Libreboot 9020 Workstation (SFF and MT available) including 4GHz Intel i7-4790k plus new Noctua fans, 32GB RAM, 1TB/2TB SSD, Intel HD4600 / AMD Radeon RX 6400 / Radeon RX 6600XT GPU, Intel AX210 WiFi 802.11ax/ac/n with Debian Linux preinstalled

£398.00£798.00

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

Description

This is a high-performance workstation based on Dell OptiPlex 9020 (SFF and MT variants), 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. 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. 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. Leah Rowe, who founded the Libreboot project in 2013, runs the project to this day and also owns Minifree; sales fund the project. These machines are provided because we believe Free Software is a *right* that everyone must have.

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. Libreboot is a free/open source BIOS/UEFI replacement, providing boot firmware that initialises the hardware in your computer, to then load an operating system (e.g. Linux/BSD). It provides many additional benefits such as fast boot speeds, greater security and greater customisation, but the *primary* benefit is software freedom. You can rest easy knowing that Libreboot will never knowingly contain backdoors, and will never spy on you; the same cannot be said for many proprietary products out there. All of the source code is provided in each Libreboot release, which can be fully audited. Debian Linux preinstalled. Another distro or a BSD (e.g. OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD) can be preinstalled, on your request, at no additional cost. These machines are intended for security-conscious people who value the ideals of the free software movement, and want something easy to use.

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

Variants: SFF is ITX form factor (smaller) and more portable, MT is mATX form factor (bigger) and can fit more expansion cards inside. Both variants have 32GB RAM and offer the same SSD and CPU performance, but the MT takes full-height graphics cards so Minifree offers AMD Radeon RX 6600XT which is about twice as fast as the RX 6400 offered with the SFF; both AMD cards are *several* times faster than the default Intel HD4600 graphics.

WiFi upgraded by default: Intel AX210 installed. It supports the newer 802.11ax, 802.11ac and 802.11n standards. 1Gbps ethernet also included, for wired networking.

All Minifree sales directly fund Libreboot development; Libreboot’s founder and lead developer, Leah Rowe, is also the owner of Minifree Ltd. I work on Libreboot every day, and I work with a lot of other people.

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/

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

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.

*Heavily* modified for better thermal performance

Minifree replaces *all* fans, including the one inside the *power supply*, with a high quality Noctua fan. Noctua make extremely high quality fans, which run at a lower RPM but with higher air pressure, so they run much quieter while providing excellent performance. This will improve the thermal performance on these machines.

Re-lidding: Minifree *de-lids* every CPU, including both i7 and i5. The integrated heat spreader is removed, so that the inner thermal paste can be replaced with higher quality liquid metal (thermal grizzly conductonaut), and then re-lidded (IHS reinstalled). Photos of this are provided below. Re-lidding reduces CPU temperatures under stress conditions by about 10-15c. Minifree also uses high quality Arctic MX-6 thermal paste between IHS and CPU cooler, replacing the default thermal paste, for even greater thermal performance.

Graphics cards: Minifree provides Intel HD4600 by default, but you can select faster graphics; AMD Radeon RX 6400 on the 9020 SFF and RX 6600XT on the 9020 MT. RX 6400 is quite powerful for such a tiny card (similar performance to an RX 580) and supports modern standards e.g. Vulkan. The 6600 is about twice as fast as the 6400 and can do things like raytracing; it will play quite a lot of modern games smoothly and at higher settings (e.g. if using something like Proton, though Minifree recommends libre gaming but also does not judge users for their choices) – the RX 6400 is still extremely powerful and will run most games smoothly, but it’s a more compact card meant for HTPC / compact form factor and it draws less current than the 6600XT.

With the AMD cards, you could more comfortably drive a much higher resolution display e.g. 4k or 8k monitors. The *Intel* graphics will also run just fine on 4k, but Minifree recommends the AMD cards for best performance. AMD is the *best choice* for graphics cards on Linux/BSD systems, because the drivers are free/opensource, maintained by AMD themselves alongside the community – the same is also true of Intel graphics, but AMD graphics offer higher performance. Minifree will *never* sell Nvidia graphics cards, because Nvidia only provide binary drivers and Nouveau(free Nvidia driver) isn’t very performant and isn’t available on BSD – meanwhile, the BSDs all have excellent ports of the Linux video drivers for AMD/Intel.

GPU re-pasting: Minifree *also* re-pastes the graphics card. Arctic MX-6 thermal paste, like on the CPUs. This is to reduce the GPU temperature.

9020 MT upgrades

Minifree can provide the 9020 MT variant with Libreboot. The MT variant is a bigger Micro ATX form factor and it can be more heavily upgraded.

Additionally: if you pick Intel HD4600 graphics, whether or not you pick i7-4790k, the *stock* 300W power supply will be provided instead, but Minifree will replace that PSU’s internal fan. If you pick the *AMD* graphics card, on 9020 MT, Minifree replaces the power supply with a much better ~600W one from a good brand (80PLUS gold certified). The stock 300W PSU is sufficient, when using only Intel graphics, regardless of what CPU you install.

Here is a photo of the 9020 MT from the outside:

(note: the photo of the rear is an old photo, showing the stock fan, but Minifree will provide a better quality Noctua fan)

Power supply fan replacement

Minifree replaces the fan, inside the power supply, with a higher quality Noctua fan, for quieter operation and improved airflow. This mod is performed on *every* machine sold. Observe the photo:

This modification is also performed on the Dell PSU included in 9020 MT variant, but only if you pick Intel graphics; if you choose AMD on the MT variant, the PSU is replaced entirely with a better one that already have a good fan in it.

On SFF, PSU upgrades are never needed because the graphics cards don’t need additional power; on MT, Minifree provides the 6600XT upgrade which requires its own dedicated power supply present on better PSUs.

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). This photo shows a de-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.

Minifree does this on *every* CPU. NOTE: The CPU pictured is an i5-4590, because Minifree used to provide i7-4790k as an upgrade but provide the i5 by default; the picture is for illustration, but the process is identical on i7-4790k. Minifree now provides i7-4790k by default (it’s a much better CPU).

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: 4GHz Intel Core i7-4790k
  • 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), low voltage 1.35v
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600, AMD Radeon RX 6400 or AMD Radeon RX 6600XT, at your option.
  • Gigabit ethernet as standard (RJ-45 slot)
  • Wifi included (Intel AX210 installed on PCIE to NGFF adapter with two antennas) – Minifree can provide a different card at your option, but note: on SFF, it’s recommended to install the GPU above the WiFi card, so you better pick a WiFi card that doesn’t block the GPU fan; this is why Minifree provides the AX210 on the adapter, because it’s small and does not block the GPU fans.
  • 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
  • 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

Variant, CPU, GPU, SSD

SFF, i7-4790k, Intel HD 4600, 1TB SSD, SFF, i7-4790k, Intel HD 4600, 2TB SSD, SFF, i7-4790k, AMD RX 6400, 1TB SSD, SFF, i7-4790k, AMD RX 6400, 2TB SSD, SFF, i5-4570, Intel HD 4600, 1TB SSD, SFF, i5-4570, Intel HD 4600, 2TB SSD, SFF, i5-4570, AMD RX 6400, 1TB SSD, SFF, i5-4570, AMD RX 6400, 2TB SSD, MT, i7-4790k, Intel HD 4600, 1TB SSD, MT, i7-4790k, Intel HD 4600, 2TB SSD, MT, i7-4790k, AMD RX 6600XT, 1TB SSD, MT, i7-4790k, AMD RX 6600XT, 2TB SSD, MT, i5-4570, Intel HD 4600, 1TB SSD, MT, i5-4570, Intel HD 4600, 2TB SSD, MT, i5-4570, AMD RX 6600XT, 1TB SSD, MT, i5-4570, AMD RX 6600XT, 2TB SSD