Linux On Surface Pro 4 Booting Up

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  1. I just installed Ubuntu 20.04 out of the box and everything is working except the touch screen like you pointed out. Have not messed with the camera at all, but I do not use it one bit. I wouldn’t mind seeing the touch screen for use with the pen for note taking, but I have my ipad that is WAY better for the pen and notes (thanks MS for OneNote).

    I’m pretty happy with this version of Ubuntu working out of the box. This is a great secondary system to port around the house and mess with.

    1. Hi Dallas,
      Thanks for your feedback, glad you found it useful. If you want the pen, have a quick look at – if you only want the pen you can use the current kernel. If you want pen and touch you’ll need the LTS kernel instead, but it works a treat under Ubuntu 🙂

      Don’t be put off by it being on Github – you don’t have to compile anything yourself, you can just add a PPA and install it using apt-get

      The only thing I’ve noticed with the surface-linux kernel is that it seems to increase the loadavg at idle. The machine still feels plenty snappy enough though so it’s not a big drama.

  2. Great article Steve

    I look forward to getting me one of these machines and do what you have done. Thanks for making the path. I am just getting into this and feel that I would like to know more about the differences between the different types of Surface Pro’s. The 4 seem to be a few years behind, is that so? And how is the second hand quality on these things, do you have any idea?

    1. Hi Lars,
      I think the SP4 is one of the better devices, although you are absolutely right in that it is getting on a bit now. But, it’s one of the only ones (to my knowledge) that can have the SSD upgraded internally. Obviously you need to get the screen off to do that, but the screens fail on second hand ones so when you’re replacing a failed screen it’s a great time to update that SSD 🙂

  3. Hi there,

    Nice post btw, it encourge me to try linux again on my SP4.
    Did you manage to make the cameras work?
    Since these days we use webconferencing for everything, i really need to get the camera working…

    1. Hi Marcos,
      Thanks for your kind words – unfortunately the cameras don’t work at present. The SurfaceLinux kernel development team are working on it but as yet, they’re still not there.


  4. Steve, thanks for the awesome post. I’m wondering about this line in the installation guide:

    Before installing the custom kernel, make sure that you have installed the DKMS version of any out-of-tree kernel module that you have installed (zfs -> zfs-dkms, nvidia -> nvidia-dkms etc.). Otherwise these modules will not work with the custom linux-surface kernel.

    How do we identify all out-of-tree kernel modules from a fresh Ubuntu 20.04 install?

    1. Hi Howard,
      If you’re on a Surface Pro 4, you probably don’t have any DKMS modules installed. It’s more for the Surface Books and such like that have nVidia drivers. Unless you have ZFS installed? But I don’t know anything about that one I’m afraid.

      Hope that helps,

  5. any suggestions for a better on screen keyboard for ubuntu 20.04 on wayland ? i can’t seem to get anything apart from default.

    1. No idea sorry – my touchscreen is playing up and I’ve not used the onscreen keyboard at all – someone else might have some suggestions though 🙂

  6. Hi Steve,
    Is there a way to get the touchscreen working once you have 20.04 already installed? I have a SP5 but the instructions seem to be for a fresh install.
    I am dual booting with W10, too. I still need it sometimes…

    Great write up!


    1. Hi Jennifer,
      You can install the Surface-Linux kernel at any time – just follow the instructions for Ubuntu – if there’s no instructions specifically for Ubuntu then follow the Debian instructions.

      Hope that helps

  7. How did you install linux-surface kernel? They don’t have prebuilt packages for Ubuntu, so did you compile from source?

  8. Hi Steve, thanks for the article it was very helpful. I have a question on the link you sent about installing the touchscreen features. One of the last steps says to “ Update your bootloader to point to the new kernel”. I’m still pretty new to all this, do you have any advice or links to videos that would help us know how to do the stuff?
    I have a surface pro four with a windows 10/ Ubuntu dual installation.

  9. Thanks for the great post as it led me to get the surface-linux installed and getting the touchscreen to work!

  10. Hi Steve. Thanks for the great article. I’ve been contemplating switching my SP4 over to linux and you may have just convinced me to give it a try. One questions though… how’s the battery life? My SP4 (running Win10) suffers from battery drain while turned off. I can charge it to 100%, turn it off, and when I come back the next day it’ll be around 87%. Microsoft has done nothing to address this common issue. I’m hoping it’s a software problem which linux might fix.

    1. Hi Ken,
      I’d have to pass that one over to someone else to answer – I didn’t notice to be fair but I generally run my Surface Pros on a Docking station for convenience. My SP4 running Ubuntu is also running my home security cameras now so I can’t unplug it overnight to see what it does I’m afraid. Someone else may know though – or perhaps have a look at the SurfaceLinux project on Github as they may have addressed it.

    2. Hi Ken. Have similar problems with battery drain on my SP4 with Win10. I’d be very intrested if you could give an update if you found that problem resisting after Linux installed?? If it’s gone under Linux it would be a very strong motivation for me to go for Linux too.

  11. Well, this is an incredibly great read!

    Im also running Ubuntu 20.04 on my dell 7275 which is a microsoft surface like device.

    You might want to look into touchpad gestures using libinput-gestures. They working

  12. Steve, this was an incredibly helpful post thanks for putting it together! Did you happen to get multitouch & touchscreen scrolling working in Firefox? I have the LTS version installed and running great, but the touch only acts as click/drag/select.

  13. I’m going to try installing Ubuntu on my Surface Studio. Before I do, any advance with the camera? I use it for video Skype calls, and it works really well. Good picture and sound while sitting comfortably at my desk.

  14. I did install Ubuntu20 on my Surface Studio, on a “try before you buy” basis, i.e. running off the USB stick. I found that the camera just gives a very low contrast picture. I’ve tried the available adjustments, to no avail. So I’ve gone back to Windoze10. Would an update/upgrade have fixed it?

    1. Hi Richard,
      It is possible that a future update will fix that – but I’m not on the Surface-Linux team (and wouldn’t know where to begin!) so that might be a question for them 🙂

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