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.
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).
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.
(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.
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.