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How do I know if a laptop will work with Ubuntu?

According to How to install hardware drivers for my laptop, the answer supplied by NorTicUs says:

"If your hardware as open drivers for Ubuntu, they will be install with Ubuntu. If there is driver from HP, you can find them into your Setting->Additional drivers.

This is Jockey, and it will let you know which drivers are available for your hardware. Just select which one you want and click Install."

But what if you do not already own the system, and you want to find out before you buy?

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marked as duplicate by belacqua, devav2, Mik, nitstorm, Ringtail Nov 14 '12 at 4:13

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Check out sites like linlap.com to see if any specific model works with Linux. They seem to have more info than the more official compatibility lists.

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While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  Evandro Silva Nov 12 '12 at 19:05
    
Thanks, that kind of source is just what I was looking for! –  Nick Nov 12 '12 at 19:12
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There is a list that the Ubuntu Team complied it has all the Hardware OEMs and the desktops(and laptops) they put through certification.

http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/desktop/

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You should probably ask the employees at the store what the specs are, then look up "Ubuntu driver " Most of the time, you'll find a page that says "Ubuntu supports out of the box, but a proprietary, non-open-source driver can be found here."

Ubuntu actually has a great collection of built-in drivers, so it shouldn't be too much of a concern whether it has the necessary drivers, but I'd recommend just asking the employees what the hardware is. (e.g., my computer is a Pentium 4 with dual logical processors @300GHz and 3 Gig of RAM. :)

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Google is your friend in this case. Simply run a Google search for something like "[your laptop model] Ubuntu compatibility" and you will generally find the information you need.

That said, here are a few general things to know:

  1. A large number of new Dell computers are Ubuntu certified (and, from what I understand, nearly all of them have actually been tested with Ubuntu, as they ship it almost exclusively outside of the US). This means Ubuntu has been tested to run on them and will work (usually out of the box). So, if the computer you're getting is a Dell, then you shouldn't need to worry about the hardware in general (though, unfortunately, if you live in the US, you can't get a machine with Ubuntu pre-installed on it; thank you, marketing department). Ubuntu's certified page also lists that several HP and IBM models are certified as well. Even if you can't get the exact models, matching specs/hardware should also perform equally well.

  2. Most computers will be supported at least on a basic level. Usually the hangups occur with network cards (specifically, the wireless card), and graphics cards. Both nVidia and ATI/AMD have fairly good support for most cards on the market. The biggest issue I've seen is with cutting edge ATI/AMD cards, due to the lag in the open source driver development. nVidia supplies their own proprietary driver, which usually avoids the issue the ATI cards have.

  3. Intel laptops ship with a feature called Optimus. It's a power saving feature that allows the computer to switch between the descrete and shared video, depending on the current needs of the computer. By default, this is known to cause issues with Ubuntu, but there are two ways to deal with it - install Bumblebee, or go into your BIOS settings and disable Optimus.

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