Personal experience of installing Ubuntu 18.04 LTS on XPS 15 9570

I have gotten my hands on the XPS15 9570 for a few days now. It is a very nice laptop, yet, getting Ubuntu to run smoothly on it (especially the NVIDIA driver) is a bit tricky. I have seen numerous online tutorials on installing different versions of Ubuntu on different XPSs, however not all work. Therefore, this tutorial is a summary of what works for this specific setup and I hope it will help the others in a similar situation.

Preparation

First, prepare a Windows recovery USB. This USB will save you during the process as you might screw things up. You can find the instructions for preparation here. After that, you need to prepare an Ubuntu bootable USB. You can find Ubuntu ISO image here and the instructions for that here.

Enable AHCI mode

In order to install Ubuntu, you need to set the storage drive to AHCI mode.

  1. Run Command Prompt as an admin.
  2. Run: bcdedit /set {current} safeboot minimal .
  3. Reboot.
  4. Press F2 when you see the Dell logo.
  5. Select AHCI mode in the SATA option under System Configuration.
  6. Press “Apply” then “Exit”.
  7. Login as usual.
  8. Open the Command Prompt as an admin again and type: bcdedit /deletevalue {current} safeboot .
  9. Reboot.

Partition storage drive

Open the start menu.

  1. Type disk management and open Disk Management.
  2. Select the Windows partition (most likely to be the largest one).
  3. Right click on it and select “Shrink Volume”.
  4. Shrink to desired amount. (I shrank 200GB for Ubuntu)
  5. See if a partition of “Unallocated space” is shown.

Install Ubuntu

We are now ready for the installation of Ubuntu.

  1. Insert the Ubuntu USB into the computer.
  2. Reboot.
  3. Press F12 when you see the Dell logo.
  4. Select the one with the words “Boot from UEFI” in it.
  5. Hover over the option “Try Ubuntu without installing”.
  6. Press e.
  7. Add nomodeset after the words quiet splash. Detailed instructions can be found in here.
  8. Press F10.
  9. Launch the Ubuntu installer on the desktop.
  10. Select “Enable Insecure Boot mode” during the installation and remember the password for it.

Now the Ubuntu is installed. There are still things to do. After the installation and reboot, you will be greeted by a blue screen “Perform MOK management”.

  1. Select “Change Secure Boot State”
  2. Enter your the n-th word in your passwords as it specified.
  3. Select “Yes” for “Disable Secure Boot”.

After that, the computer will reboot and you will be greeted by a screen with booting options.

  1. Hover over the option “Ubuntu”
  2. Press e.
  3. Add nouveau.modeset=0 after the words quiet splash. Detailed instructions can be found here, except the phase is changed from nomodeset to nouveau.modeset=0.
  4. Press F10.

Now the computer will boot into Ubuntu. There is still one step for Ubuntu to boot smoothly every time.

  1. Open the terminal.
  2. Type sudo gedit /etc/default/grub .
  3. Change the line GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash" to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash nouveau.modeset=0" .
  4. Press “Save” and close the window.
  5. In the terminal, type sudo update-grub2 .
  6. Reboot.
  7. Select Ubuntu.

You can install updates that the system suggested before rebooting. All the troublesome boot-options edits allow the computer to boot into Ubuntu or Ubuntu bootable USB.

If you want to boot into Ubuntu, you can add either nomodeset or nouveau.modeset=0 in the boot option. However you cannot adjust the screen brightness if you use the former one. And remember, only nomodeset works for installing Ubuntu. Using nouveau.modeset=0 for the installation boot will fail.

Install NVIDIA driver

The next challenge is to install the NVIDIA driver. I have tried to install it through apt-get (with ppa) or run the downloaded script from NVIDIA website. Neither of them works.

As a fail-safe, install mokutil by typing sudo apt install mokutil in the terminal.

The solution I found is to install it through Ubuntu’s “Software & Updates”. All you need to do is to select “Using NVIDIA driver …” in the “Additional drivers” tab and press “Apply changes”. You can test if the driver is installed correctly by typing nvidia-smi in the terminal after reboot. It should show you the GPU information.

If you cannot boot into Ubuntu after the installation, boot into the Ubuntu recovery mode under the “Advanced options for Ubuntu”.

  1. Select “root”.
  2. Press “Enter”.
  3. Type mokutil --enable-validation .
  4. Reboot.

After the computer reboot, you will be see the same MOK management menu as before. But this time, you need to enable secure boot instead of disabling it. After that you should be able to boot into Ubuntu and undo all the changes you have made.

Fix the touchpad

Some time the cursor will jump back and cause you to type in the middle of a sentence. As Juan Hernández suggests, we can fix it by typing

sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-input-libinput
sudo apt-get remove --purge xserver-xorg-input-synaptics
sudo reboot

in the terminal.

Improve battery life

As Tom Wrights suggests, you can improve battery life of the laptop, by using tlp and powertop.

In the terminal, type

sudo apt update
sudo apt install tlp tlp-rdw powertop
sudo tlp start
sudo powertop --auto-tune
sudo reboot

Moreover, if you got your NVIDIA driver installed, you can also select between Intel graphics and NVIDIA GPU as desired. Selecting Intel graphics will boost your battery life. You can achieve that by typing

sudo prime-select intel
sudo reboot

in the terminal. After reboot, you should not be able to see the GPU information with the command nvidia-smi . If we want to switch back to NVIDIA GPU, you can do it by replacing “intel” with “nvidia” in the above commands. You can always check if the NVIDIA GPU is activated with nvidia-smi . You can also do it with the “NVIDIA X server Settings” if you prefer using GUI.

Impression

Although this laptop takes me a few days and recover it a few time to get it working, the laptop is very nice and I enjoy using it ever since. I hope this article can help others and enjoy this wonderful laptop.