What is a Linux® Chipset?

H. Bliss

A Linux® chipset is a piece of computer hardware designed to work on a Linux® system. Generally, hardware is not made for Linux® only, but manufacturers sometimes include Linux® drivers and other features that make some hardware better for use on Linux® than others. Using hardware that is not designed for Linux® on a Linux®-based machine can present some problems, including hardware that is prone to errors or drivers that do not work. Independent software designers often create Linux® drivers for hardware that is not automatically Linux® compatible.

Independent software designers often create Linux® drivers for hardware that is not automatically Linux® compatible.
Independent software designers often create Linux® drivers for hardware that is not automatically Linux® compatible.

UNIX® is a trademarked set of standards for related products that must meet several requirements to carry the label as a UNIX® product. The Linux® operating system is a type of open-source version of UNIX®. Types of Linux® include Red Hat®, Debian®, and Ubuntu®.

Open-source is a means of handling software production so that software users have access to the code in the software and can work together with other users to create altered and improved versions of the software. The open-source Linux® operating systems can be installed on many types of hardware, but are best suited for those based on a Linux® chipset. Though they are free to download, Linux® operating systems are generally more popular with advanced computer users because they are often more difficult to set up and use than commercial operating systems.

A chipset is a name for the circuitry in a piece of computer hardware. This type of hardware part is called a chipset because it is usually made of more than one chip. Some hardware devices, such as graphics cards, sound cards and wireless cards, are occasionally called chipsets to refer to the whole device, usually internal hardware like sound chipsets, wireless chipsets, and graphics chipsets. Users designing and building a Linux® computer need to research whether a piece of hardware uses a chipset that is friendly to the Linux® operating system.

Usually the largest chipset in a standard home computer, the motherboard is the main processing chipset in a computer, the one that houses the computer processing unit (CPU) often referred to as the processor. Generally, when a computer user refers to the compatibility of her Linux® chipset, she is talking about the motherboard. A motherboard chipset is sometimes referred to as the CPU chipset or the mainboard Linux® chipset. Finding Linux® drivers that can run motherboards compatible with a Linux® chipset becomes complicated when the motherboards use an integrated chipset, which includes the graphics chipset and the audio chipset in the same chipset as the motherboard chip.

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Discussion Comments


@Markerrag -- Linux has greatly improved over the years, but is it easy to use? That is a tough question to answer.

In some cases, it is absolutely easy to use. In most cases, the user will simply let the installer run and then get to work on his or her new operating system as soon as the process is done. Easy as that.

In other cases, you will have a driver that has to be loaded separately and that is where problems come in. There is one "flavor" of Linux out there that does not come with a default driver for a very common wireless adapter. Installing it manually is not that hard, but it is an extra step that can be confusing.


I disagree that Linux is harder to set up for average computer users than other operating systems. That was true once upon a time, but things have changed considerably over the years.

One of the major problems people had with setting up Linux was getting hardware drivers for the operating system. It was very common to install Linux and then not have anything but very basic peripherals such as keyboards and mice work. Sound cards were rarely compatible and even getting the operating system to play nice with some graphics cards was next to impossible. And printer drivers? Good luck finding any that worked with Linux back then.

These days, drivers generally install automatically when Linux is set up on a computer and the user generally does not have to do anything but wait until the process is done. Once Linux is installed, you usually have a fully operational operating system that works just fine with the computer's hardware and peripherals and has more than enough software packages to put you to work.

In other words, Linux was once kind of a mess do deal with, but is now a very good, "out of the box" operating system for novices. If you have an older computer that is running too slow to be useful, revitalize it with a free, Linux distro and you will likely be impressed with how refined the operating system has become.

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