How to install Ubuntu 18.10 on an Alienware 15?

I've encountered an error with the touchpad not working, and the noveau graphics driver being insufficient for Steam.

  • 4
    I suggest you edit your question to highlight the main problem installing ubuntu on this machine, otherwise mods may just close it as duplicate, and it would be a shame because your answer may be useful to others. – dsSTORM Oct 21 '18 at 17:08
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    @Byte Commander I don't think it's a duplicate, he's specifically targeting an issue for a specific laptop model – dsSTORM Oct 21 '18 at 17:10
  • @ds if they had stated the specific issues, it would be a duplicate. See the touchpad question, and the nomodeset is a standard thing. – Olorin Oct 22 '18 at 8:22
  • The question is different because it is specific to this laptop. The marked duplicate is a generic installation for Ubuntu. This is not. As with an older version of Ubuntu the wireless card will not work because it was added to the kernel in the 18.10 build. The nomodeset and the touchpad are definitely required to get this to work on this laptop. – nate6631 Nov 4 '18 at 15:58

I will begin by saying this is a post for users who are unable to use Ubuntu on the Alienware 15 (R4). This may or may not apply to other users, but I'm willing to bet this will be useful for others.

First in order to get Ubuntu to detect the Killer wireless card installed on all Alienware 15s in 2018, you should use 18.10, or newer if applicable. I installed on Ubuntu 18.10 and it detected my AC Killer WiFi card with maximum capable speed due to the Intel update in the Linux kernel.

On to the good stuff:

  1. Install Ubuntu 18.10.

    In my case, I was unable to utilize the touchpad. Instead, I installed using the keyboard.

  2. Run the following in the new installation:

    sudo su
    echo 'blacklist i2c_hid' >> /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf
    depmod -a
    update-initramfs -a
  3. At this point, everything should still be working okay. In order to utilize the proprietary NVIDIA GPU drivers, I had to install them with

    sudo ubuntu-drivers autoinstall
  4. Reboot again, but boot into grub to access your desktop, using Esc, or Shift. For me, Esc worked. Press E to access the GRUB config of the default Ubuntu boot option. Then append nomodeset to the Linux /boot... line.

  5. Press F10 to boot with this configuration.

  6. You may experience a hang with this setup, press Alt+F2, Alt+F1, then the boot should continue with some screen flashes to the Ubuntu login.

  7. Add the nomodeset to the GRUB bootloader settings (search how to do this, it's relatively straightforward).

NOTE: I have not found a workaround to fix the Alt+F2, Alt+F1 key sequence, but this will have to be done per boot into Ubuntu. If I find a fix, I will update.

An image showing the NVIDIA GTX 1080 driver fully loaded:

Image showing NVIDIA GTX 1080 driver fully loaded

  • Alienware will be running Windows 10 by default and it's often quite difficult to boot to any non-CD external drive from Windows unless there's a simple key to show the boot menu, could you add how to boot to Ubuntu Live USB to the answer? did you do it with Shift+Restart inside Windows? – cat Oct 21 '18 at 18:06
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    Nearly all computers have some key combination for the BIOS/UEFI & boot menus. For this laptop it was F12 for boot menu and F2 for the BIOS/UEFI – nate6631 Nov 4 '18 at 15:47

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