Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Hardware Linux

Hardware For a Cheap Linux Desktop ( 207

An anonymous reader writes: Outside of the limelight of Intel's Core "Skylake" processors is the cheapest model, a $60 Intel Pentium G4400 dual-core processor that runs at 3.3Gz and has built-in HD Graphics 510. Ubuntu Linux results for this CPU show the cut-down Skylake graphics are the worst aspect of this budget processor while the CPU performance is okay if speed isn't a big factor and your workloads don't mind the lack of AVX support. To pair with the cheap Skylake Pentium processors are more Intel H110-powered motherboards appearing, with some also retailing for under $60 while being basic yet functional as a severely cutdown version of the Intel Z170 chipset. If pursuing this route for a budget Linux PC, it's possible to build a socketed Skylake system for less than $200. Those of you who have recently built, or are planning out a new budget Linux machine, what internals do you recommend?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hardware For a Cheap Linux Desktop

Comments Filter:
  • AMD (Score:2, Informative)

    by rlp ( 11898 )

    I have a couple of AMD based desktops I use as file / compute servers. Both running Ubuntu and hosting VM's with VirtualBox and running as fileservers with software RAID-5 and RAID-10. The CPU's are 6 and 8 core and were fairly cheap. Graphics was not a consideration and the machines are servers.

  • by thechemic ( 1329333 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @01:44PM (#51027895)
    I would run a XEON X5690 (6 core 3.46ghz) with 24GB of RAM and an SSD. You can find entire machines with Quadro video, audio, and a shitload of other components for about $200.00
    • Sounds like a power hog

      • Who cares? Unless you are running a rack full of these things, power consumption seems to be the least of anybody's worries....
        • Depends on where you live. Power cost in Australia actually makes it worth considering. For example I have a NAS which has 12GB of storage RAIDZ based on 14 drives and I'm going to replace it this holiday break because new 4 x 6tb hard drives will give me more space and the electricity cost will pay back in 18 months.

    • Re: Bla Bla Bla (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kenh ( 9056 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @01:58PM (#51028039) Homepage Journal

      Buying new parts will always be more expensive than used parts - take a look at slightly older off-lease systems... You'll get faster parts for fewer dollars at the expense of heat/power consumption.

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      I would run a XEON X5690 (6 core 3.46ghz) with 24GB of RAM and an SSD. You can find entire machines with Quadro video, audio, and a shitload of other components for about $200.00

      I'd love to know where you found an entire machine with those specs (or even without the SSD) for $200.

      • If you go the hex core route, look for X5650 boxes. You'll find thousands for sale. I bought a Lenovo earlier this year with that CPU and 24Gb of ram for $300. The W3680 Xeons are a bit faster but not nearly as numerous.

      • I'm with you. Especially since the CPU used by itself typically runs between 250-350.

        GP is either delusional or gets free hand-me-downs from corporate IT.
        • I'm neither delusional nor a hand-me-down moocher.

          I didn't spend a lot of time searching for an example because I don't need to waste hours to prove a point. Here is a 6 core in the ballpark of the stated price. If you spend some time, you can find listings that weren't well described, scratch and dent, short sale, and a ton of reasons why they sell for crazy cheap. []

          That's just a quick example. I regularly locate much more capable machines at lower prices. If you belie

          • Yes. I managed to buy $900 in components for $500 in a used gaming machine on Ebay. You just have to be patient.
          • That's a different CPU than the one in your original comment.

            When I search for the CPU in your first comment, the price range on Ebay (used) is $250-350 for completed and sold listings. The same search for the CPU on the box you subsequently linked show it going for $80-100 used. These are two completely different ballparks. In fact, the price of an entire rig built around the cheaper one is less than the cost of more expensive CPU by itself.

            Nah, I'm not delusional, I just do research before I open my
    • Ok, I'll bite. If I write you cheque, will you deliver by mail? Do you have 5 of those in stock?

    • I would run a XEON X5690 (6 core 3.46ghz) with 24GB of RAM and an SSD. You can find entire machines with Quadro video, audio, and a shitload of other components for about $200.00

      Where would you find all that for about $200? A XEON X5690 costs $647.95 on newegg [].

      • It's a sought after CPU for upgrades yet an old discarded workstation is cheaper or the same price. That's normal, it's often how it goes. Also over $600 is nuts : that must be a leftover unsold part that hangs around in inventory. If you're going to buy new hardware a 4790K is better and way cheaper, you will get CPU + motherboard + RAM for the price (or less) of the old CPU alone.

  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @01:45PM (#51027911)
    I recently picked up an ECS KAM1-I motherboard ($25) for the AMD AM1 processor ($25 to $50). The motherboard has two serial ports and two serial port headers for four COM ports. I'm planning to build out a Linux console server for my Cisco certification rack. This is cheaper than trying to convert a Cisco router into a terminal server.
    • This is one of the most hardware-informative posts I've read the whole year (and the year is almost over). What I've learned:

      There is a motherboard I can buy that comes with as many as FOUR serial ports!
      It's a very cheap motherboard, too!
      It can be used as a console server.

      Thank you!

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @01:47PM (#51027927)

    Naturally the answers provided here depend on the requirements (oddly enough, even geeks forget to state those)

    And why reinvent the wheel? Because Pi and like boards exist is the reason this question has almost become irrelevant. You either need something that can be solved with a "cheap" pre-built board, or you're likely in need of $300 or more in hardware.

    Requirements matter. Otherwise, you're just fucking around in the sandbox.

    • ^This. I read the title and thought "RPi2 + peripherals. This question was answered long ago."
      I just don't see the use case for a POS bargin basement full-size *LINUX* desktop. If you were someone playing 10-year old Windows games....maybe.
      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        I just don't see the use case for a POS bargin basement full-size *LINUX* desktop.

        Perhaps for uses that a Pi would fit plus the ability to run the occasional Windows-only application in Wine.

    • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

      Boy, this is spot on!

      I have a server that I use as a personal media server, and backups. I bought it at a yard sale for $10. Big box, lots of cheap, added several high capacity hard drives, performance is strictly irrelevant, and the several-generations-ago AMD Athlon 64 (remember those?) gamer board supports the 4GB of ECC DDR(1) RAM that is probably overkill for the need. I have no doubt that I could get at least another 5 years out of this ancient hardware for the need and be perfectly happy with it.


      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        Is browsing Slashdot a requirement? Even my main gaming machine struggles with /. nowadays... Each Slashdot tab in Chrome consumes over 2GB of RAM, so having a few discussions open brings my machine to its knees. This happening to anyone else? Or is there something I have to update in Chrome's embedded flash player? :P

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @01:47PM (#51027931)

    You can get lucky with generic, but I've had too many hard to track down issues over the years that were ultimately caused by buggy main memory chips. Whatever you buy, torture test them first - many tools available.
    Do the same with the disk - SSD is the way to go, but again do your research since some disk have poor firmware, and /or don't support all file system functions.

    • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @02:31PM (#51028317)

      I think I'd avoid doing a torture test of a disk drive of any type, but especially an SSD. Technically you are wearing out the SSD which has a finite number of write cycles before it will stop working on you. Problem is, you don't really know how many cycles an SSD has, so you are just wasting your drive's life. Plus, SSD's slow down over time as they are used and the drive controller attempts to level the number of writes in each sector.

      For memory, sure, test away, get the whole system good and hot, and make sure you don't see errors. But for SSD's buy them on sustained read/write rates and reputation. Also buy them bigger than you need and only use about 70% of the capacity, just don't try to exhaustively test them.

  • If you aren't going for the top of the line in processing speed, the AMD A-Series will generally get you more processing power for the money than the Intel equivalents.

    If you can do with even less graphics power, similar to that of the intel Skylake processors, you could go with the AMD E-Series, but you would see performance loss in graphically intense desktop applications like web browsing and multimedia. If this is tolerable, then go ahead and save the extra money.

    As of motherboards, it depends on what

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @01:48PM (#51027935)
    Nice base system with Pentium G3220: []
  • Those of you who have recently build, or are planning out a new budget Linux machine, what internals do you recommend?

    How about people just build a computer that isn't eyegougingly poor to use. $200 for a machine? Is there even $100 left after putting a decent SSD and 16GB of RAM in a desktop machine?

    Cheap computers are the reason people hate computers.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Neither of those overblown specs (SSD, 16G RAM) are required to yield a decent PC even if you are running Windows.

      • That depends entirely on what you think qualifies for "decent".

        Computers are slow, everyone says so. Now take a moment to consider why. I've done my time waiting 15+ seconds to open Outlook. I'm through clicking on Firefox and waiting and waiting for the window to show up. I'm sick of running 5-6 programs at once and having a computer slow to a crawl. Great hardware is finally affordable. The first response should not be to use this and skimp out even more on nasty crap that makes computers just as slow as

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @01:53PM (#51027991)
    ...then go to your local surplus depot for a school system, college, or large company and look for their older high-end workstations and workgroup servers and buy those for very little money, then put your drives of choice in. You'll find Xeons oodles of RAM and if it's a computer designed for a workspace (ie, not a rackmount server) it won't even be loud.

    As an added bonus, with equipment that's a few years old you're likely to be able to run Linux out of the box because the early adopters already figured out how to get the hardware working properly.

    The only computers I continue to purchase new are portable computers. I buy used stuff for the rest, the last dual-quad Xeon with 32GB RAM cost me a couple hundred bucks.
    • Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      Any idea where to find out about these types of sales? If it helps, I am in Maryland.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        Go to Google Maps. Look up "surplus" or "college surplus" or "reclamation".

        Alternately, call the big organizations in your area and ask the receptionist if they have a surplus property department, and ask to be transferred to them. Ask them if they do retail sales or auctions.
      • Some universities have a department just for selling surplus items. Call around.

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Large corporations like oil companies used to do mass dump-offs of old monitors and cables whenever they got a new service contract. All the old IT equipment would be loaded into dumpsters to be taken straight to the rubbish tips. In the 1980's, that would be dumb terminals and RS-232 cables (replaced with PC's). Then they would dump their old PC's for new ones. Though these days, Dell and HP do the recycling with their service contracts.

      • Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

        Any idea where to find out about these types of sales? If it helps, I am in Maryland.

        There is one in Tumwater Washington, they often sell used computers by the the pallet load. don't know where any are on the east coast though.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Is there a central way to do this versus "the surplus depot" or FleaBay? The only way I've ever seen to get anything useful surplus is to know somebody inside. In my experience, the reasonable used hardware get re-purposed at least once internally before it gets turned loose as surplus, and when it does it's often so old as to be handicapped by old hardware standards which make performance fairly useless.

      I bought a used Cisco 2960G two years ago for $200, which is still a low price even by recent Ebay sta

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        The local University has a retail surplus depot. That's where I got the dual-Xeon box. One of the local cities has a suprlus depot where the retail-sell old city property, police seized property, and unclaimed property.

        some school districts will do surplus sales, but sometimes they don't have the staffing for it so they send stuff to auction.
  • I picked up an Asus Kabini SoC motherboard and quad core CPU for about $100. I installed some RAM I had laying around and used similarly "laying around" hardware to finish it up. It's not a bad machine although the built-in graphics are a bit slow on Linux Mint and Ubuntu Desktop.

  • Just buy a laptop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @02:00PM (#51028051)

    $60 CPU + $60 mobo + $40 case/PSU combo = $160. Add in RAM, HDD/SSD, I/O peripherals, and you're definitely gonna be over $200. Just buy a cheap laptop (chromebooks spring to mind), wipe it and put linux on it. Plus, it'll be a laptop. Maybe the performance won't be quite as good, but it'll definitely be serviceable.

    Getting on Intel's latest architecture is a fairly meaningless goal.

    • Re:Just buy a laptop (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Monday November 30, 2015 @02:24PM (#51028255) Homepage Journal

      Just buy a cheap laptop (chromebooks spring to mind), wipe it and put linux on it.

      I was under the impression that a Chromebook wiped and reinstalled with GNU/Linux would beg the user to reenable OS verification (which wipes the drive) every time it's turned on. If you're referring to other cheap laptops, there's a good chance of those not working well with GNU/Linux either [].

      • I was under the same impression, but it seems you can install a custom BIOS [] that skips the OS verification/developer mode screen. Of course, if I'm wrong about this, I'd love to hear about it since I bought one of those $100 Acer Chromebooks this past weekend.
      • They do; in "developer mode", they'll show the warning screen about OS verification for 30 seconds at boot (although that can be skipped with ctrl-d). It's certainly a downside, but I think some people would see that as a fair trade-off for a $150 Linux laptop. Personally, I'd just spend a little more money to pick up a "real" computer and skip the ChromeOS nonsense, but if I had an extremely limited budget, I'd likely put up with a skippable warning like that.
  • Quality cheap system (Score:4, Informative)

    by slaker ( 53818 ) on Monday November 30, 2015 @02:01PM (#51028059)

    I've been building inexpensive PCs with Gigabyte H81 ITX motherboards, LGA1150 Pentium G CPUs, 4GB RAM, 120GB mSATA drives and Rosewill ITX chassis. I can build a whole machine for around $250. The chassis will still have room for an optical drive and a pair of hard disks, should you want them.

    I specifically like the Gigabyte board for having both mSATA and mini-PCIe slots, plus the cutout to add antennas for 802.11/bluetooth. There's just a lot of flexibility for an ITX machine.

  • One of those cheap CHIP computers and a hdmi adapter.

  • There are some cheap [] mini-itx/CPU boards that should be considered. They have a nice form factor, and running Linux shouldn't be a problem (at least, I haven't had problems, ymmv).
  • I just buy a cheap notebook based on the Atom Z3735F 1.3GHz, 2G of DDR and 64G of eMMC. While the processor is 64 bits, the UEFI is for 32 bits only, so no easy way to install a 64 bit Linux distribution on it. First step was to go into the UEFI setup to disable the secure boot, then...
    I tried Ubuntu 15.10 32 bits, and the installer don't even boot from a USB memory.
    I tried Debian 8.2 32 bits, the installer booted from the USB memory up to the selection menu, but whenever I chose the text or graphic install

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      You'll want an image file that's compiled to work with the Atom, I am pretty sure. ISTR they call *some* variants "linuxium" and that should get you started in a search engine. You probably won't find the short-term builds, compiling everything is a long process, but the LTS is likely an option.

      • by jcdr ( 178250 )

        I tested kernel up to 4.2 with earlyprintk=efi and everything is ok up to the point where the console take over the earlyprintk. Seem to be something wrong at setting the screen, but nomodeset i915.modeset=0 don't help.

  • How about nVidia's Jetson TK1 [] board? It has a great 192-core Kepler GPU, a nice quad-core ARM CPU, on-board gigabit ethernet, all the ports you're likely to need and comes pre-installed with Ubuntu Linux.

  • The design consideration you mentioned was "cheap." If you have any other design considerations, then disregard this answer.

    I come across tons and tons of old, crappy, free, computers constantly. The ONE entity I do actual system administration work for pays me to sanitize, and dispose of, their old systems. These systems effectively have a negative cost for me, since I'm getting paid to dispose of them. Mostly, I like to write software, and not do systems administration, but I don't mind being the (paid) I

    • I found old Pentium II/III hardware with Intel 440BX chipset to be reliable, typically comes with an ATI Rage Pro 8MB - works 2D-only these days, but it's nice to see a board without a heatsink on the graphics chip. It will never fail.
      Of course you get the occasional power supply or hard drive failure but that's true for all hardware.

      The funny part is, forget about Damn Small Linux and other survival-mode distros, do a command-line install of a recent ubuntu or debian and apt-get lxde, xorg, alsa, firefox e

  • Is Linux finally ready for the desktop?

  • Cheap is irrelevant if the machine can't meet the requirements it is built to perform. You may have spent way too much at $200 with a Pi or similar might have sufficed or simply wasted $200 as you really needed a $1000 workstation.
  • Used Core2Duo machine for $50.00 off of craigslist with monitor.

    Sorry, but if you want a cheap linux machine, go used first.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban