Fedora on a new laptop - A few beginner questions if I may

I have a nice i5 Dell 5420 laptop I got used but it’s mint. 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD. I want Fedora on it but want some advice before I dive in (as experience taught me to ask beforehand, rather than after (a mistake))!

I have dabbled with Fedora 39/40 Workstation. I am thinking of trying out KDE but that’s not for this thread. I have a few questions before I wipe Windows off this machine…

  1. File System - The Fedora install process confused me enough to just go for ‘simple’ or ‘default’ settings last time. Since then people have mentioned ‘btfs’ to me and suggested I should have made other choices, maybe for better backups or ‘snapshots’ (not entirely sure what they are or how they work). I’d be grateful for any recommendations on my install settings this time. I can just go for default again, but if there are advantages to choosing other options (partitions?), I may consider it.

  2. BIOS - On my last machine (Lenovo) I had to use Hirens Boot CD to get a WIndows environment where I could install BIOS updates, not possible via Fedora apparently. Do I need to do similar things with a Dell? Sorry for my vagueness, that’s just where my knowledge level is. Are there any other general things I should ‘do’ with the BIOS before wiping windows and writing Fedora?

  3. Which reminds me of one specific thing I remember from last time - Secure Boot. I don’t know if this is on or not on the Dell, I would assume it’s on as it has Win11 and it’s fairly new. Do I need to turn this offer before installing Fedora?

Thanks for any comments

For now I will just busy myself with learning how to boot from my shiny new Fedora installer USB! (Damn that Fedora Media Writer app is superb, just bloody superb!)

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  1. btrfs is already the default filesystem. Use whatever backup software you prefer. btrfs snapshots can be useful for this, but they’re not enabled by default and not necessary.
  2. All Dell laptops will receive firmware updates via GNOME Software or Plasma Discover. This includes even laptops that don’t officially support Linux. You’ll receive a notification when there is an update available; no configuration is required. (This is also true for Lenovo Thinkpads, but not other Lenovos.)
  3. Do not turn off secure boot. That’s not necessary and it’s there to protect you from bootkit malware.
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Thanks very much, that’s some relief to me and if I had known some of that before choosing a Dell, I would have chosen one even faster!!
If I may…

  1. So are you saying I can just go ahead and do as before, totally default format/partitioning/install? I have heard a few people suggesting that it’s ‘better’ to partition or format the drive differently, maybe not file system itself, but divisions/partitions. I can’t remember why it was suggested as better than the default approach, but it did sound convincing enough to cause me to ask before going ahead this time.

Are you able to name any? I have asked about backups before and the consensus seemed to be ‘backup your home folder’, and then some clever tricks (which are beyond me) to create some chronological routines which auto run. My ideal would be whatever is closest to Apple’s TimeMachine, actually no, my IDEAL would be something akin to Carbon Copy Cloner. That thing is so damn useful, especially being bootable. I still have a bootable backup of my Mac from 10 years ago (which believe it or not does have some uses due to the apps I had installed!)

  1. That’s VERY cool thanks!

  2. Noted, I heard secure boot has benefits but others debate the value of it. Either way, I’d feel better with it on, that’s what ignorance gets you (me) :smiley:

Thanks again. I am away for 24 hours then diving in when I get back.

Oh and PS… I just tried a Live USB and opted to ‘test media’ before running the OS. It failed the test, pic below. I suspect I can ignore it (read other threads about it I think, in the past), but if you could confirm it’s not a concern, I will go ahead and wipe the nasty Bill Gates creation off this machine for good :slight_smile:

Yup. People have different preferences and strong opinions regarding how to partition disks. Asides from boot partitions, Fedora Workstation and Fedora KDE put everything onto one btrfs partition, with one subvolume for home and one for everything else. This is probably the best configuration for most users and there are many good reasons for doing it this way. But if you prefer something else, it’s your computer, so feel free to do whatever.

In Fedora Workstation, try Pika Backup, which uses Borg. (I’m not familiar with backup apps designed for KDE.)

I don’t see much point to backing up system files, but if you want to do this, then you might want to investigate tools that use btrfs snapshots like Snapper. I’m not familiar with them, though.

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Besides Pika Backup, I would also suggest Déjà-Dup Backups, given that the former is only available as flatpak from Flathub, the latter one has Fedora packaging as well (both RPM and flatpak).

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As for backup, if you do go the Borg backup route, try Vorta for the GUI for Borg. If you want to go the snapper/snapshot route using the features of btrfs, then install btrfs-assistant which makes using snapper super easy.

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Thanks everyone. I’m not really familiar with ‘snapshots’. But by the sound of it I think the two options are a bit similar to my old ways (Timemachine for incremental, CarbonCopyCloner for full system clone). Am I right in thinking DejaDup/Pika are more akin to Timemachine, and Snapper is more like CCC?

I can reply to the first part of the question. Deja-Dup is indeed more akin to TimeMachine (without the “spatial visual” effects when presenting previous backups :grinning:), with some caveats:

  • it’s better suited for the Home folder and maybe other shared drives, or at least user accessible files/folders (if I remember well, TimeMachine can do full system backup too)
  • the default interval between backups is one week (can be changed though), while TimeMachine makes hourly backups for the more recent ones
  • Deja-Dup can also do remote backups, which is a plus. You can even choose a Google account as backup location, with the added security that the backup files can be password encrypted.

I don’t find backing up the whole system necessary. For added confort, before upgrading to a new release, I make an image copy of the system partitions, using a live USB (Fedora has some :smile:).