Install Debian on a Dell XPS 13 (7390)


In the need of a new laptop, I ordered one around Christmas (Dec. 2019) and started into the new year with a Debian install party! After years (well, decades) with IBM's and Lenovo's Thinkpads and a stint on a Xiaomi Mi Book Air 12.5 Macbook clone (Great ultrabook for the road, but pretty weak for a many tasks), I set my eyes on what many reviews coined "A near-perfect laptop", "The best ultrabook", "The best laptop for Linux in 2019", etc: A Dell XPS 13.

I ordered the Developer edition with 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD, and a non-touch, anti-glare Full-HD screen. It comes preinstalled with Ubuntu 18.04, so I thought there should not be many issues to install Debian stable (Buster) on to it. Well kind of. You need to know what is missing.

First here's the product in question:

  # dmidecode | grep "Product Name"
	Product Name: XPS 13 7390
	Product Name: 0377MH

Here's the full spec


Instead of installing from scratch I just cloned my own old Debian system. Luckily I spend a bit of time researching and trying out various live CDs to figure out what is supported and what not. Not surprisingly some of Intel's chipsets are still too new and the Standard life-(and I guess install-) image just gets you to command line and no wifi. But it seems it's only missing a current kernel and newer firmware for Intel's Killer Wifi chip.

As I was just copying over my old system from a Debian live image (running X but no WiFi) I could install them on my system before and the whole process was pretty straight-forward (minus a few glitches I introduced myself such as screwing up /etc/fstab or some wrong ownerships/permission).


Here's what you need to have:

A new kernel from buster backports, at the time of this install and writing, the most current is:
linux-image 5.4.0

Newer (non-free) firmware for the wireless drivers:
firmware-iwlwifi (20190717-2~bpo10+1 as of this writing)

In case you do a fresh install copy these onto some offline media you can access during - or after install.

So far everything tested works fine: WiFI, Xserver, direct rendering, touchpad, webcam, Bluetooth. More testing is certainly required.

That's all folks.