. Libreboot 9020 SFF with Intel i5-4570 (i7-4790k available), 16GB RAM (32GB available), 1TB/2TB SSD, Intel HD4600 graphics (AMD Radeon RX 6400 available) with Debian Linux preinstalled


SKU: librex230-1-3-1-3-1 Category:


Power cable included, for your country. Monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers sold separately. Please add Libreboot 9020 Accessories to your cart if you want these.

Ethernet cable: please ask if you want this (cat5e), and it will be provided.

Other cables: if not purchasing accessories, make sure you have the right cables/adapter for your monitor and so on. Ask Minifree for advice if unsure (send photos).

These machines are provided because we in the Free Software movement believe Free Software is a *right* that everyone must have; free refers to freedom. It is software for which source code is available that you can freely use, study, modify and share without restriction. These machines are intended for security-conscious people who value the ideals of the free software movement, and want something easy to use that is in the control of the *user* (not the vendor). Free software is a global movement that started in the 1980s with the BSD and GNU projects, but its roots go all the way back to the very early days of computing; free software is used and developed today by millions of people, and it runs some of the most critical infrastructure on the internet.

This is a high-performance workstation based on heavy modification of the Dell OptiPlex 9020 SFF, running free/opensource BIOS replacement Libreboot plus Debian Linux (operating system), other Linux distro or a BSD of your choice (e.g. OpenBSD, FreeBSD). Full driver support in Linux and BSD operating systems, including WiFi. Libreboot is maintained and funded directly by Minifree; Minifree’s owner (Leah Rowe) is also the founder of Libreboot. Your purchase funds Libreboot. Source code for Libreboot and Debian Linux are provided with all orders.

Libreboot 9020 SFF ships with all free initialisation provided by coreboot, including memory controller initialisation. Libreboot makes extensive use of coreboot, with heavy modifications on top, to perform hardware initialisation and provides regular well-tested releases (usually once or twice every year). You, the user, have full control over the software in your machine, unlike with machines from most other vendors. Debian Linux distributes tens of thousands of software packages, providing an easy to use *free/opensource* operating system. You can do all of your computing while knowing that, in principle and in practise, the machine is yours. Most other products out there *restrict* what you can do; Minifree’s philosophy is that your computer is your property. Vendors have *no business* telling you what you can and cannot do. Free software is an important means to protecting your rights as a consumer, and an effective safeguard against waste, allowing you to use and re-use hardware for longer; Minifree also provides a generous 5-year warranty by default, for all orders.

The benefit of Libreboot is that since it’s a free/opensource project, releases can be audited so you have a greater assurance that there are no firmware-based backdoors in your system; coreboot, which Libreboot uses for initialisation, is regularly audited. The same is true of Linux/BSD. The Intel ME is *disabled*, using me_cleaner. Libreboot has other benefits such as faster boot speeds and greater customisation, and advanced security features you can’t get anywhere else, such as the easy ability to boot LUKS2-encrypted systems directly, even if /boot is encrypted, by using the GNU GRUB payload included in flash.

Shipping worldwide! Running free/opensource software! The correct power cable is provided, for each customer; the power supply is 120-240V auto-switching, so it works in every country.

This is the smaller, cheaper SFF version, DTX form factor. Most people will be happy with this, but some may want a bigger machine with beefier graphics cards (but the 9020 SFF can take an RX 6400 graphics card which is quite nice!). If you want the bigger (and more expensive) MT version (mATX form factor), see: Libreboot 9020 MT

Your freedom. Your Libreboot.

Most people use proprietary boot firmware, even if they use free operating systems. Many computers today are known to contain malware, chief among them being Intel’s Management Engine (ME). Our systems are different. Your Libreboot system will *never* spy on you, and it will never leak your data to anyone. Your privacy and security is critical. You are the owner of your machine. We believe free software is a fundamental right, something that everyone *must* have.

Your Libreboot 9020 obeys you, and nobody else! It’s Libreboot inside! The Intel ME is *disabled* on every machine, using me_cleaner which disables the ME after BringUp – this is done for your security, and privacy. You have the freedom to tinker with every part of the machine; full source code is also available, for Libreboot and the installed Linux/BSD operating system of your choice.

Your purchase will directly provide funding for further Libreboot development. Minifree directly funds the Libreboot project; it feeds me so that I can continue working on it, and I use the profits to buy a *lot* of hardware  for testing, in addition to the money required to maintain all of the infrastructure of the project. I am Libreboot’s BDFL and have been for years. I don’t have millions of £ like the big vendors, but I plan conservatively and spend wisely, and I work on Libreboot every day, and I work with plenty of other people who collaborate with the project both directly and indirectly.

Debian Linux is secure, easy to use

*Encrypted* Debian GNU+Linux is pre-installed to keep your data secure, with *full* driver support including WiFi. Other distros or a BSD (e.g. OpenBSD, FreeBSD) can be preinstall on your request, for no additional cost. Libreboot is a Free Software project, which replaces proprietary BIOS/UEFI firmware. These sales are conducted to fund development of Libreboot, lead by Leah Rowe who is Libreboot’s founder and lead developer, and the director of Minifree Ltd.

By default, Minifree ships with *encrypted* Debian (KDE Plasma desktop environment).

Debian is a solid, robust OS with a strong security team and release engineering team behind it. It’s the bedrock of the Linux world, upon which many distros are built. It has a proven track record of reliability, and it’s easy to use for most new people while being extremely flexible for advanced users. It’s an all-round good default choice, which is why Minifree ships it.

More info about Debian can be found here: https://www.debian.org/


Many of Minifree’s customers wish to use Qubes; for the 9020 SFF/MT specifically, Qubes either works or doesn’t work depending on special hardware configuration. If you want *Qubes* on the 9020 MT/SFF specifically, please contact Minifree to confirm before you order, and say exactly what hardware specification you’re interested in.

Intel ME disabled!

The Intel Management Engine is entirely *disabled*, using me_cleaner. See: https://github.com/corna/me_cleaner/wiki/How-does-it-work%3F

Fully free memory controller initialisation

The main benefit of the Intel Haswell platform, present in this product, is that it has *completely free/opensource* initialisation in coreboot; many newer platforms currently rely on binary blobs. Free software can be fully audited and adapted for your own needs, allowing far greater control of the machine, and the *memory controller* is one of the most technically difficult parts to handle in coreboot.

Minifree ships with *libre* raminit written by Angel Pons, instead of Intel MRC. The MRC is a binary blob that can be used for memory controller initialisation, on Haswell machines. Angel (a coreboot developer) reverse engineered the MRC and has written free replacement code. This is called Haswell NRI (Native RAM Initialisation).

This means: aside from neutered ME (Minifree uses me_cleaner to disable ME after early bringup) and CPU microcode (required for stability), all of the critical initialisation code in the boot flash is fully Free Software; a recent update to Angel’s NRI code, as shipped by Minifree, fixes S3 suspend/resume (sleep mode), so now the machine is fully stable in this configuration.

Upgrades available

As this is a desktop computer, it offers a lot more flexibility than the laptops that Minifree provides (and better performance). The next sections will talk about these upgrades, and some of the work that goes into everything.

Monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers sold separately. Please add Libreboot 9020 Accessories to your cart if you want these.

WiFi upgrade available: Intel AX210 available for a fee. It supports the newer 802.11ax, 802.11ac and 802.11n standards. See: https://minifree.org/product/intel-ax210/

*Stock* Dell fans installed. The machine runs relatively quiet, but quieter Noctua fans are available. See: https://minifree.org/product/noctua-fans/

Graphics card: the AMD card (Radeon RX 6400) is chosen by Minifree, because it has free/opensource drivers under both Linux and BSD, and they work extremely well; the same is true of Intel graphics. We will *not* sell Nvidia cards, because Nvidia cards require a binary-only driver (and Nouveau, the free nvidia driver, isn’t very good and isn’t available on BSD).

CPU re-lidding

Minifree de-lids *every* CPU so that the inner thermal compound can be replaced with higher quality *liquid metal*, for greater thermal efficiency (~10c reduction under stress conditions). The photos show a de-lidded CPU, followed by a re-lidded CPU:

The adhesive residue is fully cleaned, and the old thermal paste removed. Then liquid metal is applied on the die, and the IHS (see photo) is re-applied and glued down (around the sides).

Less is more. After re-lidding, the IHS is adhered, with special care taken to ensure that it does not go on the IHS top surface or spill over the sides. Once the adhesive has cured, the CPU is ready to use and will run at lower temperatures.

Between the IHS and larger cooler, Minifree uses high quality Arctic MX-6 thermal paste. This is because the liquid metal is conductive, but safe to use underneath the IHS. MX-6 provides thermal performance that is almost comparable to the liquid metal that Minifree uses (Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut).

Minifree does this on *every* CPU. NOTE: The CPU pictured is an i5-4590. Minifree provides this or the i5-4570 (virtually identical performance). You can also pick the i7-4790k for a fee, which is about 30% faster.

Why use *these* machines?

Many people nowadays use bloated, inefficient software, a description that often applies to proprietary software; Free Software isn’t beholden to corporate greed, and many of the people who work on it care passionately about writing the most well-audited, high quality code. Modern versions of Windows use *gigabytes* of RAM, whereas a Linux/BSD system with a lightweight (yet modern) desktop environment will use far less than that, aswell as few CPU cycles and disk I/O; in other words, Linux systems can have much lower system requirements. Minifree shares in this *lightweight* software design philosophy. Libreboot itself (lead by the same person who owns Minifree) is designed to be as simple as possible, in terms of project infrastructure, build system, and actual coreboot configuration, providing firmware that boots as quickly as possible, and with a simple user interface (SeaBIOS and/or GRUB payload) that most people can just use, intuitively. Libreboot *heavily* patches the various upstream projects used, such as coreboot and GNU GRUB, fixing various upstream issues and providing more reliable operation for the user.

Libreboot releases focus on stability, providing well-tested firmware that is rock-solid on all of the supported hardware, and with a unified user interface across (where possible) all boards. That means, if you learn to use one Libreboot system, you can most likely use another with little fuss. Libreboot does away with nasty anti-features such as UEFI SecureBoot (nasty because it makes using free operating systems harder), instead implementing its own optional security methods that are completely within the user’s control, such as GPG signature checking of your Linux kernel from GRUB, which runs directly in the flash (which you can write-protect, if you wish), or the ability to have *true* Full Disk Encryption, including /boot. In *most* setups (on x86 hardware), Libreboot directly boots GNU GRUB from the flash (with its own config file), which is configured to automatically find and boot your distro’s own GRUB, EXTLINUX or SYSLINUX configuration (and manual configuration is possible), even in cases where it resides in an EFI System Partition (ESP), or a btrfs sub volume – GRUB is extremely powerful in this setup, as a *coreboot payload*, more flexible than any standard BIOS- or UEFI-based setup, and it works because Linux/BSD systems are able to run directly on bare metal, without calling into BIOS/UEFI. Libreboot provides a direct video framebuffer, that any operating system can use if it supports Kernel Mode Setting (all Linux/BSD systems do nowadays). This is a much cleaner way to boot your operating system, and GRUB is highly efficient.

Libreboot *even* includes MemTest86+ directly in the flash! You can boot it from the GRUB or SeaBIOS payload. No more messing about with bootable USB media. It comes preinstalled! Coreboot is very different than proprietary firmware, in that you can run whatever you want. You’re not restricted to whatever the vendor gives you. You could *even* compile your own OS (e.g. Linux with busybox/musl) and put it in the flash, if you wanted to, and run whatever applications you want, without ever touching your SSD; chainload it from the GRUB payload, or reconfigure coreboot to load Linux directly (from flash).

A coreboot payload called *SeaBIOS* is also provided, which you can optionally use (useful for BSD bootloaders, prior to loading the BSD kernels). SeaBIOS implements a standard x86 PC BIOS, whereas GRUB provides *multiboot* functionality to directly boot a Linux kernel (along with drivers for the disk, filesystem, etc – and an often overlooked but extremely powerful user shell, that behaves very similarly to a full BASH shell with many commands available – more info available in the GRUB documentation, though Minifree configures these systems to Just Work so you can simply turn them on and use them).

Jargon aside, one thing that many people will ask is: does Libreboot work with standard Linux/BSD systems, without modification? The answer is yes. Minifree uses *standard* Linux/BSD installer images, provided by the respective upstreams (e.g. Debian, Archlinux, FreeBSD). You can use your Libreboot machine more or less just as you would a typical BIOS/UEFI system; Windows is also compatible, though we recommend that you stick to Linux/BSD, for your freedom. More information is available on the Libreboot documentation.

These are the same machines used for Libreboot development. Leah Rowe, the founder and lead developer of Libreboot, also runs Minifree. Sales fund the project, and these machines are *used* by Leah day to day for all tasks. Many people are surprised when they turn on a Libreboot machine, and it gets to the bootloader (e.g. GRUB) in a few seconds or less, booting faster than even a brand new (non-Libreboot) machine. This is the power of Libreboot, and free software in general, in allowing the hardware to run *much* more efficiently and last much longer.

Put simply: we want to live in a world where everyone can easily and comfortably use *free software*, liberated from the shackles of proprietary software. We want to live in a world where your property is *your* property; extended to computing, this makes free software a fundamental right that *everyone* *must* have.

Information about the product

As this is a desktop, de-lidding (and subsequent re-lidding) of the CPU’s integrated heat spreader (IHS) will also be performed, replacing the inner thermal compound with a higher quality liquid metal (Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut) for greater thermal performance. This, in addition to replacing thermal paste between the CPU’s IHS and larger heatsink. Laptop CPUs don’t have IHS on them, so the heatsink goes directly on the CPU die, but desktop CPUs have an additional heatsink (the integrated heat spreader, or IHS) between the die and much larger heatsink, for spreading heat efficiently.

Included accessories

  • Correct power cable provided; the internal power supply is 120/240V auto-switching, so it will work everywhere (e.g. USA, Japan, Europe, Asia – every country). US/Japan and a bunch of others use split-phase 120V in homes, whereas most of Europe uses single-phase 240V.
  • UK, EU or US power cable included, depending on country. It is a standard kettle lead, also called an IEC cable.

Workstation specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4570 or i7-4790k available
  • CPU socket type: LGA 1150
  • 1TB or 2TB SATA SSD of your choice. Brand/vendor is random, but you can ask/request the brand.
  • Memory: 4x8GB (32GB) DDRL3 (PC3L-12800U, 1600MHz)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600, AMD Radeon RX 6400 or AMD Radeon RX 6600, at your option.
  • Gigabit ethernet as standard (RJ-45 slot)
  • Wifi sold separately (Intel AX210 installed on PCIE to NGFF adapter with two antennas)
  • Chipset: Intel Q87 Express
  • 3 SATA ports: 1x optical, and 2x SATA SSD possible (no NVMe, but there is a x4 and x16 PCI-E slot and you could use NVMe SSDs there).
  • Ports: 4x USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0, 1x RJ-45, 1 serial (RS232), 1x VGA, 2x Displayport, 2 PS/2 (keyboard and mouse), line-in(audio) and line-out(audio)
  • Power connector: standard kettle lead. The correct one is supplied for your country (e.g. USA, EU, UK power cable)
  • This is a reconditioned Dell OptiPlex 9020 SFF with Libreboot and your choice of Linux/BSD system. More specifications shown here: https://i.dell.com/sites/doccontent/shared-content/data-sheets/en/Documents/optiplex-9020-micro-technical-spec-sheet.pdf

When new Libreboot versions are released, it is possible to update to those newer versions using software (no disassembling required). Full instructions are provided.

Additional information


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