Buying a Laptop to Run Linux


Deciding on a computer hardware upgrade path can be difficult. Laptop, desktop or tablet? Windows, Linux or Android? I have a desktop PC running Windows 7 but I need a second system partly to investigate whether I can go forward with Linux and partly as a backup for my desktop PC should it go belly up. I finally decided to get a laptop which would run Linux and upgrade my desktop system by adding a SSD running Windows 7 64 bit. But my first priority is buying a laptop where I can install and try out different Linux distros.

Anyone wanting to ditch Windows or Mac and buy a new laptop with Linux installed may find it’s just not as easy as it should be. At least that’s what I’ve discovered in the UK. Perhaps it’s different where you live – if so, let me know. You can’t just walk into a PC retailer and see a selection of laptops with different flavours of Linux installed. Why? Well, as you’ve probably noticed, laptops generally come with either Windows or OS X installed and that’s it, making it pretty hard to start out with Linux. Yes, I know you can take your old underpowered PC or laptop, wipe it or even dual boot with Linux, but what about those wanting to start out with a new laptop running Linux.

So what’s available? Well in the UK, Ebuyer do currently  stock a Hewlett-Packard HP 255 G1 laptop with Ubuntu, or you could go to Cyberpower and order a custom built PC or laptop without an OS and install Linux yourself. But have a look on Amazon (UK) and you’ll pretty much draw a blank if you search for new laptops with Linux installed. And a search suggested that the HP 255 G1 running Ubuntu may not run Linux Mint, the distribution I wanted to try out. I’ll also need to be able to run Wine so I can still access some Windows programs. So as you can see, it’s pretty difficult to make a start with Linux on a new laptop.

What next? Well I thought I’d enlist the help of Reddit and I asked my question on the Linux Mint subreddit and got some great advice. Mostly, they pointed me in the direction of laptops running Windows 7 (not Windows 8 because installing Linux on machines with SecureBoot can be a problem). Factory shipped Linux laptops are generally not cheaper than their Windows counterparts. Three commenters suggested I get a Lenovo ThinkPad business laptop. I was advised to look for a machine with integrated Intel graphics and wifi as they’ll work out of the box with Linux.

But is there anywhere else I can look to clarify which Lenovo ThinkPad laptops will run Linux? Well a search for lenovo thinkpad AND Linux turned up a number of sites listing Linux compatibility with ThinkPads. One of the most useful was LinLap, the Linux Laptop Wiki. So I’m going for a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 530 with Windows 7 Professional 64 bit installed. This model has an Intel HD Graphics 3000 card and an Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 wifi card so I should be able to run Linux Mint. I’ll probably start out by dual booting Windows 7 with Linux Mint.

But why does it all have to be this difficult? I have over 20 years’ experience with PCs and I found it difficult to choose a compatible laptop. Even now I’m not absolutely certain it will run Mint flawlessly. Not just that but having to start off with Windows 7 preinstalled isn’t exactly the way to sell Linux to new users is it. Very disappointing in my opinion. It’s high time that consumers had better, reasonably priced hardware choices with Linux preinstalled and no compatibility issues. What are your thoughts on this?

5 Responses

  1. linuxcanuck Says:

    Did you check out System76 or ZaReason? They have been selling Linux laptops for a long time. There is also

    Dell sometimes has Linux laptops as well.

  2. techandlife Says:

    Unfortunately both System76 and ZaReason are both in USA and any laptop would have to be shipped to UK. I knew about System76 but not ZaReason and when I did a search to check it out, I came across another useful site listing companies selling preinstalled Linux worldwide:

  3. elovers Says:

    ” But my first priority is buying a laptop where I can install and try out different Linux distros.”
    If You want to try out different Linux distros in a laptop, You’re gonnna have a bad time. I know this from my experience trying most of mainstream distros in my ASUS A42JK laptop.
    My hdd got over heated and got physical bad sectors, sometimes it screeching and gave me a goosebump. In the end I had to replace my hdd with new one. I guess the reasons behind these problems are because trying so many distros is a big burden on a laptop. Laptop is not like a desktop pc, it have so many limitations, and the biggest limitation is heat problem.
    When You try a distro, You will create a new partition in hdd, then format it as ext. This process is highly wear off hdd. And because You want to try several amount of distros, that process will repeated again and again, the hdd will spinning hard again and again, and wear off faster than it should. Not to mention the heat problem because of the graphic driver issue.
    I don’t know if this problem would occur if the laptop use ssd. But if You want to try several distros, I suggest do it in a desktop pc. When You have found the right distro, that is the time to install it on your laptop. Good luck.

  4. techandlife Says:

    Thanks for pointing that out. I won’t be doing too much distro hopping on the laptop. I’ve narrowed things done to Mint and Luna.
    Part of the object is to have a reliable backup system for my desktop PC. Once I’ve got a stable laptop setup, I’ll be able to dual boot my desktop and test any further distros there.

  5. anylinuxwilldo Says:

    I have just bought an HP 255-G1 from Ebuyer for £199.98.

    Works beautifully with Linux Mint 17 MATE (and probably many other Mint variations).

    If you do not wish to buy new, then try something like a Lenovo Thinkpad SL 510 similar to this one:

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