Using Linux on Laptop Computers

Using Linux on a laptop is different than working on a desktop PC. Due to size and hardware constraints, the configuration of the system is more difficult to change than the same system on a desktop. In addition, hardware support for Linux is much more limited on laptop computers, although some companies like Dell offer Linux as an operating system on some laptop models. Laptops have features and hardware not found on desktops, like BlueTooth, infrared sensors, and differences in graphics cards.

Newer CPUs are often more Linux-friendly to accommodate increasing numbers of Linux users.

Before installing Linux, the end user needs to make sure the laptop will allow a non-manufacturer-installed operating system — some laptop manufacturers do and some do not. This even varies from model to model in a given manufacturer’s product lineup. Graphics cards present a problem if they don’t have the proper Linux-friendly drivers: these can be downloaded from various sites, but an end user may need to find and download several if he or she is not sure of the laptop’s graphics card specifications. The CPU (central processing unit) of any laptop will also present issues for potential laptop Linux users, as drivers were not always included; however, newer CPUs are often more Linux-friendly to accommodate increasing numbers of Linux users.

The easiest way to make sure your laptop is compatible is to find a PC Card (or PCMCIA) which supports Linux. This will add to the initial cost of the laptop, but, since most Linux distributions and programs are free to download and use, the cost is modest over time. Using Linux on a laptop requires finesse and some technical knowledge, but it’s easier and more common today than ever before. For a comprehensive listing of Linux-friendly PC laptops, see Linux on Laptops.