This page details the hardware required to run Ubuntu and its derivative versions.
Most people will want to install a desktop system such as Ubuntu, Kubuntu, or Xubuntu. A desktop system is typically used for personal computing tasks and has a graphical user interface (GUI), while a server system typically has a command-line interface (CLI).
Recommended Minimum System Requirements
The Recommended Minimum System Requirements, here, should allow even someone fairly new to installing Ubuntu or Gnu&Linux to easily install a usable system with enough room to be comfortable. A good "rule of thumb" is that machines that could run XP, Vista, Windows 7 or x86 OS X will almost always be a lot faster with Ubuntu even if they are lower-spec than described below. Simply try Ubuntu CD as a LiveCD first to check the hardware works.
Ubuntu Desktop Edition
- 2 GHz dual core processor
- 2 GiB RAM (system memory)
- 25 GB of hard-drive space (or USB stick, memory card or external drive but see LiveCD for an alternative approach)
- VGA capable of 1024x768 screen resolution
- Either a CD/DVD drive or a USB port for the installer media
Internet access is helpful
Screen resolution will be set at the highest your graphics card can handle but when you boot-up you should be given a "Low graphics mode" option which allows you to set it to something better for your monitor.
On one hand, hardware produced in the last few years or with an efficient architecture or machines built for a specific purpose can often work well with less. For example, a netbook with an 8 GB SSD will work well although there wont be much room for saving stuff directly onto the drive so cloud storage services could help a lot. A machine with a crumbling, 15 year-old, slow, 8 GB, IDE hard-drive probably won't work and doesn't really compare with the netbook anyway. It might be worth trying Ubuntu but really start looking at other distros. On the other hand, some GNU/Linux distributions may require more powerful hardware as minimum system requirements, like the Ubuntu GNOME case.
All 64-bit (x86-64) CPUs should be fast enough to run Ubuntu and can run the 32-bit (x86) version as well. For an optimized installation (and especially for those wishing to run more than ~3 GiB of RAM) however, a 64-bit installation CD is available. The 32-bit version tends to be easier to use and runs into less problems. 32-bit ISO images are no longer being produced (as of 17.10).
Ubuntu Desktop 11.04 through 17.04 uses Unity as the default GUI while the previous releases used GNOME Panel by default. From 17.10 onwards the desktop uses GNOME Shell. In order to run these environments the system needs a more capable graphics adapter – see more here or below:
- 4096 MiB RAM (system memory) for physical installs.
- 2048 MiB RAM (system memory) for virtualised installs.
- 3D Acceleration Capable Videocard with at least 256 MB
Machines that are 10 or more years old (originally preloaded with "Windows ME" or "Windows 2000") that don't meet these guideline will probably require some work to revive (the RAM usually needs to be upgraded to the level described above). You could try a lighter-weight distro or a minimal install of Ubuntu.
The easiest and most effective step towards a minimal install of Ubuntu is to install a lighter-weight Desktop Environment such as Xfce (see Xubuntu below), LxDE (see Lubuntu (officially supported from 11.10 onward)) or Enlightenment to name just a few of the most popular. Some of the larger applications, such as LibreOffice, could be swapped for very much lighter equivalents but for more information about doing a minimal install please see the guides at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation#Minimal%20installations.
Visual effects provide various optional special graphical effects for your desktop to make it look and feel more fun and easier to use. Even if your computer is powerful enough to run visual effects, you can turn them off and will still have a usable Ubuntu desktop system.
Visual effects are turned on by default if you have a GPU (graphics card or integrated chipset) which is supported. Supported GPU manufacturers:
ATI (some may require the proprietary fglrx driver)
Intel (i915 or better, except GMA 500, aka "Poulsbo")
NVidia (with their proprietary driver)
For more information on supported graphics cards, see DesktopEffects.
Ubuntu Server (CLI) Installation
- 300 MHz x86 processor
- 256 MiB of system memory (RAM)
- 1.5 GB of disk space
- Graphics card and monitor capable of 640x480
See also Ubuntu Server Guide.
Lightweight GUI alternative (Xubuntu and Lubuntu)
If you have an old or low-spec computer or want to get the most out of your hardware, using a medium-lightweight desktop system such as Xubuntu or a lightweight such as Lubuntu is recommended, as they make more efficient use of your system's resources. Of course, even if you have the newest equipment out, you could still use these two.
If your system has less than 192 MiB of system memory, use the Alternate Installation CD.
Note: If you have a low-specification computer, certain features may be automatically turned off to conserve system resources. For example, if you have a graphics card with only a small amount of video memory (VRAM), the boot-up screen may not be shown.
Follow this link for detailed instructions: Installation/LowMemorySystems.
Minimum system requirements for Xubuntu would fall roughly between Ubuntu Server and Desktop:
- 512 MiB of system memory (RAM)
- 5 GB of disk space
- Graphics card and monitor capable of 800x600 resolution
With Lubuntu, you can use computers with even less memory.
Regarding processors, a recent thread on the Ubuntu Forums describes a 500 MHz Xubuntu machine as being "too slow" and discusses alternatives: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1267443
Ubuntu Netbook Edition
since the release of ubuntu natty (11.04) the netbook version has been unified and is now part of the ubuntu-desktop edition, this has been done via the unity desktop software.
you may now use the standard ubuntu desktop CD image to install on net-books with specifications such as:
- Intel Atom processor @ 1.6 GHz
- 386 MiB of system memory (RAM)
- 4 GB of disk space
- Screen of 1024x600 resolution
- Graphics chipset with support for visual effects
LTSP thin-client computers
If you are intending to use a computer as a thin client (such as a client for an Edubuntu LTSP Terminal Server), only a low-specification computer capable of displaying graphics and connecting to a network is required.
Follow this link for more information: HowToCookEdubuntu/Chapters/HardwareRequirements.