I enjoy using Linux(or GNU/Linux as it’s preferred to be called by some. But that distinction is for another article. Let’s just agree that Linux here refers to a complete OS/Distribution). I have used it off and on as a choice operating system for my previous laptop throughout college and its life thereafter. As I now have a new laptop, I knew the day would come where I would try a version of Linux to see how well it would run. I have three top distributions of choice and tried each to see which runs out of the box on my new Satellite C55D-B5214.
I have written a newer post regarding installing Linux using Xubuntu 16.04. You can read this updated experience here.
Although I knew I would someday install Linux on my new laptop, I hardly thought it would be within the first few months of ownership. In the past I have found Windows to be good enough and usually reliable enough to keep around. However, I was not a huge fan of Windows 8.1 so I promptly backed up my OS and installed Windows 10 Technical Preview. As time wore on I found myself feeling like Windows 10 as beta software wasn’t secure or stable enough to use full time.
So it’s back to to Windows 8.1, or so I thought. My next step was to reinstall Windows 8.1 and attempt to fix some of the issues that bothered me from when I purchased it. However I discovered that my single back up was rendered unusable for my recovery USB stick. (REMEBER: Nothing is backed up unless there is more than one copy) This forced my hand into finding a working Linux OS(distro) to use on my machine. I am not sure why the back up isn’t recognized as the files are still present on my back up medium. However I did also use the same disk for a Windows 7 back up which my guess is related to the final outcome where something overwrote some other important file used by the other back up.
So with that I was off to test my favorite distro’s to find a working system.
Choosing a Distro
I have tried a number of Linux distro’s over the past 7 years and have found that I always gravitate back to one of three systems. Although others are neat or useful in their own ways, my top three picks generally work out of the box on the PC’s I have worked with and of course with my old laptop. So, which are these?
My top 3 Linux distro’s(with favorite desktop environments in parenthesis) in no particular order are:
To get Linux working on my new laptop I had to jump through some hoops with a huge amount of trial and error. The trick that eventually worked is that I needed to use the old legacy BIOS instead of using EFI boot to get everything working. Another important piece is that I also disable secure boot in the BIOS as well so systems that are not signed/approved by Microsoft can be installed on the machine.
Aside from these two BIOS changes, I ran into a host of issues with Xubuntu and openSUSE. Both were unable to properly detect the audio interface and were unable to adjust the screen brightness. I also ran into other issues where after one install openSUSE failed to register my keyboard even though it worked throughout installation. I have worked through worse issues in the past with some manual intervention/configuration, however this time I just wanted everything to work. Surely there is a distro that can do that, right?
Linux Mint 17.1
Although based on Ubuntu 14.04(as noted in ‘Best Linux desktop of 2014: Linux Mint 17.1‘, a ZDNet article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. [Excellent article by the way, I encourage you to read it if you want to know more about Mint]) I experienced none of the issues I had installing Xubuntu 14.04 or 14.10. Literally everything just worked out of the box: sound, keyboard and screen brightness. The only tweaks I needed to do was to use the AMD proprietary drivers(for my needs) and to add a preinstalled applet to the tray to adjust the screens brightness. Finally the hunt and my frustrations were over, a system that just works. The only items that were left was to visit the software manager to select whatever opensource software I needed to be installed that wasn’t included by default.
If you are looking for a version of Linux that just works on the Toshiba C55D-B5214, Linux Mint 17.1 fits the bill. If you are new to Linux then I recommend that you do not install it on your main machine unless you have done your research and fully understand what you are getting yourself into. Although easy to use you may have a hard time getting Windows back unless you double check your back up and have multiple back ups to pick from (as I experienced). Other than that, I hope this article was helpful or at the very least interesting.
Update: 2015/10/29 – If you have accidentally destroyed Windows and need to get it back, you may still be in luck. I wrote an article on how to rescue your PC. You can check it out here:
Want to know more about Linux or installing operating systems? Or have additional questions? Let me know in the comments section below!