The Acer Aspire Switch 11 is a 2-in-1 tablet which ships with Windows 8.1 software. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with Windows.

After finishing up a review of an Aspire Switch 11 with a 1920 x 1080 pixel display and an Intel Core i3-4012Y Haswell processor recently, I decided to see what happens when you try running Ubuntu Linux on the tablet.

For the most part, everything works great… as long as you don’t plan to use the keyboard.

switch 11 ubuntu

I used UNetbootin to load a pre-release build of Ubuntu 15.04 onto a USB flash drive. In order to get the Acer Aspire Switch 11 to boot from the flash drive, I had to power down the tablet and then hit the power button and press the F2 button before Windows started to load in order to get to the boot options/setup screen.

From this menu you can disable UEFI and secure boot, enable legacy boot, and tell the computer to boot from a flash drive first and only try to run software from the built-in solid state drive if there’s no flash drive present.

So far so good. Ubuntu booted pretty quickly and I was able to use the touchpad or touchscreen to interact with the operating system. But when I opened the wireless settings and attempted to login to my WiFi network I ran into a speedbump: the keyboard didn’t work so there was no way to enter my password.

I’m not the first person to have this problem.

Update: But there does appear to be a fix for folks who are comfortable patching the Linux kernel.

Once I hooked up a USB keyboard I was able to login to my network, surf the web, use a word processor, and perform other activities that required a keyboard. I don’t really have experience using on-screen keyboards with Ubuntu, but it’s possible that you could use a virtual keyboard instead of a physical keyboard if you primarily plan to use the Switch 11 in tablet mode.

Overall, the system seems at least as responsive when running Ubuntu as it does with Windows. It’s just a shame that the keyboard isn’t automatically detected. Hopefully future versions of Ubuntu will address the issue. It’s possible that other Linux-based operating systems might already work better… I just don’t have time to test them all.

Ubuntu Next with a touch-optimized interface sort of works, but the web browser crashes on me every time I try to use it and the keyboard still doesn’t work. Linux Mint 17.1 with the Cinammon desktop environment loads just fine, but neither the keyboard nor the touchpad work out of the box (although the touchscreen does work).

The Acer Aspire Switch 11 is available from the Microsoft Store for $449.

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21 replies on “Ubuntu on the Acer Aspire Switch 11 2-in-1 tablet (video)”

  1. I just installed Debian on the same netbook/tablet. Overall it works quite well (I had to do quite some gymnastics, however, to get it to boot: compile a custom kernel with the keyboard patch, and to make it dual-bootable, I had to overwrite the Windows bootloader bootmgfw.efi with grub).

    What does not work yet:
    – sound: this is a Realtek device, maybe included in the same chip as the Wifi driver (?). Windows says it is on the ACPI bus (?).
    – touchpad: apparently the attached keyboard is a 2-in-1 USB device, inluding the touchpad. Linux does not see it (yet).

  2. Hey guys, just created my bootable UBuntu USB. However i cant get switch to boot from it. I entered bios settings, set my password, disabled secure boot.
    Then I go to the boot menu, and place usb hdd or usb cdrom in first… It still loads windows.
    Anything I’m missing??

    1. When I press F12 boot menu shows me windows boot manager only. My USB is connected though. Ubuntu is 64bit btw, I will try 32bits…

      Also, whenever I use a flash drive, Acer often disconnect and reconnect the USB port… How can repair this? Does it do this to anyone else here?

      Annd… [edit 2]
      The USB port IS on my keyboard only, I just realized yours is on the screen too. I have sw5-11. Maybe I can try SD card, OR a micro usb to usb female.
      Is there a way to connect the keyboard’s usb directly though?

      1. How did you write the ISO to the USB? In Windows I use Rufus. In Linux, UNetBootIn.

  3. Got your answers here: I’m working with 15.05 Vivid Vervet PERFECTLY.
    Check github for the hid-acer patch for the keyboard, and it works fine.
    Updating the GTK greeter to version two-point-something will allow the
    onscreen keyboard to work at login, and a quick script to modprobe the
    touchscreen will make sure it pops back after a suspend/resume. I’m
    using Xubuntu’s build and I’ve also installed the Cinnamon desktop
    because it REALLY gets along nicely with the touchpanel. Plus it has
    hotcorners, so you can SCRIPT the rotation if you’d rather have more
    finite control over it. I also recommend a hotcorner to enable/disable
    touchegg or something like it. I don’t like what touchegg does to most
    of the controls, but two-finger right-click is nice in tablet mode. But
    then I need to deactivate it so that every-bloody-thing else works. ; )
    The right/double click/drag icons on onboard
    work just as well, but are an extra step. I’d like to find a touchegg
    alternative that handles this tablet better, but all in all, it’s
    running at 99.9% ; )

      1. DuffyW. Worked perfectly!!!! Now I don’t have to cart a wireless keyboard with my Acer Switch 11 2-in-1. Running 15.04 vivid. Now if I can just get automatic screen rotation working.

  4. hello guys,
    could any one help me… I’ve acer switch 10 and mi wifi
    not working – no access to internet, i could transfer any files vis usb
    stick,
    please help 🙂
    thx
    Lukasz

  5. I followed instructions on this site “https://github.com/SWW13/hid-acer” and now the keyboard on my ubuntu switch 11 is working (kernel 3.19.0-20). Many thanks to Simon Wörner for his great work.

  6. Juat a FYI if you are looking into geting a switch11 and plan to buy it through Amazon check the model number of what you get when you get it I bought the sw5-171-39lb and got the sw5-171-325n .
    No some would say they’re the same device and they are almost identical the 325n might even have some better features that’s your personal preference but for me it does not have an LED backlight the screen and so it’s not as bright and my eyes are old. I know this is true because a friend of mine has the 39lb .
    The point is Amazon shouldn’t be telling you one thing and sending you something else. And this is the first time they tried to pull something like this on me.

  7. Well I’m kind of an old dog learning new tricks when it
    comes to a Ubuntu and tablets currently I’m running I’m Ubuntu
    Ultimate 14.4 on an old lifebook laptop.

    and me and my wife have been thinking about upgrading to a tablet for
    quite some time and have kind of settled on the Aspire Switch 11 SW5-171P-82B3

    so I decided to see if I could run dual boot before i buy it .

    And I found your video.

    I know about enough about computers to blow up the operating system and I
    am not at all crazy about Windows 8 I much prefer windows 7

    So I’m thinking for warranty purposes if we get the Aspire I’m going to run a dual boot if possible with the factory OS and a Kubuntu

    And like I said I wanted to see what I’d be getting into
    before I even got the tablet. I’ve looked at the system 76 but they’re a
    little out of my price range. besides I really like the looks of the
    tablet Switchable keyboard combination.

    So I guess my question is do you think that for novice I would l be biting off more than I can chew,

    to try to pull this off ?

    And this is a little off the subject but is there a bay in
    the keyboard for another hard drive for storage other than the 128 SSD
    that comes with this model i want to get. it sounds like it does

    thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you — Rick

  8. So Any one has idea if there would be a fix at the kernel level for this issue? Or there is a work around?

      1. At risk of reviving a dead thread, I ran into this same issue. It also happens when installing Android or most other flavors of Linux I have tried. I’m looking to use this hardware for an Android tablet as I have a pretty cool use case if I can get it going smooth.

    1. Hi Florian, thanks a ton for creating the patch but I am not able to run the patch on my machine, can you please post the detailed command to run the patch? just to let you know I did not installed the Ubuntu to update the patch but I just used “Try Ubuntu” option while trying out the patch, will that cause any issue updating the patch?

  9. Actually, Ubuntu includes the signed shim bootloader, so you don’t even need to disable Secure Boot. I wonder if keeping UEFI enabled and booting that way would allow the system to access the keyboard …

  10. You only need to disable secure boot option to boot Ubuntu, it can handle UEFI

      1. Actually, I think you can disable it for UEFI, too, once you set a “Supervisor Password” or something along those lines.

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