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  • How to install the Ubuntu 12.04 ‘Sputnik’ image on your Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

    Posted on December 3rd, 2012 webmaster 17 comments         


    I got my new Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook a couple of weeks ago with the Windows 8 OS pre-installed.  One of the main reasons I got this laptop was because of Project Sputnik, Dell’s attempt to build an Ubuntu-based developer laptop by working with Canonical.

    I was waiting for Project Sputnik to finish before putting Ubuntu on it.  About 3 days ago Dell finally announced that the developer edition of the XPS 13 was ready.  As soon as I found out I went ahead and replaced my Windows 8 install with Ubuntu.

    Here are the steps I took to install Ubuntu 12.04 on the Dell XPS 13 L322X (this is the model with the 3rd generation Intel CPU ‘Ivy Bridge’):

    1.  Download the Ubuntu 12.04 Sputnik ISO.

    2.  Download and install the free Linux Live USB Creator software for Windows.

    3.  Insert a USB flash drive with at least 2GB of space on your computer, you will format this drive later so make sure you back up all important files it contains.

    4.  Open the Linux Live USB Creator software, select the USB drive, select the Sputnik ISO file, check the ‘Format the key…’ option, then click the lightning icon to start creating a bootable USB flash drive with the Ubuntu 12.04 files.

    5.  Insert the now bootable USB flash drive to your XPS 13 laptop.

    6.  Reboot your XPS 13, press F2 to take you to the BIOS setup.  In the BIOS, go to Boot and make sure Load Legacy Option Rom is set to Enabled.  Also set the Boot List Option to Legacy.  Save the settings and exit the BIOS.

    7.  When the computer restarts it should now boot to Ubuntu.  On the desktop you’ll see an icon that says ‘Install Ubuntu.’  Double click that icon and installation will now start.

    8.  You’ll be prompted an option to select a partition to install the OS in or erase the contents of the drive completely.  If you’re not sure whether you’ll be using Ubuntu exclusively, choose the second option and make sure not to delete the Recovery Partition.

    If you’re like me and have no desire to go back to Windows, you can select to re-format the entire drive.  This will give you more available space for your files as well as it will delete the Recovery Partition that Dell created.

    9.  Wait for the installation process to complete and answer any questions when prompted (such as username, computer, timezone, etc.).


    I ran into one issue after I installed the OS: the BIOS couldn’t find the bootable partition on the hard drive.  It was giving the message No Operation System Found (yes, it actually said ‘operation’ and not ‘operating’).

    For the OS to boot I had to have the bootable USB flash drive inserted.  To fix the boot issue, I just simply ran the Boot Repair Tool while in Ubuntu, rebooted, and it finally booted up with GRUB.

    To install the Boot Repair app:

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair && sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install -y boot-repair && boot-repair

    When the Boot Repair app’s GUI loaded, I selected the first option (Recommended Repair) and that fixed the boot problem for me.

    Post Install:

    To make sure you have the latest drivers and fixes, add the Sputnik Kernel PPA to your system:

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:canonical-hwe-team/sputnik-kernel
    sudo apt-get update

    So far I’m very happy with the switch.  All the drivers seem to be working fine and I actually found the new Ubuntu GUI to be more user-friendly than Windows 8’s.


    17 responses to “How to install the Ubuntu 12.04 ‘Sputnik’ image on your Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook” RSS icon

    • Calazan, it’s good to have Ubuntu OS supported by manufacturer, but what Sputnik provides you besides all drivers working out of the box (which is a significant thing when buying a 1.5k machine)?

      • Hey Jovan!

        Nothing really. The Sputnik image just has the Dell drivers already included. You can just install the regular Ubuntu image and install the Dell drivers separately from their PPA and it’s pretty much the same thing.

        • Sorry about the noob question, but how can i do that? It’s from the sputnik ppa? I already done that without success. I was runnig the 12.04.2 LTS version, and i got the trackpad and brightness issues… thanks in advance. Regards

          • Hey Pedro,

            The latest kernel from the ppa fixed the brightness issue for me. To get the updates simply add the repo with this command:

            sudo add-apt-repository ppa:canonical-hwe-team/sputnik-kernel

            Then you can use the Update Manager to download and install the updates.

            The kernel version I have now is 3.2.0-45-generic #70+kamal16~DellXPS-Ubuntu (you can get yours by typing ‘uname -a’ in command line).

            • Thank you so much for your help! I will do this… If i have any issue i will let you know. My best regards. Pedro

    • This worked, & easily. Very nice

    • works as advertised!

    • This worked, EXCEPT, when I go to “apt-get upgrade” and reboot, I get a completely hosed system — flashing screen, sound card fails etc. it seems that my xconfig or something has been hosed, but I can’t tell. All I did wasy install from Sputnik iso, add PPAs, “apt-get update” & “apt-get upgrade”, Same thing in 12.04, 12.10, 13.04 ubuntu and mint. Anyone else with this problem? I have exactly this setup (XPS 13 L322X), not trying to dual boot…

      Thx, M

    • As a follow up, I can get back in through rescue and boot normally, but keyboard/sound is messed up — control characters etc all over the place, cant type etc.

    • No, I didn’t try upgrading the bios. Pointers please?

      • Latest BIOS is A07, released this February:

        Might be worth a try.

        Here’s the guide for updating the Dell BIOS on Ubuntu if you don’t want to install Windows again just to do the update (haven’t tried this yet though):

        • Thank you very much. I’m on AO6 right now. After a bit of reflection, I think the problem is overheating. The problem I thought was with update/upgrade really only happens after its been on for a while — it doesn’t matter which system is on there — they all are fine at first.

          The computer is refurbished, maybe the fan is sub par or there is a funky heat sink ? In any case, I’m pretty sure thats the problem.

          Do you think I could under clock it through the bios, or that a bios upgrade would help?

          Thanks again very much for the great info here.


          • Hey Matt, you’re very welcome. I’m not sure if the BIOS update would help, but I think it’s definitely worth a shot. The release note does say ‘improves compatibility and system stability.’

    • Linux mint 14 works out of the box for me, very smooth and fast :)

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