Linux distro in laptop - should I even bother?

Hi Community 

I am really interested in learning how to compile Linux kernels as I read that this is usually the first thing one had to learn.

Problem is I only have access to a new but buggy work laptop that tends to blue screen a lot (on windows). Was given the opportunity to do what I want with it, so I am wondering whether I should use it for kernel compilation or whether this would be a waste of time. If so any alternatives anyone would be happy to suggest (aside from coin mining) ? 

Any advice is highly appreciated. 


As long as you won't get into trouble dual booting into your favorite Linux distro isn't a bad choice. I have done that on my laptop. Another particularly resource heavy option is a vm client.

Why would you have to learn to compile a kernel to use linux?

Linux is a development environment by nature. There's a lot of cool things you can do with an extra linux box. Roll out your own cloud, develop some cool applications to make your life easier, play with devkits, 3D print, use it as an SDR box, make a CS:S/Xonotic/RedEclipse server for a LAN or just for yourself with bots, use it as a secure router, use it as a communications server, etc...

If it bluescreens a lot in Windows, it will probably run perfectly fine in linux, and if it doesn't, 99% of cases it's because it needs a good dusting or a TIM refresh. Even with a partially destroyed motherboard, it will probably still run well in linux lol.

I am really interested in learning how to compile Linux kernels as I read that this is usually the first thing one had to learn.

If you also heard that Gentoo is the only Linux distribution, I wouldn't trust it.

Compiling your kernel, as I understand it, isn't all that big of a deal and isn't even relevant to optimization for most computer users - most people want download and installation times down to a minimum so that they can enjoy using the app regardless if a particular feature happens to be 20ms optimized due to the variables you chose. Most CPUs (that are not old) will grant no great improvement for a user that won't be doing gigantic tasks or requiring a certain level of professionalism, e.g. a high capacity/load server.

That is, of course, assuming everything is based off of source to be compiled upon installation as Gentoo handles it. Most other distros have a binary-based package system where compiling your kernel perceives no benefit for individual packages.

Even on a professional level, though, ideally you will want installation and maintenance times down to a minimum, in which case compiling would be inefficient and more prone to error (as opposed to a binary where everything is built to run on any system in general and less prone to bugs and errors).

That said, there are two ways of approaching Linux: firstly, coming at it from a build-up standpoint (in which case Arch or Gentoo would be a great start), or secondly, finding a pre-built distro that works great. The former is really only suggested if you have to learn Linux quickly or you are so certain you will like it and want to learn from the ground. The latter, on the other hand, is a way to see a system already in motion, see how it works, and dig in as much as you want without having too much trouble.

do you have linux experience? saying something like "compiling linux kernels" is something that is only part of using linux. i say this not to be offensive, but honestly, compilation is a whole topic on its own... using a free laptop for 'compiling kernels' doesn't mean much. If you have hardware and want to learn about linux, then start your journey. but if you don't understand a lot about how an operating system or even a small program works on lower levels, it might be a good idea to tackle that topic first. Any GNU/linux distribution comes with binaries to look at code, analyze it and compile it however you want. So think more about what you want out of a linux system. I've realized that so much (distro to distro) has been automated for the end user that when you are a newbie, it's hard to figure out what it is that you don't understand to be able to target and then study... I'm not trying to discourage you, but it's important to know what you want to learn about instead of targeting something that you might need to do some work to understand later on... there are prerequisites.  So put any linux distro on it, but if you're talking about kernel compilation, do your homework on compilation. i don't know your experience, so don't think i'm condescending... but check out binutils and gcc manpages... they're a real gift :)



sry first post... came here from being a youtube fan, hi everyone :D

Hi, welcome to the TS Forums :)

You don't need to compile you're own Linux distro and for newbies I honestly would not suggest it, takes a lot of work and can be a bit annoying at times. I'd suggest getting started with a Debian based distro and go from there. Personally that's where I started. Ubuntu is a great starters distro in my opinion because of the massive support sites they have and a lot of that can go for other Debian based Distros which makes it really easy to find any information you need.


Best of luck in your Linux adventures.

If you're new to Linux the first thing to understand that Linux is just the kernel, the part of the operating system that gives memory to programs, talks to hardware, and stuff like that. Unless you're using Linux for a very specific task manually compiling your kernel is usually not necessary. I'd start off with Elementary OS. Then you can learn what programs you should install, base system programs, desktop environments, window managers, themes/icon sets. Then you could learn about more advanced stuff like how networking and the kernel works, partitioning and things like that.

Go for it.  Nothing wrong with running linux on a laptop.  For a time Lubuntu was the primary OS on mine.  Once they got solid Intuos support (it was a little buggy, but mostly ok), I decided to give it a shot.  Other than missing my Photoshop-Illustrator workflow (Gimp and Inkscape are great, I just prefer the Adobe stuff at this point I guess), it was fine as a daily driver when on the road.  I dual boot with windows now, and use linux for pretty much anything other than graphic work (or the occasional non-linux compatible game) when traveling.  No complaints.

Though, as other's have said, maybe learn the more basic ins and outs of your distro of choice before jumping head long into the more in depth technical stuff.  You'll likely get a better handle on things that way.

compiling a kernel as the first thing you learn about linux ?

Once upon a time that was a necessity, but to today, install (l,k,x)ubtuntu, mint , debian, fedora, manjaro ,suse etc (in the beginning it doesn't really matter which distro you pick, try out which one works best on your hardware)

then learn how to use the command line interface, the packetmanager, shell-scripting, system environment config files, user groups & permissions ,cron jobs, ssh, lxc & docker,...

maybe learn an easy script-language like python or go.

Regarding the ratio of time-spend/ability-gain, the above mentioned things will probably be a better bang for the buck.

There's always time to become a kernel hacker later on


If I was you I'd look more into learning about Kernel Modules. They are a lot easier to use and compile and aren't as risky as compiling your own kernel. You might want to check out the the module programming guide, if you're wanting to lean into kernel programming/compiling then you might want to lean to module programming. It'll also help out with an understanding with c.

Considering this is your first time, I'd just jump in and install a flavour of linux (e.g Ubuntu, Debian) and learn how to use the terminal, and set up a server. It'll be a good use for a laptop and it's great fun.

Firstly find out what it behind the bsod... if the ram is toast then its pointless wasting time on it until you know the laptop is fixed and stable.

+1 to n3wham's above post as well.

definitely boot it to linux. i personally prefer linux mint myself but there are also other very good distros out there

<p>Another vote for Mint here. I prefer the Mate desktop version.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The only thing to watch out for is laptops with dual graphics, like an Nvida GPU and an Intel IGP, it's a pita to get this working right.</p>

i prefer cinnamon but hey to each their own


Honestly just get something like DSL (Damn Small Linux) You can fit it on a 128mb thumb stick and just live boot from it.

One of the benifits of linux is MOST not all have the option to burn the iso onto a disk/thumb drive and run it as a live disk.

Whats a live disk you might ask. Well a live disk is basically an operating system that will run right off the disk/thumb drive and will load and run from ram. Typically you will have some window manager which is small too. Dont expect KDE or Gnome. ICEWM used to be a good one. Not sure if people even use that much anymore. I havent been playing with linux much lately (in the last 5years lol)

Honestly tho, for you I would suggest getting a live disk to play around with it. It makes ZERO changes to the actual computer itself. Itll load on 90% of hardware. Its also a nice way to learn how to do stuff in linux.

There are also a TON of different versions or flavors of linux. IF you wanna learn hardcore linux feel free to go with slackware if you want something with a more windows feel try debian. You can also get different windows managers that will give different feels to the system. I used to use icewm on almost everything. Most distro's have 2-3 different UI's included you just have to pick what one you wanna use. DSL I do believe however only comes with one VERY minimalistic UI since the whole idea behind it is to be able to take up no more than 50mb and run strait from ram.  

That being said. I would get DSL and play with it, or debian. I feel for new linux users debian is a good place to start. It runs on almost anything and installing new applications is very easy almost like windows where as other versions you will have to actually make and compile the programs to run on your system.

Anyways GL and have fun. Dont brick the laptop, or accidentally install the OS over windows. Or just get partition magic or the linux equivalent GParted and make a 5gig partition to run linux off of then when your done playing with it merge it back with the main partition. 

PS: If you mess up the partition tables its on you. I highly suggest that you play with a live disk to see if you like it enough before you go running off to the dual boot world. Linux is VERY different from windows while some of the versions are LIKE windows they are very different. That being said IF you break stuff its on you.  

Most distro's of linux will work around MOST hardware issues. You will just have to use -v when booting find out where it gets stuck booting. Sometimes its initiating the nic, sometimes its ram. Then you just reboot and tell it to skip initializing. 

Linux likes to FTFO and kernal panic on some nic's my suggestion if this happens get nic from newegg or something for 3-5$ most of the uber cheap ones work for w\e reason.