Buying a laptop (notebook?) without an OS.

(What’s the difference between a laptop and a notebook?)

OK, my old laptop (the one with a first-generation Pentium that shipped with Windows 95, and I installed RH 7.2 on) has died. It’s been dead a while now, but I think I’ll be able to justify buying myself a new one for Christmas (or thereabouts). I do not want to pay the `Microsoft Tax’ on any new hardware I buy, which is why I intend to build my next desktop machine out of (mostly-new) components.

I’ve learned that building a laptop is mostly a fool’s errand. Trying to fit together (or even find) all of those proprietary parts is beyond the grasp of anyone who can’t buy from the factories directly. (I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.) So my quest becomes, who’s selling prebuilt laptops that aren’t encumbered with an OS?

(Am I willing to buy a laptop with Linux or a BSD on it? Yeah, sure. I might install over it just the same, but at least I won’t be enriching Microsoft’s coffers.)

Check, you’ll be able to find one there.

  • Decide which model you want regardless of OS.
  • Offer to buy it with no OS and discounting the OS from the price ($100?)
  • I am pretty sure you’ll get that deal. I know it is routinely done.

sailor: I’ve heard horror stories about places like Dell that will not sell a computer without an OS, let alone discount the price of the OS from the sale. I think it’s a deal they’ve made with Microsoft that says if they want to sell Windows machines at all, every machine they sell must have Windows on it as it leaves the door.

Also I’m sure they charge you more for windows than they are required to pay. Like I said check Also I know SCO brought a law suit against HP and IBM for selling machines with linux on them. The law suit is very amusing and rediculous but not really important, basically SCO claims to own part of the linux source code and they are suing for copy right infringement. Anyway, the only relevant thing there is obviously HP and IBM sell machines with linux on them, maybe they sell laptops that way, you might want to check their website and see if you can find out there.

      • There was a continuing story on Slashdot about this subject; a guy who bought (I think) a new Toshiba laptop and over several months of hassling, finally was allowed to send the unopened OS disk back and get a refund of $65 or something like that…
  • The thing now is, many computers have no WinXP disk at all, it comes already on the HD–and some recovery CD’s aren’t really full-install disks at all but just the model-specific initial runtime files with a small program to copy them onto the HD, , , , -so you’d have a harder time “proving” you never used it.

I just looked at Pricewatch, and like it or not, you can beat those prices by purchasing a Windows laptop at one of the big three (Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA), figuring in the mail-in rebates.

USED laptops sell quite well on Ebay, it may be worth it to buy one with Windows and when you are done with it, quickly reload it with the recovery CD’s and sell it.

Try or they have laptop deals posted when there are some. Like HP or Compaq 1.8ghz for about $610 after rebates.

I never heard of Dell selling a laptop with no OS though. They use a bios lock activation for the OS on the computer I have, so they don’t save much not including the OS.

The real “fools errand” is insisting on a non-OS-bundled deal. You will likely get better deal on a new unit with a pre-loaded OS that’s being offered with multiple rebates because the competition is so keen in those categories. Circuit City has a 10% coupon that comes out before Christmas. Slap this on a new, on sale Toshiba or Compaq around 1100-1000 that's around 750. after rebates & discounts. This allows you to buy a powerful new unit with full warranty for less than $ 675. before tax. This is an unbeatable deal on a new unit with full warranty.

It’s a good enough deal I can routinely make $ 100+ by flipping these units on Ebay.

Astro, I totally agree that from a purely practical point of view you are better off just paying for the OS even if you don’t need it but it seems the OP is making it matter of principle. I definitely agree that the price of the OS is minimal and you would be restricting yourself unnecesarily. Cutting your nose to spite your face and all that.

It’s a matter of principle in two ways: I’m not going to pay for Microsoft’s anticompetitive practices, and I’m not going to throw up my hands and admit that I cannot install any OS on any PC, any time.

Anyway, thanks for I think I’ll go that way.

handy: What is BIOS lock activation? Is it something a Linux or BSD user should be wary of? (Almost anything created by Microsoft is something a Linux user should be wary of.)

BTW, are there any laptop makers I should be wary of? Is there any Consumer Reports article on the subject, or some such thing?

And, finally, what’s the difference between a notebook and a laptop?

Since it involved marketing originally, the former distinction between “laptop” and “notebook” was quite unofficial. A laptop was bigger than a notebook. But in recent years, laptop makers have stopped using the term entirely. People have been burned from the heat generated by modern portables when resting them on their lap. (Even my P266 is too hot to rest on my Levi’s covered legs.) So now they are all called notebooks, with secondary terms like “desktop replacement” and such to indicate what level of (non)compactness they are at.

As for reviews, Consumer Reports is too slow and out of it to be useful on most computer gear. PCMagazine types pubs are too beholden to advertisers (and MS) to tell Bad Things about most products reviewed. Online pro-Linux/OSS forums are your best bet.

As for BIOS/OS lock, the only thing I have seen are checks with the install CDs that your are installing their software on their machines. I.e., you can’t install an HP-supplied OS on a Dell. Is this what people are asking about?

And yes, MS does require that any PC maker licensed to sell their OSes pays a fee for each PC shipped, even if it doesn’t have MS software on it. That really hurts the non-MS OSes bigtime (and killed OS/2). But you can get Linux servers and such from major makers, just be aware that you are still helping Bill Gates get richer.

“What is BIOS lock activation?”

As far as I know XP looks to the bios for the activation, not the MS web site. This may or may not effect loading other operating systems.

Interesting; some of the generic laptop sellers here in the UK offer the OS as an option (one such is Novatech and their prices are quite competitive - the machines they offer are nothing ‘special’ though (by which I mean they are just a machine with a given spec, they don’t have any proprietary features like you might find on a Sony machine).

I looked at Dell Financial Services for a used laptop and found most of those do NOT have an OS installed.

It’s an option if you don’t mind refurbished.

i bought a refurbished dell off of ebay. it was advertised as having no os but it showed up with windows 2k installed and the original windows 2k cd. don’t know if that’s typical. for what it’s worth i recommend dell refurbished laptops. i’m loving mine.

[minor highjack] If one buys the software necessary to transfer files from one computer to another, can one also transfer the OS?[/minor highjack]