed. Formerly, Mandriva was a good option, now Mageia is of the same quality -- but upgrading must be done more frequently (usually once a year).

    And one can always replace the OS with another distribution, for those a little more fearless, and it may take a little experimenting with the most popular alternatives (Ubuntu, Mint etc. -- always remember to backup important data first). Live CD linux versions make compatibility testing quite easy.

    Since store shelf space is paid (and expensive) it became impossible to find anything but Windows 8 products shown; online price searching services offer a better view of Linux alternatives, though. We have a bunch of options here in Brazil, but even stores which cannot showroom Linux machines do so at their online homepages. My preference, though, is finding a physical store on which I can better perceive the looks and apparent quality of the products. That means I must be permanently attentive about offers with Linux, even if I'm not immediately interested in purchasing.

    Be careful also about the components of the product, like processor, memory, screen resolution/dpi -- it's not uncommon to find two products with similar prices (e.g. a 10% difference) and huge performance differences. Regarding processor speed, for instance, I use the Passmark ranking as a proxy for the expected performance and have bought what I think is good value for my money. Other factors are important, too, like customer service -- but in my experience famous brands do not necessarily mean better or less expensive support.

    Computers can be made to run as rockets in the first 2 years, like good family cars for some 3 years and then become quite usable for yet another 2 years. At seven years old, they risk becoming unsupported or no longer fit for some performance intensive tasks (like video encoding, for instance). Nonetheless, one can still dedicate them to special functions like a firewall, printer server etc. Even if it's just for donating, they can still make a poor family happier. As processing power advances, though, fewer and fewer activities are considered too demanding for modern computers. That is a problem for computer makers, which must come up with new reasons to compell people to buy new computers.

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  5. All these suggested online portals to buy pre-installed Linux laptops are good but their laptops/notebooks are costly compared to other vendors like Lenovo/IBM/DELL. These PC vendors give you pre-installed WindowZ but they give newer & high configuration laptops at lower prices than System76 or others.

    Buy pre-installed WindowZ laptop & install your favourite distro on it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know those products (I'm the guy from Brazil who posted above anonymously), but from what I gather, these brands offer superb products which cost more because of a better-than-usual configuration -- and that is not just about having a good processor, but rather having a balanced mix with e.g. top performing memory transfer rates or very responsive HDs.

      While it may be true that higher-specs models could be purchased if one accepts Windows, two facts might make that idea less attractive:
      1. in my own experience, licensing costs are recovered at the expense of some quality, either with a simplified hardware dependent on the OS (like the old winmodems) or a lower quality keyboard with symbols that wear out and disappear (the case of widely-known brand notebook I acquired with W7)... come to think, probably that is a toothbrush-like indicator you must buy a new notebook with the next Windows.
      2. for lower-end but powerful machines (as of 2013, I could cite the ones with i3 processors), Linux is a very interesting proposition, probably some USD$150 cheaper than Windows equivalents (in Brazil); for i5 ones, the difference is less meaningful and, as you correctly point out, i7 ones with Windows will maybe cost the same or less than Linux ones -- but it is a pain to change the OS, both from Windows to Linux and also from Linux to Windows: hardware which works with one is usually bad or not supported in the other... that's why I don't buy Windows computers unless I actually want to intend to run Windows on them. That's me and my humble opinion, and I also don't dual-boot anymore, since I find rebooting too clumsy (it's that loving one and despising the other thing...)

      Of course, if one has access to a new Windows computer before purchase, I guess it's not forbidden to run a live CD and test whether a specific notebook fully works, but not everyone has such an opportunity and, besides, there will be no warranty whatsoever. I was even once told I would get support for my Windows OS as provided at purchase and had to remove all Microsoft service packs (to get "support" which didn't solve my problem after all).

      Delete
  6. Although I am reluctant to support Apple and their eco-system, if you are a serious *nix user, Apple laptops and desktops are very powerful and come with an excellent implementation of BSD Unix. All the utilities and some special tweaks for Apple are available such as MacVim. Yes, Apples are expensive, but they are also top hardware quality. I have been looking for an implementation of Android which keeps the underlying Linux system available for *nix users. I have been unable to get any of the installers to work. (I am a user not systems implementer.) So, if you are a *nix user, consider Apple. The Google online stuff is all available and the Unix implementation is there when you buy it.

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  7. Is there any easy way to get a single list of problem devices for which drivers are problems? I would like to know in advance of trying a Linux installation if a laptop has a problem wireless device or a problem graphics device.

    ReplyDelete
  8. And then there are Chromebooks - at bargain prices that can also dual-boot Ubuntu or run it simultaneously via 'crouton' - very cool!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Nice computer without windows are available here

    http://www.notebooksbilliger.de/notebooks/lenovo+notebooks/ohne+windows

    ReplyDelete
  10. I, mistakenly, bought a new Lenovo earlier this year with Win8 preinstalled thinking it would be as simple to install Ubuntu as it was in Win7. OUCH!!! Still, not a computer geek by any means, I not only installed Linuxmint (simply disabled secure boot) but also installed a START button for Windows 8 all in the first week. I wonder why it takes Microsoft so long to do the same thing. Here in Canada the choices are Windows or overpriced Apple in retailers (and recently Chromebooks), or buying expensive preinstalled Linux (like System76). It's still the best option for a cheap laptop to buy a Windows laptop and install Linux oneself. This amounts to paying a MicroSoft tax - to which I object most strenuously. Where are the entrepreneurs ready to serve the untapped Linux markets - that is offer inexpensive pcs with preinstalled Linux. Unavailability, I'm sure, is the only reason Linux desktop usage is so low.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "Cheap, used , refurbished , computer lots available here visit

    http://electrocomputerwarehouse.com/"

    ReplyDelete
  12. "Where are the entrepreneurs ready to serve the untapped Linux markets"?

    I don't usually like to spam blogs, but check out my store if you want desktops or laptops with any free Linux distribution, no OS, or Windows. I'm based in Canada, but I ship worldwide. Offering high-quality systems, and Microsoft only gets payed if you opt for Windows. Dual-boot configurations at no extra charge.

    Jeremy Carter's Computer Service and Sales: JeremyCarter.ca

    ReplyDelete
  13. Laptop with great deal here

    http://electrocomputerwarehouse.com/

    ReplyDelete
  14. Fedora 18+, Ubuntu 12.10+. SuSe now all provide the shim loader that is signed with the UEFI CA so they can all install and boot when the system is secure boot enabled.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I bought a laptop from ZAREASON 2 months ago with Linux Mint Cinnamon installed. It crashed like crazy. I tried Mint Mate; same thing, and the same with Ubuntu. As a last resort, I installed openSUSE 12.3 (64 bit). It's been 2 months, and it's ROCK-SOLID. Never a crash. I suspend-resume 4 or 5 times a day, no problem.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I am from India, West Bengal, and I am looking for a laptop to buy which is not pre-loaded with any os. I do not want Windows, I prefer only free software an os. My plan is to run a live Linux distro such as Trisquel or Ubuntu Studio for all the system tsaks while storing my works on the internal hard disk. My question is that, is it possible or viable solution for the problem discussed above? By the way, I have tested Trisquel live distro disk in my friend's Dell Inspiron 2gb 500gb laptop pre-installed with Windows7, and it bootet and ran very nice. Also, tested Ubuntu Studio 12.10 instaled in a 8gb pendrive on the same machine. It also booted well, but could not run Blender which I use very often. Any suggestion please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When you run live you are obviously restricted memory wise. I tend to use live disks for an initial look at a distro to see if it looks good and behaves well and I look for any issues that may arise. I also use live disks for troubleshooting when things go wrong. If you use Slax, Puppy or Knoppix then running live is the preferred method.

      Delete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  18. additional link for HP Linux based notebook:
    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gadgetreviews/hp-debuts-probook-laptops-with-preinstalled-suse-linux/3732
    http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=1966
    http://matchplease.com/news/hp-650-notebook-with-ubuntu-linux-pre-installed-only-265-euro/

    and maybe some custom laptop provider:
    http://www.techdrivein.com/2010/09/7-providers-of-pre-installed-linux.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for sharing the useful information about How to buy a laptop pre-installed with Linux.

    Acer Australia

    ReplyDelete
  20. http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/
    I can recommend them, had a laptop built by them (you can configure it what you want on it )
    with No operating system on it.
    It takes about 8 weeks.
    I then installed PCLinuxOS on it http://www.pclinuxos.com/
    Had no problems at all.

    If you look on the hard drive when you get it there will be a copy of windows on it they use to test it and if you are careful you could make it dual boot windows/Linux and you have a free copy of windows (yuk) :)
    Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Very informative and well written post! Quite interesting and nice topic chosen for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Laptops are very essential aspect in these days and keep them secured and secured is most essential. For that here here are given some exclusive suggestions which are outstanding.

    ReplyDelete
  23. http://linuxpreloaded.com/

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi in Thailand, most of the laptops sold have no O/S installed.
    Few have Linux on, varied Distro's available, outdated in some markets.
    If you go to Thailand and buy laptop, take your own updated Distro with you, internet not so good in a lot of areas.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Those distant selling regulations sound helpful to the consumer. I think anyone who really wants to try using Linux should get one of the laptops you recommended and see if it works the way that they hope. I like more established brands and am unfamiliar with the more reasonably priced one that you mentioned but that doesn't mean it won't perform well.

    ReplyDelete
  26. The best place to get a linux computer is by far LINUCITY.COM, They have the best selection, much cheaper then others and they are using only well known brand names.


    Steve

    ReplyDelete
  27. nice post, thanks for share

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hi, I use some informations from your blog to be used as reference in my blog, at http://myrumahminimalis.com thanks dude

    ReplyDelete
  29. Aw, this was a really great post

    ReplyDelete
  30. Gary,

    The good news for UK buyers is that Ebuyer sells the HP 255-G1 with Ubuntu 12.04 for £200:

    http://www.ebuyer.com/620311-hp-255-g1-laptop-with-ubuntu-h6q17ea-abu

    I bought one just to try it and whilst he processor is not the fastest, the machine is perfect for everyday computing.
    I recommend immediately replacing 12.04 with Linux Mint 17 MATE or Cinnamon or Xubuntu etc.
    By the way, your article on how to install Ubuntu alongside Windows 8.1 in 10 easy steps is excellent.
    The Windows 8.1 “operating system” is truly a nightmarish vision of hell.
    It is the worst operating system I have ever come across.
    Not long ago I bought a 3 month old laptop at a huge discount because the seller simply could not cope with 8.1. It is an ill wind and all that.

    Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment. You are right, Windows 8 is a nightmarish vision of hell. Nothing makes sense. You are working on the desktop, want to launch another program, hit the start button and it takes you back to the tiled window where you have to shift your mouse to the right to bring up a search box to type in the program name. Awful

      Delete
  31. The HP 255-G1 is currently out of stock at Ebuyer but for even less money, £169.99 after cashback, until 31st October 2014, there is this HP 255-G3 machine:

    http://www.ebuyer.com/664533-hp-255-g3-laptop-j4r73ea-abu

    Chuck out W8.1 and install your favourite Linux version. Bingo!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Who want to buy a laptop per-installed with Linux. It is a great site thanks for share it.There are another site I have found this may help you just click here online ordering system for takeaways

    ReplyDelete

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