I am typing this blog post on Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic Beaver) on my new laptop, the XPS 15!

Prep

To prepare to install Ubuntu, I first created a Windows recovery USB. This requires a USB with at least 8GB of storage. To create the USB, search for “Create a recovery drive” in the start panel search bar on Windows. This should bring you to a Control Panel section that walks you through creating the recovery USB drive. Be warned that this may take a long time (40+ minutes for me).

Then, I downloaded the Ubuntu 18.04 ISO and on another USB (that has at least 2GB of storage), I created a bootable USB with the ISO using Rufus. The instructions are pretty straightforward.

Enabling AHCI Mode

I switched from RAID to AHCI mode, since this is what lots of Reddit posts recommended. This requires turning on safe boot mode.

  1. Run Command Prompt as an administrator.
  2. Enable safe mode with: bcdedit /set {current} safeboot minimal.
  3. Restart the computer.
  4. When the Dell logo pops up on the screen, hit the F12 key to enter the BIOS.
  5. Select BIOS Setup, then System Configuration, then SATA Operation.
  6. Under SATA Operation, select AHCI.
  7. Select Apply, and then, select Exit.
  8. The computer will then boot into safe mode. Log in and run Command Prompt as an administrator.
  9. Disable safe mode with bcdedit /deletevalue {current} safeboot.
  10. Restart again. This should lead you back to Windows.

Reference for enabling safe mode: this StackOverflow question

Partitioning the Hard Drive

I shrank my Windows partition using Windows Disk Management (search for “disk management” in the Start panel search bar). Within Windows Disk Management, choose the Windows partition. For me, the Windows partition was the C drive with 400+ GB allocated to it. Right click on this partition and select “Shrink volume”. I shrank mine by 225 GB. After shrinking the volume, you’ll see the unallocated space in the diagram.

Installing Ubuntu

Insert the Ubuntu bootable USB into the computer. Restart the laptop, and enter into the BIOS again by pressing F12 when the Dell logo pops up. Select the “Boot with UEFI” (exact wording might be different) option. Then, you’ll get a screen with a couple of options for Ubuntu – chose the “Try Ubuntu without installing” option. This leads to a guest session of Ubuntu on the bootable USB that was created earlier. To install Ubuntu, launch on the Ubuntu installer from the desktop. Choose to install Ubuntu alongside Windows.

Using the nomodeset boot parameter

The first few times that I tried the live USB, the loading screen would freeze, there was some lag when shutting down, etc. This was resolved by adding nomodeset as a boot parameter. I followed the instructions here.

Then, that’s it for getting Ubuntu installed!

Battery Life Improvements

I found that installing TLP, which handles power management for Linux, and PowerTop, a tool for seeing power usage details, was extremely helpful. In particular, I used these instructions, and the relevant terminal commands are outlined below.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw powertop
sudo tlp start
sudo powertop --auto-tune

Configuring Nvidia GPU

I was able to install the Nvidia drivers with the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-384

However, I had trouble with nvidia-prime, which is what most people use for switching between the Intel and Nvidia graphics cards. According to the internet, there have been issues with nvidia-prime on Gnome. In addition, power consumption was heavy, and there was some freezing after installing the Nvidia drivers. I ended up purging all of the Nvidia drivers because I couldn’t really get this part working well.

I’m going to wait for more people to move to 18.04 and see what they do.

Brief First Impressions