I'm looking at buying a 2nd-hand laptop for hobby programming. I would like to be able to install Ubuntu, but I'm worried that Ubuntu will not have drivers for network/video, etc. (I installed Ubuntu on my desktop PC last year and I had to manually install Network drivers, and Ubuntu still doesn't allow more than 1024x768 even though I have 22" monitor.)

Are there any laptop brands or models that have better driver support under Ubuntu?

I don't have much budget, so the laptop will probably be approx 5 years old ...

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    Before you buy it, you may also try whether it's compatible by using the Ubuntu LiveCD (help.ubuntu.com/community/LiveCD). – Mark van Lent Aug 3 '09 at 7:10
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    Why don't you post an questions about your graphics problem? ;) – Kim Aug 3 '09 at 7:23

There are two website which have a reasonable database of linux support on laptops.

Just try to avoid the cheap brands which use exotic hardware, and you'll be fine.

  • Since his budget is low, he will not avoid the cheap brands, and there is really no reason too as long as he gets the model number before he buys and looks it up on one of those sites. – Kim Aug 3 '09 at 7:22
  • If you're looking for old laptops, the cheap brands are the one you can buy broken, the good brands are still alive. – Davy Landman Aug 3 '09 at 8:04

As commented by Mark van Lent: try a Ubuntu Live CD and see if that works.

That's the easiest way to try it out and if it works you can use it to install Ubuntu with it!


I've always had good experiences with Thinkpad laptops. They are a very popular choice hence the amount of support available.

  • I'm posting this from my Thinkpad T61p running 10.04. Every part of the hardware is supported. – Anthony Giorgio Aug 25 '10 at 13:18

Before you get hands on with a laptop,

You'll get all the help you want for Ubuntu laptop compatibility
through this post: Massive List of Laptops That Work With Ubuntu

One other place -- Ubunti Wiki HardwareSupport/Machines/Laptops

After that you could try the Ubuntu LiveCD (which can also install).

And, finally, I'd suggest a USB Installed Ubuntu to check the look & feel.
You could even choose to run it off the USB key -- most 5-6 year old laptop will boot from USB.


ThinkPads are popular: look at ThinkWiki. The entire site is devoted to installing Linux on ThinkPads.

Remember that you will need to spend some money to bump an older machine to minimum specs for Ubuntu; my recommendations are memory, battery replacement, network/wireless, and hard disk, in that order.

As of note, don't expect sound or modem support to be all that great. IBM sure picked some really questionable sound chipsets for some models.

Anecdote: My A22m isn't the greatest choice, but it was $100 at an auction; memory ($60) and battery ($75) upgrades, plus a PCMCIA Wireless card ($5 second-hand) brought the total to about $300. Replacement hard disk set me back $80 but that's only because the old one failed. The machine works fairly well: Ubuntu 9.04 was great; still shaking out the bugs from 9.10. I can get playback (not recording) on the CS46xx sound chipset, and frankly that's satisfactory.

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