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How to Build a Gaming PC for Linux

Choosing Compatible Hardware Components and How to Install Linux

Published: April 25, 2023

If you're building your first gaming PC, you should probably avoid using Linux and just stick to Windows 10 or Windows 11. While Linux is free and can offer more control, it's a more advanced OS that takes a while to learn and get used to. If you're an avid gamer I'd also give Linux a miss, as it has less support and stability for gaming than Windows, and it may even have worse performance than Windows even in Linux supported games. 

See Also: How to Build a Desktop Computer

That said, game support for Linux is getting better, and if you only play a certain game or handful of games, do some research into their Linux support and you may be okay. Some of the most popular Linux supported games right now are Dota 2, CSGO, and Rocket League. Many AAA games will not be supported though, so always do your research on which games support Linux before installing Linux on your new gaming computer.

If you wish to use Linux for a new PC build for whatever reason, whether for gaming and/or work, in this article we'll cover some basic things to consider when choosing hardware for a Linux PC build, how to install Linux on a fresh new computer, and how to download software drivers for your Linux system.

Choosing Compatible Hardware for a Linux PC Build

Choosing PC components for a custom Linux gaming PC build is mostly the same as for a Windows system, with a few extra caveats to be aware of including:

  • Avoid brand new PC components as Linux support on such parts can be hit or miss. For example, if you want the best compatibility and stability for a Linux gaming PC, avoid buying a cutting-edge graphics card from a fresh new generation, and instead opt for a previous-gen card. As a real-world example, right now AMD have their latest RX 7000 series of cards, but a much safer bet for stable drivers is to stick to the still-powerful RX 6000 series.
  • For the best compatibility and performance, avoid motherboards with Realtek onboard audio, Realtek Ethernet, or Realtek WiFi. Realtek hardware is known to have issues with Linux. For the best Linux support, the ideal is a motherboard that has Intel onboard audio, Intel Ethernet, and Intel WiFi (or another WiFi chip such as ath9k - just stay away from Realtek WiFI for Linux).
  • When choosing the best GPU for Linux, popular consensus among Linux gamers is to opt for an AMD Radeon graphics card instead of a NVIDIA GeForce one, as AMD cards generally have better Linux support. AMD is known to actively work on open-source drivers with Linux kernel developers.
  • If using other PCIe cards such as PCIe wireless adapters or capture cards, do your research on a certain product's Linux compatibility before buying.
  • Peripheral support for Linux can also be an issue, so before buying peripherals or accessories for your setup such as a webcam, mic, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and so on, check its support for Linux with a simple search online such as [your product] + [your distribution].

How to Install Linux on a New PC Build

To install Linux you need to download a Linux installation ISO image file onto a DVD or a USB flash drive, just like with Windows. 

However, Windows will automatically turn your USB into a bootable installer as well, whereas with Linux you need to get a third-party app to turn the ISO file into a bootable USB. A program called Rufus is popular for doing this. Here's how to download and install Linux, using the Ubuntu distribution as an example: (which has been a popular Linux distro for a long time)

  • First, download the latest Ubuntu ISO file from the main Ubuntu site. You have the choice of the current release or the LTS (Long Term Service) release. Select the LTS version, unless you know what you’re doing by selecting the current release.
  • Download the latest version of Rufus, and plug in your USB drive which should have at least 2-4GB of room. Make sure you backup anything on there as it will be automatically wiped during this process. In Rufus, go to "Device" and select your USB drive if it hasn't been already. Click File System and select Fat32. 
  • Then "Create a bootable disk using" and select your Ubuntu/other ISO file. If you're asked if you need newer "SysLinux" files, select "Yes". Then select "Write in ISO Image mode". Once it's finished, close Rufus and now enter your BIOS and set the boot drive as the USB drive (explained in steps to take after building a computer). 
  • Restart your system and there will be different options that come up for installing or launching Ubuntu – you can even try it out first before actually installing it which is neat. To continue installing it, make sure to select your primary drive where you want it (if you have multiple drives in your PC). 
  • To update Linux, go to Menu->Administration->Update Manager to download and install all updates and security patches for the operating system and all the included programs on the OS.

Downloading Drivers on Linux

Linux is very much plug and play when it comes to drivers, and will automatically install open source drivers for all your hardware during installation and when you update Linux. 

But just like Windows, if you have a gaming graphics card you want to manually install the specific latest driver from NVidia or AMD. Same goes if you have a wireless card; get those drivers too, but you likely don’t need to worry about installing any other drivers (not even motherboard drivers).

To manage and download drivers in Linux, go to: 

  • Menu->Administration->Driver Manager

Instead of Driver Manager, it could be called 'Additional Drivers' or something like that. Change the already installed open source video driver to the latest NVIDIA driver named driver-updates, or fglrx-updates for AMD cards. 

The “updates” in the name means it will automatically update the drivers for you. When you do this, you do not need to uninstall the previously installed open source video driver.

Trusted VPNs

VPN software is quite important in this day and age and will improve the security and privacy of your PC when online. There are also benefits to using VPNs for gaming.

There's lots of VPNs out there but the ones I recommend most to gamers is ExpressVPN (special link that gets you 3 months off. they also offer a free trial here) and NordVPN which are both highly rated gaming VPNs because they're the fastest and most secure.

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About the Author

Indie game dev currently working on my first public release after years of hobby projects, a story-driven VR FPS built with Unreal Engine (to be announced soon here for anyone into VR FPS's). Also likes writing about tech, which also helps fund development of the game.

My favs of all time are OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, THPS3, HL1, and HL2, with the most recent addition to my list of immortals being the VR masterpiece Alyx. If you want help with a new build feel free to ask on the main PC builds guide. If you found the site extra helpful and wish to support the work I do here, sharing an article with a friend helps a lot and is much appreciated. - Julz