Buying Your First Dedicated Linux PC
Today Cheryl writes in,
I’m wondering about buying computers for Linux. I have had Macs for the last ten years, and I know folks like to bash them, but I have had zero problems running Linux with them. I’m now totally committed to Linux, and it doesn’t matter to me if it runs the Mac OS or not, so I’m wondering about the best approach for finding an affordable machine for photo editing, video editing and noodling around. I mainly use Linux Mint, but I’ve been known to distro hop and currently have partitions with Manjaro, Solus and Ubuntu Mate too.
I’m a non-rich, if not starving, artist, so I need to learn how to approach affordable hardware that will run well (which translates to how to have the best possible machine for $600-700, laptop or desktop, either way). I’m all in favor of the folks like System 76 who build for Linux, but they are a bit out of my price range at the moment. I know there are lots of cheap windows machines, but most of those specs aren’t as good as my 2011 Macbook Air… And I hear stories about Windows hardware locking things down so Linux can’t be installed, which is pretty scary too.
Any advice about places to buy from or resources to use for system building?
Thank you, good penguin sir!
I totally hear you on the Mac front. My spouse is a Mac user and it suits her desire to “just get things done” quite well. It’s not for me, but I understand the desire to use Apple products. Heck I’m typing this article on my wife’s Macbook Pro running Ubuntu MATE (it’s set to dual-boot). You own a 2011 Air – you could potentially dual-boot Linux and OS X on it.
Now getting back to your main point about finding an affordable Linux PC, let me ask you this – do you still own any of those Macs? Are any of those Macs Intel-based? If you can answer yes to both questions, then perhaps the solution is to consider re-branding these older Macs into working Linux machines. Even a Mac with two GB of RAM could be used to give you a fairly decent Linux box. The more RAM however, the better.
The above option is the most cost-effective choice. However, if you’re starting off from scratch and wish to build your own desktop PC then I’ll share my opinion as to the best approach.
If you’re interested in building your own, I highly recommend the experience. It’s fantastic and in the end, you will end up with vastly better hardware than you would if you were to buy a cheap pre-installed Windows box from Dell.
The first thing I’d do is go to NewEgg.com and price out some motherboard/CPU/RAM combos. You can get a pretty decent setup for under $200. Next you’re going to want to find a PC case with a decent power supply. By decent, I mean one that offers both enough power to run everything while also providing stable power for your components. Price is usually reflective of quality in this space.
By doing a bit of shopping around, you can build a solid PC for $400 that will blow away a pre-built PC from most major sellers.
Before taking the leap, I recommend you look into YouTube videos demonstrating PC building. This will help you decide if it’s worth it or not. I suspect you’ll find it to be perfectly duplicable and that brings us to the next step – buying the components. I highly recommend buying your PC components from NewEgg vs some random website.
With regard to specific resources for pre-built stuff to purchase, that’s a tough one. Pre-built desktop PCs of any variety should run just fine, even pre-built for Windows. Just make sure you’re running with either Intel or NVIDIA graphics and you’ll be fine. I again, recommend buying pre-built (complete) PCs from NewEgg as they’re a highly-trusted seller.
As to the scary lock-in you expressed concern about, not to worry – most distros provide support to work-a-round that problem. Ubuntu, Linux Mint are just a few with ways to work around UEFI issues.
Do you have Linux questions you’d like Matt to help with? Hit the link here and perhaps you too, can Just Ask Matt!