Installing Linux on an Asus FX503VD Laptop

I bought this machine with Windows 10 and after a week of using it the constant pop-ups an disk running at 100% for 20 mins after power up I finally decided that the experiment had failed, and I was going to install Linux on it like all my other computers. This proved problematic...

I know there are probably things I could have done to tune things to tune it, reduce the amount of background processing etc as I have used machines configured by corporate IT departments that have performed more consistently and better than the out-of-the-box performance of most computers fresh from the shop. I was getting 55-65 FPS on Minecraft which is pretty poor on a quad core 2.5GHz machine with a Nvidia GPU. The final straw was MCaffey antivirus popping up every 10 minutes to remind me that my trial subscription was due to expire without any option to shut it up.

The problem then was that I tried several Linux liveCDs and they all either failed to load or install (the install icon either failed to work or the install failed not being to access the USB stick) so I almost decided to initialise the laptop back to Windows 10 and sell it.

However Google and a lot of research finally got it to install (almost) flawlessly. The only thing that doesn't work is the touchpad, which is not a problem for me as I hate the things, and my major use for the machine is gaming which pretty much requires a mouse, but more on that later.

Install process.

I installed Ubuntu Studio, but I imagine the steps will work for any Debian based distribution and should be a guide for other distributions and bootloaders.

The key is to adjust the boot parameters in Grub both on the initial install and the final installed system. Add to the end of the "linux" line in the boot parameters:

nouveau.modeset=0 acpi_osi=! acpi_osi='Windows 2009'

You'll need 2 USB sticks of 8GB or more; the basic steps are:

0 - Create a recovery USB stick using the pre-installed Windows

Although it takes ages, do this because you may need to reinstall Windows in case you need to sell the Laptop or get it repaired/replaced by the manufacturer. Label the USB stick and put it somewhere very safe you'll be able to find in a few years when you really need it!

1 - Download a distribution .iso file.

Choose your distribution of choice, download an ISO image of the boot disk and make a bootable USB stick from it. How you do the latter step will depend on what OS and version is on the computer you're using to download. I used another laptop running Linux Mint and selected the "USB image writer" option from the main menu; Windows users will probably need to download a utility, here Google is your best option - I've never done this so I can't recommend anything specific.

2 - Boot from the USB drive

Hold shift down when shutting down windows, then power up while holding down the F2 key. This will get you into the BIOS screen. On the right hand side of the screen you should see a list of boot devices; the Windows one on top and then one or two partitions on the USB stick (this varies depending on distribution). Drag the Windows boot loader to the bottom of the list so that the USB one(s) take priority. Plug in a mouse and press F10 to resume the boot process.

If all is well, then the Grub menu will appear. Select the liveCD line with the arrow keys and press 'E' to edit the boot parameters. Move to the end of the line that begins with the word linux and add in the extra parameters exactly as shown above. Press F10 to save and resume booting. The system should now boot into the liveCD, or start installing if the distribution you chose is not a liveCD style bootdisk.

3 - Install to the hard drive

Once the desktop comes up, you should be able to try it out and decide if you wish to install it. If you do, select the install icon and start the process answering questions as usual. At some point Linux will want to restart. When it does, press the 'ESC' key when the ASUS "In search of incredible" disappears. You should get the Grub screen - if you're a bit too quick you may get the boot source selection screen in which case select linux, press return and press ESC again. Press 'E' to edit the boot parameters as before.

In my case, I found that the install process had remembered my extra parameters, in which case you can skip forward to installing the NVIDIA drivers. If it hasn't, then add them in as before and press F10.

4 - (Optional) Add extra parameters to hard drive boot

If the installer hasn't remembered, then you'll need to add them into the grub config. To do this use:

$ sudo nano /etc/default/grub

to edit the grub confguration and look for the line GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="" (not to be confused with GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT). Add the extra parameters to the end of the string inside the double quotes then save the file and execute:

$ sudo grub-update

This will create a new Grub config file. Reboot as before to check all is OK.

5 - Install NVIDIA proprietary drivers.

I used the "settings manager" gui application and the 'other drivers' option to install the NVIDIA drivers; if your flavour of linux doesn't have this then try here.

Remaining issues.

The only two issues that remain are the touchpad not working and not being able to switch the keyboard backlight off. The fix would appear to upgrade to kernal 4.17.2+ but at this moment these problems are not bad enough for me personally to make it worth the time and risk. If I do change my mind or find an easier fix, I'll post about it.

Oh, and minecraft? With the proprietary NVIDIA drivers I get 110-119 FPS which is far more acceptable!

Version 3 updated Aug. 6, 2018, 7:15 a.m.