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Although you can install Linux on your laptop for free, there are immense benefits to buying a Linux computer directly from a dedicated vendor.
You may not see Linux on any computers at a physical big-box store, but there are many companies that will sell you a PC with Linux pre-installed online. Even though these retailers often have higher prices, it's still worth seeking these companies out when considering your next purchase. Here are some of the reasons why.
The computers you buy from a big-box store are designed to work with the operating system they come with. That typically means Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, or Google's ChromeOS.
There's a decent chance you can replace the pre-installed OS with Linux, but this is not something that the manufacturer intends or supports. The fact that many people can do this successfully is a testament to what the Linux community has been able to achieve, but the process still isn't without risk.
Sometimes your hardware won't play along nicely. The sound may not work, your computer might not resume from sleep reliably, or your system could fail to detect Wi-Fi networks.
When you purchase from a Linux PC maker, you eliminate the risk. You know your computer will work well with Linux. Even if you decide not to stick with the pre-installed version, you know just about any other version of Linux will still work. This can feel rather liberating.
Linux is an OS that anyone is free to download, install, and even make changes to. This has led to many people all over the world using Linux to create great things. But when it comes to the desktop experience, there isn't all that much money flowing around. Much of the software comes from volunteers contributing code out of passion, working around life's other responsibilities.
When a company ships computers that come with Linux, they are invested in providing a good experience to its customers. If there are bugs, they are more inclined to try to fix them. They may create software to fill in the gaps.
These companies all take varying approaches:
Many of us have increasingly sour opinions of the tech giants. Apple, Google, and Microsoft all collect information about how you use your machine (though Apple does so less than the other two). All three also operate monopolies on their platforms (here, Apple does so more than the other two).
If you value free and open-source software, or the broader concept of ethical software in general, the large proprietary OSes don't offer you the option to vote with your wallet.
When you buy from a Linux PC maker, you are investing your money into the type of computer ecosystem you would rather see. These are companies that see the value of the free software community and contribute to its development. They also aren't large enough to lobby governments and shape legislation to favor their interests over ours.
When it comes to technology, rarely do we have the option to shop locally. Whether online or offline, these products are usually available from various retail chains. You can't go to a farmer's market and purchase a laptop or a server.
These tech gadgets themselves come from massive conglomerates. The OS comes from a tech giant, the laptop comes from a massive corporation, and the story for servers or phones is no different.
Dedicated Linux hardware companies operate at a different scale. These are often small businesses with relatively few employees.
In some cases, these companies may also be closer to your corner of the world. If you live in Europe, Germany-based TUXEDO Computers or UK-based Star Labs let you actually buy a computer from a company that isn't operating out of the US or Asia. Even in the US, shopping from System76 lets you get a computer from a company working out of Denver, Colorado.
You are also investing in companies and communities that value your privacy, and that aren't creating business plans built around collecting data and selling ads. In a sense, you are giving money to people who view your computer, not you, as the product they are selling.
Linux comes with real privacy benefits over its proprietary counterparts. You don't need to create an online account. No one logs what software you install or how you use your apps. On the vast majority of distributions, there isn't any telemetry. You can use your computer with greater peace of mind.
If you have an issue with the computer you purchase from a big-box store, you generally can't take the computer back to the store for support. The manufacturer might have a support forum. If there is a number you can call for support, you can expect to talk to a machine and then reach someone who may actually know less about the PC than you do.
With many small Linux PC makers, you can expect to reach out to someone who will take the time to help you troubleshoot your issue. This often takes place over email or a live chat system, but the interest is there. Sometimes they will even walk you through opening up your machine and making the fix yourself if you think you're up to the task.
You may be surprised to see just how many companies have gotten into the business of selling computers that come with Linux. Some ship their own custom distribution. Others will install the version of Linux of your choice. Some target business use while others have options for gamers. Chances are, there is a PC for you with Linux pre-installed and ready to go.
Bertel is a digital minimalist who works from a tiny StarLite MK IV and carries a de-Googled Android phone. He delights in helping others decide which tech to bring into their lives… and which tech to do without.


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