Is there an easy way to check a notebook's hardware compatibility with ubuntu before you buy it?

I really don't want to buy a notebook home and find several bugs caused by the hardware.

I know that DELL has some notebooks which are pre-installed ubuntu12.04LTS, i.e. the new xps. But what about other notebooks? isn't there a way to quickly check a notebook's compatibility with ubuntu?

A way I can see is using a LiveCD/ubuntu stick and boot in ubuntu first, then run some tests. But the problem is: how to make these tests in a short time automatically??? and how can I check the hardware compatibility? I know that I can use lshw or hardinfo to get informations, but only having the information is not enough, there are still some possibilities that your hardware has a bug. For instance, Lenovo T410i's wireless driver has a bug which causes extremely low speed internet connection, I googled a lot and recompiled the driver to fix that bug. So this is the kind of situation I'm trying to avoid.

Any help is appreciated.

  • 3
    There is no easy way, I am afraid. Without proper vendor support, it's down to the user to make sure the hardware works, and it's not easy. – mikewhatever Dec 23 '12 at 2:54
  • @mikewhatever Would you like to write an answer? – Lucio Aug 28 '13 at 18:39

Testing hardware compatibility is a long a tedious process, even if you have unrestricted access to the hardware. There is no easy way, I am afraid. Without proper vendor support and testing for Linux, it's down to the user to make sure the hardware works, and that is anything but easy.

  • Seems like there's a space for a testing app that shows speed of the USB connection it's on, what graphics is being used (perhaps a very short benchmark of video), plays some audio, gives the current download/upload speed, flashes the screen different colours for pixel check, etc.? – pbhj Mar 9 at 14:45
  • There used to be a project called UbuntuFriendly in 2011, and a program called checkbox. For whatever reasons, it wasn't much loved by the users. – mikewhatever Mar 9 at 17:02

You can check Ubuntu Certified Hardware. If some hardware is certified you will be 100% it will work for Ubuntu.

The problem is: you can't know if some not-certified hardware will work or not.


Hw-probe may warn you about hardware compatibility problems: https://github.com/linuxhw/hw-probe

You can quickly create a probe of the computer (snapshot of hw specs and logs) using Ubuntu Live ISO, save the link returned (like this) and investigate it later at home.

  1. Create a probe

    sudo hw-probe -all -upload
  2. Open the link returned

  3. Check statuses of devices (works, failed, malfunc, detected)
  4. Check if drivers are loaded for all PCI/USB devices
  5. Investigate logs for hardware errors

Also you can run simple graphics card tests (for integrated & dedicated cards):

sudo hw-probe -all -check -upload

I'm the author of this project, so feel free to ask any questions in comments!


You can test if a computer's hardware is compatible with Ubuntu by downloading the Ubuntu Live DVD iso file and booting the live DVD or live USB. The Ubuntu live USB runs faster than the live DVD and has the additional advantage of being reusable for something else after you are finished testing and/or installing Ubuntu with it.

A live DVD/USB can be used for a quick demo or test of Ubuntu to check if the computer's hardware works as expected without making any changes to the machine. Windows or whatever is already installed on the computer is unaffected after trying this and then rebooting. See this answer for detailed and specific information about how to create a bootable USB flash drive for testing potential PC purchases for compatibility with Ubuntu.

Many computer stores provide their own Ubuntu live USB with Ubuntu for testing Ubuntu as a service to their customers. I discovered this after trying to return a graphics card that wouldn't boot Ubuntu, when a technician plugged the graphics card into one of the store's computers and booted Ubuntu from that computer to show me that my new graphics card was compatible with Ubuntu. If the computer store won't let you test their laptop with your Ubuntu live media, ask if they have their own USB with Ubuntu, and will demonstrate Ubuntu with it on the computer of your choice.

A quick demo can test two things:

  1. Check if hardware (Ethernet, USB, sound, webcam) works as expected.
  2. Check the look and feel of the operating system. 

Wifi cannot always be tested with a quick demo. Even if the laptop doesn't connect to wifi in the store, it might still work after installing the driver for the wireless adapter.

  • 1
    Another way is to use e.g. Google search by Ubuntu and laptop model. It should show if there are any problems that other people faced and if they are easily solvable. This is how I do it, because it's not always possible to do a real test, or you need a more expensive store for it. – Pilot6 Mar 9 at 12:42

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