What is the difference between Purism and System76

From a security standpoint what is the difference between a purism and a a system76 machine? System76 has more current hardware and offers laptops with more memory. But does that come with a privacy or security sacrifice?

1 Like

short answer:

system76 - just makes laptops that are proven to work on GNU/Linux.

purism - does the same plus they aim freedom, security and privacy.


system76s do not come with open-source firmware, an OS designed to be secure and private, hardware killswitches for mic/cam and wireless, TPM, etc etc etc

1 Like

Yep, like the other said, basically system76 are selling “linux laptops” while purism is selling “security and privacy focused laptops (which obviously come with linux)”. So since the question is really about how they compare in terms of privacy and security, I’d say they don’t compare at all.
A simple example is that system76 will “make sure it works in linux” by having the OS load up any firmware (proprietary or otherwise) blobs into the wifi, bluetooth, usb, camera, etc… modules, just as long as it works well with linux, while Librems come with hardware that was specifically chosen to not only work well with linux but also to not require any proprietary firmware (which is why PureOS is FSF endorsed).
Another example is that the Librems come with Coreboot (which does contain the FSP proprietary blob, which we’re working on freeing) while system76 will come with whatever proprietary BIOS they have, and they are not making any efforts to remove the FSP or to even work on porting coreboot to their hardware. I could go on, but you get the idea I guess…


Can Pop_OS run on Purism hardware? I really really like Purism’s hardware, but in my observations Pop_OS is just a bit more refined. I realize it’s probably because the goal of Purism is to use completely free and open software. I have a slight hesitation using PureOS as a systems administrator and utilizing some of our IT services like Exchange with PureOS which hasn’t proved it works (using Evolution) but has in Pop_OS.

1 Like

you can run any OS on Purism hardware. Pretty much any Linux distro should work perfectly OOTB, including Pop_OS!


Thank you. Are there any known limitations to other OSs running on the hardware? Like hardware switches not working, etc.

The hardware is designed to work with free software, which is a subset of all software. Many distros (like Ubuntu and those based on it) include some non-free software, which lets them work on other devices, but if it works with free software, it should work with anything.

Hardware killswitches are hardware - they don’t care about software. If you flip the switch, the physical connection is broken, and there’s nothing software can do about it. Software will just see that device disappear.


in addition to the physical disconnect, we use ACPI to nicely tell the OS the device has been removed, so there’s no software dependency on it.


basically system76 does very little for the free-software community while purism contributes to both free-software upstream and open-hardware for general public use in a nice “just-works” candy-wrapper.



I think it is important to not paint system76 in a bad light. They might not have the same Foss goals but their efforts are important none the less. As anything that pushes Linux also helps Purism. Plus I think the Thelio is the only really serious workstation you can buy specifically for Linux. That’s big.


We use System76 and Pure in our business. Both are great and both have their, how would one might say, teething issues. System76, because it ships with better resources, tends to end up in the hands of engineers whereas the Pure laptop, which is more suited for managerial positions, ends up in the hands of … you guessed it.


They are both very good companies and worth supporting. As I see it, System76 paved the way, by showing that there was a viable market for a Linux laptop company, but Purism took it a step farther in terms of using more FOSS, and now System76 is trying to catch up.

System76 is closer to the open source mentality of we like freedom, but we want functionality and performance foremost, whereas Purism is closer to the GNU free software mentality of we will give up functionality if it means compromising freedom.

System76 showed the world that people will pay extra for laptops designed around Linux, and they made nice and stylish Linux laptops for years, with a Linux key instead of a Windows key in the keyboard. They also demonstrated that a laptop maker could make their own Linux distro.

Purism set out with the goal to get to as close to 100% free software as possible and created a “freedom roadmap” to eventually get to 100% free software. Purism was the first company to design a new laptop and sell it running a FOSS BIOS (Coreboot and SeaBIOS), and it was the first to sell a laptop that disabled Intel’s Management Engine. Purism’s example has pushed System76 to do the same.

Purism worked on porting their laptops to Coreboot between mid-2015 and June 2017, and have been selling Coreboot laptops ever since. System76 was inspired by Purism’s example, and started work on porting their laptops to Coreboot in June 2018. They still don’t sell any laptops with Coreboot preinstalled, but it will likely happen in the future.

Purism announced in March 2017, that it was working on disabling the Intel ME and it announced that it had achieved it on October 17, 2017. On November 30, 2017, System76 announced that it too would disable the Intel ME. System76 also commented that it was asking Intel and AMD to make it possible to use their processors without proprietary initialization firmware, which is something that Purism set as its goal back in late 2014 when the company was founded.

Purism announced in 2017 that its Librem 5 phone would run on 100% free software and get the FSF’s Respects Your Freedom certification to prove it. Purism is one of the few hardware companies that actually works with the FSF, and respects its goals. In addition, the case and motherboard design in the Librem 5 will be open hardware.

System76 is pushing the envelop with its Linux workstation, Thelios, which uses an open hardware case and daughter card and is manufactured in the US. See:

As I see it, we need both of these companies. System76 is expanding the Linux market for people who need Linux workstations and high-performance laptops, and Purism is pushing to get to the ideal of 100% free software. Both are pushing open hardware into new areas, where it didn’t exist before. I just wish that I had the money to buy all their lovely hardware. :slight_smile:


Excellent write-up! :+1:


from the above

An open source keyboard? We’d love to make one.

https://ultimatehackingkeyboard.com/ > https://github.com/UltimateHackingKeyboard

Yep, definitely! :moneybag:

I’m quite confident no Purism staff are censoring you. Just other forum users who question why you even peruse these forums.

But for what it’s worth, I have not flagged any of your posts, despite the fact that you really come off as an extremely unpleasant person. And no, it’s not just because I disagree with you on almost everything you post.

as i see it one represents the bridge and the other the free-software land (with liberating hardware STILL on the freedom-road-map)

Ergodox, GH60. Try google them.

We use both System76 and Purism at our place of work. System76 uses Clevo for their upstream models. We have had mixed results with the quality of System76 laptops that we believe is a direct result of Clevo quality. We’re a small firm with 5 System76 laptops deployed. 2 of them have had issues related to motherboard problems.

The laptops themselves, in terms of performance, are a touch superior to the Purism laptops. I believe this is due to the generation of the underlying processor. Because System76 isn’t addressing the Intel ME issue, they are free to use faster processors.

It’s my hope that System76 will be able to free themselves from Clevo and manufacture their own laptops or have greater control of their suppliers than they do. And it’s my hope that their desktops fall under that rubric. I am rooting for both firms and wish them success.

More on Clevo if you’re interested: https://www.clevo.com.tw/clevo_prodetail.asp?id=1128&lang=en