So you want to run Ubuntu Linux on an Intel Compute Stick, but don’t want to buy the model that comes with Ubuntu pre-loaded… because it also has half the RAM and one fourth as much storage as the Windows model?

As I noted when reviewing the Intel Compute Stick with Windows, you can load Ubuntu yourself. But WiFi doesn’t work out of the box, which severely limits the utility of this tiny computer.

stick ubuntu_01

There’s a rather complicated method for compiling your own working build of Ubuntu for the Compute Stick… or you can just download Ian Morrison’s pre-compiled build.

Update: Want a (somewhat) easier method for installing a version of Ubuntu that’s inspired by the software that comes with the Ubuntu version of the Compute Stick? We’ve got you covered.

Just follow our new step-by-step tutorial to get Ubuntu 14.04.2 LTS 64-bit with working WiFi, Bluetooth, and audio up and running.

But you might still want to follow the steps below instead, even though they’re a little more complicated?

Why’s that? Because the method detailed in this post lets you install Ubuntu 64-bit software, while using a 32-bit bootloader. That makes it possible to dual boot Ubuntu and Windows. Just select the OS you want to run when the PC boots.

The other method will only let you run either Ubuntu or Windows. Any time you want to switch, you’ll have to make some changes to the bootloader.

Original article continues below

Morrison’s been trying to get Ubuntu up and running on the Compute Stick and other tiny computers with Intel Atom processors for a while, and he’s been using me as a guinea pig trying to find a way to get Ubuntu to load as quickly and easily as possible.

His latest build is based on a 64-bit version of Ubuntu 14.10 and includes working WiFi, Bluetooth, graphics, and audio… sort of.

The only problem with this build is that audio playback is choppy when booting from a 64-bit bootloader. Not just a little choppy. Disturbingly choppy. So much so that you probably won’t actually want to listen to any music or watch any videos.

Update: Morrison has updated his 64-bit Ubuntu 14.10 image, and he also offers a 64-bit Ubuntu 14.04 LTS image. Both versions now support audio as well as WiFi and Bluetooth. But if you want to dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu rather than just running Ubuntu, you may still want to follow the steps below to install Ubuntu and then replace the bootloader with a 32-bit version.

You can find more details at Morrison’s Linuxium website, and I’ve tried to document the steps I took to create a fully-functional Compute Stick setup that can dual boot Windows 8.1 and Ubuntu 14.10 below.

Note: Getting Ubuntu to run from a Flash drive is pretty easy. Installing it to a microSD card takes a little more patience. Applying all the patches can be a time-consuming process. It took me many hours to get everything to work properly. The instructions listed below explain what worked for me… but they may not be foolproof or work for everybody. You’ve been warned. 

This version of Ubuntu should also work with most tablets, TV sticks, and other computers featuring Intel Atom Bay Trail processors, although the UEFI/BIOS options may differ on some models. Keep in mind that this guide was written specifically for the 2GB/32GB Intel Compute Stick that comes with Windows software, and there’s no guarantee that following these steps will work on other systems. 

Boot from an Ubuntu liveUSB

1. Download the ISO image for the latest Linuxium version of Ubuntu 14.10 for the Compute Stick.

2. If you’re using Linux, use “dd” to transfer the disc image to a bootable USB flash drive. If you’re using Windows, you can use the Rufus bootable USB drive utility to perform this step.

3. Connect a USB hub to the USB 2.0 port on the Compute Stick, and connect a mouse, keyboard, and the flash drive you prepared in step 2.

stick ubuntu_03

4. Turn on the Compute Stick and press F2 right away to get into the UEFI Setup menu.

5. Change the “Select Operating System” option from Windows to Ubuntu.

stick ubuntu_05

6. Save your changes and exit.

7. While your Compute Stick reboots, press F10 to get to the boot options menu.

8. Select the USB flash drive.

stick ubuntu_04

9. A moment later GRUB will launch, asking if you want to try Ubuntu without installing or install it. I’d recommend trying it first.

10. Wait a few minutes and you should be greeted with the Ubuntu Unity desktop.

stick ubuntu_06

From there you can choose try out the operating system or choose to install Ubuntu on your Compute Stick with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

Install Ubuntu to a microSD card

Here are the steps to install Ubuntu on a microSD card and then use a 32-bit bootloader to enable audio. Note that these steps can be a bit finnicky: my Compute Stick froze several times before the process was complete and I had to reboot and start over.

I should also point out that neither Ian Morrison, nor I are responsible if you make a mess of things by following these instructions. You will alter the Compute Stick’s bootloader and you may end up erasing Windows altogether if you make a mistake.

1. Do everything listed above in the “boot from a liveUSB section,” but this time when you insert the USB flash drive to boot Ubuntu, make sure an 8GB or larger microSD card is also inserted in the Compute Stick.

2. Once Ubuntu is up and running, double-click the “Install Ubuntu” icon on the desktop.

3. Follow the on-screen instructions, but when asked how you want to install, choose “Something else” for installation type and scroll down until you find the “/dev/mmcblk1” option — this should be your microSD card.

stick ubuntu_07

4. Choose “New Partition Table” for mmcblk1 and the hit the + icon to create a new partition using Ext4 journaling file system and / as the mount point.

stick ubuntu_09

5. Once you’ve finished selecting your install point, the Ubuntu installer will ask you for your time zone, keyboard layout, and a username and password. Then just sit back and wait for the installer to finish.

6. When it’s done, reboot your device and remove the USB flash drive.

7. You should automatically see the GRUB bootloader and an option to launch Ubuntu. If you do not, you can hit the F10 key at boot to bring up the boot menu and make sure you’re booting from the microSD card.

Once Ubuntu loads, you’ll want to install the 32-bit bootloader so you can get audio to work properly if you want to create a dual-boot setup that can load Windows or Ubuntu at boot.

If you’re happy just running Ubuntu, you’re all done. But if you want to dual-boot, read on.

Installing a 32-bit bootloader (for dual-boot)

Note: If you installed Ubuntu without first connecting to the interent, you may need to perform this step before entering the next command: Open a terminal window and type the following (without quotes): “sudo apt-get update,” and then enter your password and wait for the text to finish flying by.

1. Type the following command “sudo apt-get -y install grub-efi-ia32 grub-efi-ia32-bin”

This should replace your 64-bit bootloader with a 32-bit version.

efi32

2. Reboot your computer again, and this time hit F2 to return to the BIOS/UEFI settings menu. Change the operating system from Ubuntu 14.04 to Windows 8.1. Save and exit.

Yes, I know — you’re telling it to boot Windows in order to load Ubuntu. Bur really what you’re telling the Compute Stick to do is to use the 32-bit bootloader.

3. Hit F10 to bring up the UEFI bootloader. You should now only have one option, marked “ubuntu.” Choose it.

f10 boot

Theoretically you could skip this step and let the PC load the GRUB bootloader manually. But for some reason this doesn’t always seem to work for me.

I can choose the Windows option from GRUB with no problem, but Ubuntu always hangs. So I’d recommend always hitting F10 and choosing ubuntu at this point. 

32 bootloader

4. When that’s done, reboot your system and you should be able to load either Window or Ubuntu… and when you’re running Ubuntu, the audio should work properly.

Note that you may still need to hit F10 and choose Ubuntu every time you boot the Compute Stick. But once you do that, everything should work pretty much perfectly, including WiFi, Bluetooth, and audio.

Notes

If you install Ubuntu to a microSD card, you will still need to install the bootloader to the Compute Stick’s built-in storage. That means from now on, Ubuntu will load by default if you don’t touch anything when you turn on your computer. But you can choose Windows from the GRUB menu.

Want to remove Ubuntu and go back to using Windows only? Boot into Ubuntu, open a terminal, and type “efibootmgr” to see the list of boot entries. Then type “sudo efibootmgr -b [the number of the entry you want to remove] -B” to remove.

efibootmgr

For example, if you see Boot0000 Windows Boot Manager and Boot0001 ubuntu, you would type “sudo efibootmgr -b 1 -B” to remove Ubuntu.

After that’s done, you should be able to remove the microSD card and go back to using the Compute Stick as a Windows-only device.

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25 replies on “Simplest way to load Ubuntu on Intel Compute Stick with Windows (so far)”

  1. I bought this piece almost two years ago and I only ran it for a short time … but now I tried to play it and it will restart every time!
    I could not log on to Ubuntu !!! When I switch it to Windows 8 to restart it, I get a message not to detect a device before boot.
    I hope to solve the problem

  2. I know this is an old post, but I’m trying to install ubuntu on the Intel Compute Stick, but I have no ‘Ubuntu’ option in the ‘Select Operating System’-list. Only options I have are ‘Windows 32-bit, Windows 64-bit and Android.

    I have tried installing ubuntu by trying every option in the list, but with no succes. When I select an option from the grub menu, I first get a boot screen with the ubuntu logo, but a few seconds later, the compute stick just powers off.

    Any idea what to do?

    Thanks in advance

  3. Hi Guy,
    I am wondering if anyone got linuxiam’s linuxium-32bit-patch.sh script. I will be very grateful if you please share it.

    Thanks

  4. I had flashed Ubuntu 17.04 on my intel computer stick. Working great. However I have struck a problem. It stopped working. Log says CMOS Battery error.. Never knew it had battery.
    Has any one changed battery? Is it simple or shall I get the expert to do it. I don”t want to risk stuffing it up. Has anyone had this problem?

  5. I got both the Ubuntu 14.03 and 14.10 on usb sticks working perfectly, now I want to get Chromixium 1.5 64 bit working, I managed to get it to boot, but 2 problems, lag in text typing and rendering, and I cannot boot from it directly.
    I had to upgrade the Kernel as 3.13 cannot boot, only 3.16 or above.
    I like Chromixium because it is an improved Google OS hybrid with Ubuntu.

  6. I followed the description step by step. The installation went well, but at the end It was necessary to edit the EFI. Additionally the device froze every now and then. The Solution I found was to install 14.04.3.

  7. Adapting these instructions allowed me to install the Linixium Ubuntu 14.10 to Hannspree Quanta, an Intel stick clone. Everything works.

  8. Hi, I have followed all the steps for dual booting and system runs very unstable, this means that grub some times do not allow to boot windows. Now can more stable if one install the /boot partition into the eMMC memory by creating small partition and then the / partition into a SD card. MAny thanks in advance

  9. I don’t have Intel stick, but MeegoPad T02. I followed your instructions for sd card installation, but I am stucked with a bootloader stuff. To my understanding my problem is that I can’t boot ubuntu from sd directly because I can’t switch to 64bit bootloader in BIOS (no option) to install 32bit grub. Right now, if I load liveusb and check efimanager -v I see besides windows two (secure and normal) ubuntu 64bit efi entries. I guess these should be 32bit. Question is, how do I install 32bit grub from liveusb? …as I can’t boot into sdcard installation as you can on intel stick with 64bit bootloader option in bios.

  10. Question here. I’ve done this a couple of times and I have two problems. First of all I installed to the sd card once and once dual boot on the internal memory with the same results.
    #1 it wipes out my windows boot so I have to recover the windows boot, then when I recover the windows portion I can’t boot to the ubuntu anymore.
    #2 The wifi is painfully slow. I’ve tried it with a USB wifi adapter and it flies, but the moment I go through the internal on the 14.10 build it just goes to a snails. I think I can count the bits it is loading.

    Any thoughts on either of these?

    1. Nope.

      1. That’s the expected behavior unless you use the 32-bit bootloader option so that both Windows and Ubuntu are using a 32-bit bootloader and you can use GRUB to choose the OS at boot.

      2. Was the WiFi fast when using Windows? Because mine was awful. I’m pretty sure it’s the built-in wireless radio and/or antenna that’s the problem, not Ubuntu.

    2. I thought the point of this method was to get the 32 UEFI to work. Ok. I have a second method I’ll try and report back.
      The wifi is fine in Windows mode and even at first boot the wifi is fast but then slowly goes to snails pace. It’s like it fills up a buffer and slows it down. We are talking 32 bytes/sec.

  11. Well, my GooBang Doo Beeline Pocket P2 is in a real mess. I finally got Debian to launch from a USB drive. I wiped Windows because I didn’t really care. I installed Debian, only to find out that the current version has no wifi driver. I’ve downloaded multiple Ubuntu ISOs and set them up. The device sees them but absolutely refuses to boot from any of them. It uses an American Megatrends BIOS so none of the F keys are the same. I can’t find any manuals on line and their “customer support” is brain dead. Any help appreciated.

  12. I have just kick Windows away from my Computer; they are too money crazy.

  13. Wow, we’re relying on pre-made images? I thought going Intel with these PC sticks instead of ARM was going to make setting up Linux easy. Guess not.

    1. My guess is that even though they’re Intel based, the drivers may or may not be included with the install ISO… Just a guess, because I’ve tried to install Funtoo Linux (a spinoff of Gentoo Linux) and no matter what I did I couldn’t get XOrg working right, and this prebuilt Ubuntu (of which I later converted to Kubuntu) image works like a charm (besides audio, which I doubt I can get working unless I get my unit replaced due to coffee being spilled on it.

  14. Aaaaaaand I was able to get it installed on my tablet, and it’s running better than any other Linux distro I’ve tried on my aforementioned in previous comment tablet. I just need to see if I can enable sound/audio in its damaged state just for proof of concept, as well as see if I can get the proximity sensors working with the power/sleep/wake button, as well as when closing the tablet portion into the keyboard case it hibernates, though all of that isn’t that important at the moment. I’m going to put it through its paces and see what happens. So far though I’m really pleased. I installed KDE via Kubuntu-Desktop as I highly despise Unity and its UI. I’m pleased that that worked as well. All my hardware is seen just fine, and the WiFi seems more stable than anything else. I don’t have any BT devices handy to test with, but when I do I’ll test and report back on that. Lastly, to note: I do NOT have Windows 8.1 installed AT ALL. I’m running pure (K)Ubuntu. Stay tuned!

  15. I’m currently installing this ICS build of Ubuntu on the Quantum View tablet by Quantum Suppliers. I’m pleased that so far in the LiveCD environment it’s finding my WiFi and touch screen drivers without a hitch…. though when I try and do a pinch to zoom gesture it doesn’t like that and the drivers seem to unload or crash or something…. lol. I’m going to also install the DSDT patch to see if I can get audio working at all… With all my Linux trials on that device I’ve not gotten audio working successfully/reliably. Also to note is that it got doused with coffee about a year ago… and the audio got messed up since then at least through its speakers. Through headphones it sort of works, but when I have some extra money I’m going to send it back to OEM and see if they can repair it. If they can’t they’ll charge $150 (I paid $300 with money I got from selling an Android tablet I wasn’t using/wanted a more laptop-like experience, of which this tablet offers) for a new/refurbished model of what I have currently. A new model came out since, but naturally they won’t swap for that. I’d have to buy that newer one out-right. Anyway, so far it’s so good… It’s installing at the moment, and I’ve yet to see if it’ll boot from the eMMC. I’ll have to install the 32bit grub as well, as its UEFI is only 32bit, though it can load 64bit OSes (Windows 8.1 was 64bit when running on it).

    Will report back!

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