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Initial Setup of a Framework 16

Open Framework laptop

If you came to this post to learn about Framework computers, you can probably save yourself a lot of time and just read the first three paragraphs. The Framework is a beautiful machine. I’m using the Framework 16. Setup has been straightforward, and the computer has been easy and fun to use.

This post goes into some detail about setting up a Framework laptop, and I’m writing it out because I care about and enjoy mucking around with the technology I use. I’m an advocate for right to repair, open source, and open content, and the Framework computer is a piece of technology that aligns with these values.

And: the Framework is also just a really nice computer. A person can buy and use this machine simply because it works. The other details in this post are also true, but if you don’t care about right to repair, you can still use a Framework. Pick up one of their pre-built options and go to town.

Of course, things like right to repair matter. Big companies are in the process of getting bigger by peddling lies that technology is too complicated for “normal people” to understand — they use misrepresentations like this to erode our privacy, excuse their failures when data breaches occur, fight against regulation by claiming it will “stifle innovation”, etc, etc — and right to repair can play a role in undercutting these specious claims.

Computers are amazing devices, and it is a lot of fun — as well as better for the environment — to use hardware that can be fixed and upgraded over time as needed. Using devices that are designed to be open and accessible demystifies the technology, and helps us see that these things we thought were complicated are best described as things with which we are unfamiliar.

A note for the cynical people reading this: first, congratulations! It’s 2024, and your cynicism is well earned and rational. Second, I am not in any way affiliated with Framework. I bought this computer with my own money, no one asked me to write this (and many normal people would wonder why I did actually write this), and I am not being compensated in any form for writing this.

So with all that said, let’s get to it!

Existing Documentation

The existing documentation from Framework is really good, and it’s openly licensed. The main work I’m doing in writing this guide is unifying the existing docs, and setting some organization across multiple guides I used when assembling my DIY machine. The DIY computers are less expensive to buy, and allow you more flexibility in how the machine is set up. My writeup here reflects how I organized and used the documentation that the Framework team has put in place.

This post starts with unboxing, and ends with a completed install of Ubuntu Linux 24.04. These steps took me around 90 minutes to complete, starting with opening the box and ending with shutting down the computer after completing the install. If you’re interested in what I set up on the machine post-install, I wrote that up as well.

In the setup process, we will:

A. Take the machine out of the box;
B. Remove an interior plate (called the mid plate) so we can:
C. Install the hard drive and memory;
D. Reconnect the mid plate;
E. Install the keyboard and the touchpad;
F Install the bezel around the screen;
G. Insert any expansion cards;
H. Power on the computer and install the operating system;
I. Encrypt the hard drive during the install;
J. If needed, update the BIOS.

While this guide provides instructions for installing Ubuntu, the first 7 steps (A through G) will be identical regardless of operating system. For those with the privilege and the freedom to choose an operating system who are considering running Windows, I can recall a reason or three why that might not be the best idea. Why not try Linux?

The steps I lay out include one step that is not included in the Framework documentation: encrypting the hard drive while installing Ubuntu. I strongly recommend encrypting your hard drive. It’s easy to do during the install, and adds an extra layer of security to your system.

Before you begin

Prepare a clean, flat, reasonably dust-free work surface. When assembling the computer, you want to be able to see what you are doing without worrying about losing any pieces.

Make sure your work area has space for the device (a phone, tablet, laptop, etc) that has the install instructions. Unless you have detailed familiarity with the process, you should have the instructions available to review while you are working.

Have the single tool you need — a small screwdriver that comes with the computer — available.

Verify that you have all the components you need (hard drive, memory, etc) ready to hand, and that they appear unbroken. I generally unbox all materials and lay them out and, to the extent possible, inspect them for obvious breakage before starting.

Prepare two usb keys: one for the OS install, and a second for the BIOS upgrade. Having these prepared and ready to go ahead of time can streamline your setup process.

Getting Into It

The first part of the process (Steps A-G) uses the Framework Quickstart guide as an authoritative point of reference. Their docs are great, but/and when I was doing this I found it made more sense to group the steps into connected functions rather than individual steps. For me, this organization made the process more coherent.

A. Take the machine out of the box;

Steps 1 and 2

B. Remove an interior plate (called the mid plate) so we can:

Steps 3-8

C. Install the hard drive and memory;

Steps 9-11

D. Reconnect the mid plate;

Steps 12-14

When tightening the screws to reconnect the mid plate, be careful not to overtighten the screws and strip them. However: the final two screws (numbered 16 and 17), if left too loose, can block the touchpad module spacers. The difference between too loose and just right is a fraction of a turn, so be aware that you might need to gently adjust these screws to get them dialed in.

E. Install the keyboard and the touchpad;

Steps 15-19

F. Install the bezel around the screen;

Step 20

G. Insert any expansion cards;

Steps 21-22

Use this document to help inform what expansion card should go in what slot.

With the expansion cards in place, we are ready to install Ubuntu (or your operating system of choice).

Step H, below, spans two pieces of the Framework documentation: Step 23 of the Quickstart guide, and Step 2 of the Ubuntu install guide. From an end user perspective, these two steps blend smoothly into one another.

H. Power on the computer and install the operating system;

Before installing Ubuntu, we need to enable Linux audio compatibility. This is described in Step 2.

Once you have enabled Linux audio compatibility, and BEFORE you hit “F10” to reboot, insert the USB key with the Ubuntu installer. Framework’s install guide contains instructions on how to boot to the Ubuntu Live installer. In my setup, I didn’t need to follow that step. When I rebooted the machine with the install USB in the drive, the computer booted from the USB without any additional steps on my part.

In any case, if it doesn’t work automatically, follow Step 3 and then start the installation process.

I. Encrypt the hard drive during the install;

The Framework install guide does not include encrypting your hard drive on install. I generally recommend encrypting your hard drive, as it improves the overall security of your system. In Step 5 of the Framework instructions, when selecting the type of installation, select “Erase disk and install Ubuntu”. Then, click the “Advanced features” button and select “Use LVM and encryption”. You will be prompted to create a passcode, which is different than your login password. Create the passcode, and store it in a safe place, as you will need it to decrypt your hard drive when you power on your computer. You can read more about the Ubuntu install process and options in the Ubuntu docs.

Step 7 of the Framework install guide documents how to enable the Fingerprint Login. This is generally not something I recommend unless there is a compelling need because in the US, the courts have found that people can be forced to unlock devices protected with a fingerprint.

J. If needed, update the BIOS.

Steps 8-9 of the Framework docs describe how to complete the install process, including how to check the firmware version and update it if needed.


These steps took me around 90 minutes to complete. I’ve been using various flavors of Linux since the oughts, and have used Dell and System76 machines in the past. I’ve been setting up and using this machine over the last week, and hands down, the Framework has been the cleanest setup experience I have had.

If you are interested in the setup process I used, I documented it here. This is something I should have done ten years ago or more, but hey, better late than never.

Docs Consulted