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Ask Slashdot: Linux-Friendly Desktop x86 Motherboard Manufacturers? 294

storkus writes: The release of Haswell-E and a price drop on Devil's Canyon has made me itch for a PC upgrade. However, looking around I discovered a pair of horror stories on Phoronix about the difficulties of using Linux on a multitude of motherboards. My question: if MSI, Gigabyte, Asus (and by extension Asrock) are out, who's left and are they any good? I'd like to build a (probably dual-boot, but don't know for sure) gaming and 'other' high-end machine with one of the above chips, so we're talking Z97 or X99; however, these stories seem to point to the problems being Windows-isms in the BIOS/UEFI structures rather than actual hardware incompatibility, combined with a lousy attitude (despite the Steam Linux distro being under development).
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Ask Slashdot: Linux-Friendly Desktop x86 Motherboard Manufacturers?

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  • Intel (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:14AM (#47804287)

    They're about as vanilla as it's possible to get, which is what you have to do to get anything working with minimal kernel module hacking.

    • If I still had mod points, you'd get a +1. Intel motherboards are great. They're nothing fancy pants, but everything that's on them is solid and well supported.

    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @01:07AM (#47804489)

      Intel is closing down their motherboard lines. It pisses me off since they were all I'd buy in the past, but they aren't going to be an option for much longer :(.

      • by jonwil ( 467024 )

        +1 for this, my current motherboard is an Intel and if I had the money I would upgrade to a Core series chip (instead of the Core 2 Duo I have now) with an Intel board.

      • Intel is closing down their motherboard lines. It pisses me off since they were all I'd buy in the past, but they aren't going to be an option for much longer :(.

        Only desktop boards. You want an intel server board!

    • by Zappy ( 7013 )

      Intel MB may be fine, but stay away from the wireless 7260 series, they are utter crap and only work mostly with the very latest firmware and driver/kernel version.

    • They're about as vanilla as it's possible to get, which is what you have to do to get anything working with minimal kernel module hacking.

      This is generally true, any Intel CPU using board is going to be mostly Intel silicon at the center, with other vendors twiddling around a bit with audio chipsets(unfortunately, as with AC 97 before it, there are...multiple creative be 'compatible' with Intel's "HD Audio" standard), NICs, extra USB or SATA controllers, and whatnot. Intel usually keeps it simple, stupid(barring the push for UEFI; but now that that's industry-wide you just pick your poison) and tends not to use really dire onboard j

    • by pdh11 ( 227974 )

      The Intel bits are vanilla, but even Intel don't make all the components on the board. I've got an Intel DX79SR, and its USB3 controller is by Renesas (formerly NEC). The USB3 controller has a firmware bug (that pauses the machine for a minute during every boot), which can be fixed by updating its firmware. The firmware can only be updated from Windows -- not just DOS but real Windows. I downloaded one of those (surely hooky) Windows rescue CDs, but even then the firmware updater refused to run, saying that

    • by melstav ( 174456 )
      Did you know that Intel's chipsets include a very respectable ethernet controller? Have for a long time. Most motherboard manufacturers don't use them, though. For some reason, they'd rather bolt a suck-tastic Realtek controller onto one of the PCIe lanes, instead. Buying Intel-made boards is about the only way to get one that uses the on-chipset controller.... Unless you're going with an AMD CPU.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Absolutely. Intel for linux hands down. I have never had any problems from workstations to servers with intel motherboards.

    • Except that Intel is tainted.

  • Phoronix = fail (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 )

    It's the OSNews of the 21st Century.

    Buy Gigabyte, their shit is rock solid.

    • by malkavian ( 9512 )

      There's a reason I don't buy Gigabyte. Out of all the boards I've bought and systems I've built, Gigabyte have had the greatest chance of just plain not working, working poorly, or having some other annoyance that gets in the way.

    • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

      I've had issues with Gigabyte products in the past - but never with ASRock or Asus. I have no idea why people are saying ASRock/Asus are out. I have a relatively new Sandy Bridge system with UEFI and no issues, and also have a headless Haswell system with UEFI and both are rock solid. Neither system has had a working Windows partition in a year or two (well, in the case of the Haswell, it has NEVER seen Windows.)

      • I just bought a brand new Asus Ultrabook and installed gentoo with few if any problems. Lots of documentation on the Arch Linux and Ubuntu sites related to my laptop model were really helpful. The boot was a small pain but really only took a few hours to sort. If you're not willing to spend a few hours sorting something out, Linux on the desktop probably isn't for you anyways. I had it fully up and running in about a week with no tinkering for Suspend/Resume, Touchscreen support, or Audio, which were pa

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:20AM (#47804315)

    MSI X99 boards at least claim SteamOS compatibility out of the box.

    In my books that should mean Linux works.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:27AM (#47804345)

      Also looked at their BIOS Files. Looks like normal ZIP which contains the file that needs to be put to the pen driver for the UEFI self-update to work from the BIOS itself. No Windows required.

      • by flux ( 5274 )

        Though the AsRock board I bought is able to download the BIOS upgrade itself from within the BIOS, so that works regardless the OS. (Also it has a switch for choosing from two BIOS flash regions, so it should be pretty safe.)

        • My Asus Sabertooth Z87 can do the same.

          I would actually expect this to be standard in everything now, except maybe the very cheapest boards.

    • by storkus ( 179708 )

      I apparently missed that part. So far, this is the single most useful comment on this, THANK YOU!!!

  • Self-extracting EXEs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:20AM (#47804317) Homepage

    Some archive apps like WinRAR can extract files from self-extracting EXE files. Also look around for other softwares that can do this.

    In some cases a command line option will allow the EXE to be extracted but not installed - but you have to do some digging.

    Of course - the above is provided that you have at least one Windows machine around.

    Also check around on the Motherboard manufacturer site - sometimes they offer both an EXE and a ZIP archive, and if nothing else contact their support. If nobody pesters them about the problem then they don't care.

    And finally - also look at Tyan and Supermicro for motherboard, even though their target is server motherboards they may have some suitable motherboards for you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's because a self-extracting zip file is actually still a valid zip file, albeit with a bit of junk at the start. Just rename to .zip and most archive utilities can cope fine.

    • Why would anyone have a windows machine around? My tribe does not support monsters nor evil doers. Freedom insists that I run Linux. Freedom is my buddy and you should get to know about Freedom.
      • Why would anyone have a windows machine around? My tribe does not support monsters nor evil doers. Freedom insists that I run Linux. Freedom is my buddy and you should get to know about Freedom.

        I've been using Linux as my primary OS for more than 10 years, and I don't look back. That doesn't mean, though, that I don't have a Windows machines for those few times I need one -- depending on Fedex (nee Kinkos) is a real time waste. But I don't buy new -- the lease-return used computers are quite inexpensive and work for my few needs. (WINE isn't an answer, and I'm not a fan of virtual machines, if I had a CD and a license, the last being more expensive than a cheap used computer.)

        Still, I have to e

  • Sensationalism? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by passionplay ( 607862 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:23AM (#47804325)

    Is setting a bunch of flags really a horror story? Really? How is this possible if you are BUILDING a computer?

    • Re:Sensationalism? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by storkus ( 179708 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @04:29AM (#47805011)

      Because a few things were yanked out of my submission, as usual for headlines. As shown in the Phoronix stories, and (here's one part that was deleted) by Googling around further, a bigger problem is that the mobo manufacturers simply don't give a flying f**k about anything other than winblows: Gigabyte and Asus both say, "We don't support Linux, use windows"--yes, really, read the story--and there was some MSI business before, but maybe that's getting better since they offer official Steam support (we'll see).

      I didn't know AsRock and AsusTek were separate companies now: perhaps their new X99-WS, while not an overclocker, is better supported as many workstations run Linux or Solaris.

      I'm surprised so many guys didn't know Intel isn't making boards anymore, but I didn't know they're (apparently?) still available. Whether with Z97 or X99 (or later) is a big question, though.

      Also deleted from my submission is that I specifically stated that I don't expect all the hardware to work on something so new, but I expect the important parts will: rather, that the M$-isms in the BIOS deliberately interfere with Linux. I'm very familiar with this, as I have a 7 year old laptop that, to this day, I cannot install any of the BSD's to: first the bootloaders died, and now the kernels die in early boot, so it's a little better, but still. Oh, and it likes LILO better than GRUB.

      So, is this sensationalistic? No, I don't think so. And I haven't been paid for any of this (in fact, I'm going to max out a credit card or two to pay for this). But I really don't want to repeat all the pain others have gone through. This isn't my first build, and definitely not my first Linux install, but this is the newest hardware that I've used in almost 2 decades. (Usually I just take hand-me-downs on the cheap--as usual, what works like shit in winblows works fine in Linux!) I want a machine for gaming, compiling, GIMPing, etc--for once, I'd like some top end screaming hardware (since I'll never be able to afford Haswell-EX with its 20 cores!). The last thing I need is the manufacturers themselves deliberately creating road blocks!

      • Asus might say that but they still allow updates via their built in EasyFlash2 utility that can read the firmware file from either a USB-drive or from the attatched disks. I myself always put the firmware file in /boot/efi/ and from there it's quite easilly reachable from within the UEFI itself.
      • by frnic ( 98517 )

        There is a difference between "do not support Linux" and Linus will not work.

        I assume the mfg's legal department strongly suggested that they not officially support Linux, since that would lead to having to specify precisely what not supporting Linux means, which distributions, etc.

        Linux is still a small enough market that it is not work it to mug's to put together a customer support team to support all the configurations people will try to come up with using Linux.

      • I have an ASRock desktop board (for IvyBridge, so its older) that is great. It's very overclockable and was reasonably priced. It ran about $200 when equivalents from Gigabyte, Asus and MSI were around $300. Everything worked perfectly for it under Linux (mint 11 or 12 at the time, Ubuntu, and CentOS5), except for the USB3.0. There were absolutely no USB 3.0 drivers for it. I only use the machine for transcoding video these days, so I don't know what the USB 3.0 support is like, but I wouldn't expect y
      • Re:Sensationalism? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:57PM (#47808365) Homepage Journal

        "We don't support Linux, use windows"

        Because Linux users are a pain in the ass.

        You can find a bugzilla from about five years back where I had a problem with the built-in NIC on an ASUS mobo corrupting memory. Several others had the same problem on the same series of boards, and we were exchanging notes and working together on the bugzilla. Initially ASUS was helpful and looped in Atheros. But once we had a clear pattern (I mean a pattern of bit inversions in the hex dump), both went radio-silent.

        I mean, what were they going to do, recall all the motherboards in that line just because they were no good? My time was worth more than the $90 for the mobo but we figured initially that its was a Linux driver bug and were trying to get to the bottom of it.

        Anyway, had to rip it out and replace it (no slots left for another NIC in that application). Went to MSI ("oooh, jap caps") but those toasted (literally, burn marks on the mobo) quickly, found ASRock and haven't looked back.

        I have an ASRock Z97 Extreme 4 [] in my cart at Amazon. Now don't you guys go buying them all before I put in the order on Friday. ;)

    • Or configuring the board for legacy modes, using options found with quality boards like Asus Q87M-E/CSM or Asus H97M-E/CSM? This overall thread doesn't seem accurate to fact.
    • yeah what horrors, I've run debian-derived Linux desktop distros on boards from all those with no problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:25AM (#47804335)

    But I have built many of Linux systems on AMD/Asus platform. Not sure about the Intel stuff. But rarely have had any issues. YMMV.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Beamboom ( 2692671 )
      This. I've *always* used ASUS motherboards on my Linux desktop computers since what feels like the dawn of time, and never had problems with any of them except for one, but that was not due to OS but the CPU and was later fixed with bios update.
  • Just wait a little (Score:5, Informative)

    by etherelithic ( 846901 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @12:27AM (#47804347) Homepage
    I've built about 9 computers in the past 4 years and have run various flavors of Linux on all of them (mostly LTS builds of Ubuntu), and I've never had compatibility problems with the motherboard. Nowadays nobody can really afford not to support Linux, so I think the important thing is to wait a little while for the chipset drivers to get integrated into the newest builds of the Linux kernel, and then go from there. I've had issues with USB 3.0 support for an older CentOS version, but overall everything works for the most part. Linux even works better out of the box than a clean install of Windows 7 sometimes, because Win7 doesn't have drivers for a lot of common NICs, whereas Linux usually did. As you mentioned, in the latest computers I've built, the UEFI did give me more problems than traditional BIOS, but they weren't show-stoppers by any means, just a google search away from a resolution.
    • I second this.
      I've installed different flavors of Linux (including Ubuntu, since you're looking for something desktop friendly) on 32-bit computers (old aspire one, old Pentium 4 with old video and sound card) and haven't had any issues at all with motherboards (and most other things).

      If you're in doubt, most distros now have a live CD/DVD so you can always test it out before installing. Of course this entails that you have access to the motherboard in the first place.
  • MSI (Score:4, Informative)

    by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @01:07AM (#47804487) Homepage

    I've built three boxes with MSI A75a-e35 and AMD A-8 and A-10 with no issues running Linux Mint 15/16/17, well except two of the boards had issues after 6 months. The replecement boards are working fine though.

  • by twakar ( 128390 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @01:22AM (#47804531) Homepage

    I just upgraded to an i5 with a GA-Z87X-D3H mobo. I've got it triple-booting (GRUB has LinuxMint 17 or Windows Loader). If I select Windows, then the windows loader gives me the option of XP-32bit or windows 7-64bit. I can attest to the fact that it is the UEFI crap in the BIOS that causes issues, but once you turn it off, all the problems disappear. All in all, money well spent and I'm quite content

    As always, YMMV

    Good luck

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Its so extensive that it makes a good general reference when purchasing hardware.

  • ASUS? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @01:45AM (#47804591)

    Have been using ASUS boards for linux-only computers for years, without any compatibility problems. BIOS updates come as a ZIP file that extracts into a BIN file that you can install from the BIOS itself: just download and extract the file to a USB drive from your favorite OS, then boot into the BIOS and perform the update, rebooot and all done.

    • I have 3 asrock based computers...two of them 970 extreme 3 mobos running Linux Mint debian. Bios upgrade from the bios menu is easy and quick.

  • They are not related. ASRock may have originated from Asus, but that was over a decade ago. They have long since been their own distinct, separate brand.

  • Difficult to flash the BIOS is a horror story? How did Soulskill let this through with editing, or was this some sort of deliberate troll headline to generate hits?
  • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @02:40AM (#47804721) Homepage

    Asked here about a year an a half ago:
    Ask Slashdot: Linux-Friendly Motherboard Manufacturers? []

  • I realize that people who treat open source as a religion with MS or Apple standing in for the devil will balk at the idea of running Linux under a more user friendly, more compatible, easier to maintain OS, but it actually works quite well for most applications.

    It's not perfect. GPU performance takes a huge hit, so you'll probably want to shy away with it for hardcore GPU accelerated tasks, but the overhead in terms of CPU performance is negligible so long as you have the cores and the RAM.

    And many distro

  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

    Slashdot has been epically, if possibly inadvertently, trolled.

    Google hardware for linux and you will find the Ubuntu hsl in moments. Bam, done.

    Or, just pick any random board and install. You've got to be looking for incompatibility, outside a small minority of parts.

    • Pick up random relatively recent motherboard. Plug random pin compatible CPU in. Plug in random crap ram that fits. Wow it works with Linux. I haven't had a machine in YEARS that had incompatibility with a modern distro. I've had to screw around with a FreeNAS machine to get a crap highpoint controller card working but that is about it.

      • by jbolden ( 176878 )

        Heck I have a machine that has all sorts of problems with Linux for 2 years running now and it is a fairly common configuration. I have the rMBP doesn't work. Linux doesn't handle asymmetrical graphics processors. It doesn't handle rescaling required for retina to work right. It doesn't handle the system's wifi or bluetooth.

        Linux desktop support is getting worse not better since the commercial desktop Linuxes: Mandrake, Xandros... died.

    • Ubuntu hsl gave me nothing.
      You meant that: []

  • The first "horror story" is specifically regarding flashing BIOS from Linux via USB. I don't understand how this is related to modern motherboards - in fact, I see it as an issue that is disappearing. This is a situation I have had on OLDER, pre-UEFI motherboards - the requirement to run an EXE from an installed version of Windows, rather than from a boot floppy that didn't care what OS was installed. Many (including my Asrock) modern mobos can update right from the UEFI system without even spinning up the

  • I would generally go for Intel boards as Intel stuff is generally well supported by Linux...
    Otherwise i would go for higher end boards aimed at servers or highend workstations - while manufacturers of cheap desktops generally ignore Linux, manufacturers of servers definitely can't and will ensure their boards contain appropriate components.

    • those other brands mentioned in this nonsensical article summary also run Linux just fine. Pro-tip: go into the BIOS and set the damn thing up for Linux ( ditto for BSD)

  • They want their post back.

    Seriously Linux motherboard compatibility nowadays is a good if not better(more legacy support) than the latest Microsoft OS.

  • Ever. I've used motherboards from Dell, HP, Intel, Gigabyte (which had issues with windows interestingly, piece of shit and I'll never buy again), and Asus.

  • by r1348 ( 2567295 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @06:13AM (#47805281)

    My main PC has an ASRock H77 Pro/MVP and I have zero problems with Fedora, all hardware recognized, UEFI works fine, CSM was disabled by default and I never bothered to turn it on, but most distros should work fine with it now.

  • There's plenty of blame to go around on both sides here.

    The motherboard manufacturers – pretty much all of them – are to blame for developing and shipping really crappy firmware. (Unfortunately, this is pretty much par for the course – 95% of all firmware is crap, no matter what it's for. Modern hardware companies, with a few obvious exceptions like Apple, just don't do software very well at all.)

    The Linux kernel devs are to blame for being stubborn about "standards-compliance" versus the

  • Rather than building one from scratch, you could buy a box that's certified to run Linux. Unlike the old days, I find that nowadays you really can't build a box any cheaper than you can buy one from companies like Lenovo or HP, and Lenovo has several boxen that are "Linux ready."

    Personally I think my box-building days are over. I no longer play video games, so all I'm really interested in is a fast CPU and a PCI16 slot for my "silent" (no fans) video card, and audio and networking that are supported by

  • by Dan Askme ( 2895283 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @07:56AM (#47805583) Homepage

    My question: if MSI, Gigabyte, Asus (and by extension Asrock) are out, who's left and are they any good?

    Are you kidding me?
    If its a simple case of you being too lazy to disable UEFI in the bios, dont buy a motherboard with it.

    All the manufactures you listed have boards without UEFI, find them before you buy without knowledge.

  • I run Linux (Fedora 20) on MSI motherboards almost exclusively. No problems. I just replaced an old MSI mobo with an nVidia/AMD based one, and the only thing I had to change was the MAC address in the network configuration, Linux came up perfectly.

  • - Go with a reputable motherboard vendor that will be there for the long haul (Asus, Gigabyte, or Intel)
    - Get a workstation class board marketed specifically for workstations and durability, focus on the lifetime rating for capacitors/electronics and overall heat/thermal management. Ensure the system has nice diagnostics to help troubleshoot when critical components fail. These boards are generally $300-500.
    - Wait for the motherboard to go through a few bios revisions and for the particular model to be added to one of the major distribution hardware compatibility lists (Redhat or Ubuntu).
    - Check the motherboard manual to see if there are any limitations on ECC memory, frequently ECC memory is only supported at lower speeds and reduced sizes - generally go with boards with more comprehensive ECC memory support.
    - When you have the option, choose motherboards with Intel parts for networking/etc and avoid Marvell and other parts from no-name or niche vendors (unless those vendors have a good record of supporting Linux with up-to-date patches to mainline kernel).
    - If you want something commercially off-the-shell already fully built supported long term, you need to buy a workstation system marketed as Linux compatibile from a major vendor (Specific Dell Precision Workstation Models, HP) but the price markups on these will exceed most budgets.

  • You read "a couple" stories of problems. As in TWO, out of millions. Most motherboards will be fine.
    To be sure, a gaming board and a server board have similar requirements- plenty of memory slots, etc. Supermicro makes boards designed for Linux servers, which are frequently used for high-priority workloads.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik