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Will my Dell laptop run Ubuntu Linux 18.04 (Bionic Beaver) smoothly?

My laptop model is "Dell Inspiron 14 N4050". I have installed Windows 8 Pro and now want to install a Linux OS.

If not, is there another Linux OS that would run well?

Basic details:

  • Intel Core i5-2410M CPU @2.3 GHz
  • 8.00 GB RAM
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You can test how Ubuntu works by making live USB installation media. Then boot from that USB drive without having to install it. If you like using that version of Linux, just install from the same media -- no need to reboot.

There have been some changes made in Ubuntu 20 desktop, so try both distros to see which you prefer

You also have the choice of installing alongside the existing Windows OS, or deleting the Windows partition and running just Linux. Both choices have their merits, but on a brand-new PC, I'd opt for a clean Ubuntu-only installation.

N.B. Before making any permanent installation, image the HDD so you can go back if a disaster occurs.

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    This will identify some, but not all issues - for example, I had some issues initially due to buggy firmware in my NVME drive (which were fixed by a firmware update and some tweaks to boot settings), which I would have had no way of identifying before installing. – James_pic May 15 at 11:37
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    Please note that the live system booted from USB is usually much slower (especially for web browsing) than the installed system booted from SSD. So if you feel that live Ubuntu is slow, don't take it as a signal for the slowness of the installed Ubuntu. – pts May 15 at 15:44
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    @pts, if the PC has enough RAM, the whole OS is in memory, so I've found Live media to be responsive...*but* using persistence, writing to a flash USB drastically slows the system. Persistence does allow carrying the whole OS and data on a USB device, though. – DrMoishe Pippik May 15 at 20:27
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As others said before, try Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. The LTS stands for 'Long Term Support', meaning you won't have to bother with upgrades until 2025 or 2030 with Ubuntu ESM which is free for personal use.

I'd proceed like this:

  1. Make a full backup. Everyone always forgets to copy some important stuff ;)
  2. Get a USB stick
  3. Create a LiveUSB as described here
  4. Check out Ubuntu in the live mode by booting from the USB. This means you can boot into Ubuntu without making any changes to your systems. Check out the performance of the stuff you need; you can even install things! Just be reminded that nothing you do will persist on your machine.

    • If you like the performance, you can go ahead and install Ubuntu on your system. This will wipe your hard drive, if you choose to do so. The Ubuntu setup can also set up dual-boot for you, if you like that.

    • If the performance isn't good enough, it's most likely due to your graphics being too slow for Gnome, the Ubuntu desktop. In that case I'd recommend repeating the above steps with Lubuntu. It is a lightweight version of Ubuntu that uses LXDE instead of Gnome, meaning it is much less taxing on the graphics hardware than Ubuntu.

HTH

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    Yes, but a lot of things are effectively broken because many packages are not updated for newer versions of Ubuntu. – Peter Mortensen May 15 at 15:05
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    @PeterMortensen: How are crosscompilers relevant tot this answer? – MSalters May 16 at 18:59
  • @PeterMortensen this will most likely not matter for OP, as, usually, if you try to revive such an old device, it is either used for web browsing and email + a bit of libreoffice. Maybe some beginner programming. Recommending the newest released LTS to a new ubuntu user is most likely the best choice, since they will have a lot of time to get familiar with the distro before being forced to upgrade. Furthermore a lot of these broken packages will most likely be fixed before they become relevant to OP. – jaaq May 25 at 6:24
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The average laptop is optimized for Windows because of the vast market share (about 90% of laptop and desktop devices).

However, if your laptop manufacturer supplies Ubuntu drivers, or your research into Ubuntu says it has the needed drivers, it should run smoothly.

I have Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) running as a virtual machine here using VMware drivers and it works very smoothly indeed.

If you have or can install Hyper-V, that is a good way to test Ubuntu (or possibly another distribution) without making any permanent changes.

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    Testing Ubuntu on a VM on a machine like this won't do it's performance justice at all though. – jaaq May 15 at 6:23
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    @jaaq: For a new Ubuntu user, the limiting factor will be experience, not hardware. – MSalters May 15 at 7:24
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    True, nothing wrong with that! I just wanted to say that if you think "Hey that's way too slow" That it is the VMs fault and not ubuntu. – jaaq May 15 at 9:25
  • It a machine works well in a VM (My Ubuntu is very fast in VMware) then it is going to move fast on the raw hardware. That is why I said drivers are so very important. – John May 15 at 10:42
  • 'if manufacturer supplies Ubuntu drivers' - that's the problem. "smoothness" isn't an answerable question. – Mazura May 15 at 23:51
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Ubuntu, in most cases, runs more smoothly than Windows because of the optimizations the developers have made. When you download Ubuntu, make sure to download the latest version which is Ubuntu 20.04 (Focal Fossa).

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    I think by "run smoothly" they mean everything "just works" for example if the system is more stable, but Wireless, Card Reader, Bluetooth, Sound, Webcam, etc don't work then that would be a problem. – UbuntuForumsStaffAreTrolls May 14 at 23:31
  • The specs given are more than enough to run Ubuntu – UbuntuForumsStaffAreTrolls May 14 at 23:37
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    You are completely missing the point. Laptops sometimes have rare components with strange drivers which may not be found in the kernel. It isn't uncommon, for example, for the Fn keys to not work, or the bluetooth, or the wireless. It's a lot rarer than it used to be and almost nobody has issue, but without finding someone else who has installed Ubuntu on the exact same machine you can't really know for certain. The cpu and ram aren't part of the concern, they are just about the only components (along with the main storage) 100% guaranteed to work. – Turksarama May 15 at 11:47
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I've installed admittedly older versions of Ubuntu on several much lower powered DELL and HP laptops without any issues at all. The performance of later versions of Ubuntu has always been more responsive than the Microsoft OS that came with the machine, and the only time I had a problem with a driver (Wi-Fi in my case) it was fixed simply by connecting Ethernet and fetching updates. So based on my practical experience I would encourage you try it out, using the live media as suggested by DrMoishe Pippik

If you are worried about performance I would suggest looking at one of the Ubuntu derivatives such as Lubuntu which is based on Ubuntu but has a desktop which requires less processing power (and personally I prefer it to Ubuntu's desktop)

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  • Yes, Lubuntu is crucial for systems with less than 4 GB RAM. Especially if using memory-hungry applications like web browsers. – Peter Mortensen May 15 at 15:00
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I am pretty sure that Ubuntu would run smoothly because Linux is lighter than Windows in most cases. Like the other answers say, if Ubuntu doesn't work out you can try Lubuntu or Xubuntu, which are lighter versions of Ubuntu. In my machine, Xubuntu runs pretty well with 2GB of RAM and an Intel Core 2 Duo.

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