Surface rt

A Surface rt with the Rasbian linux distro

Recently, I’ve had more motivation to get into computer work, and over the weekend I had my first successful project

I started working on it because I had bricked a tablet I was trying to root, and I didn’t want to sit on a failed project for too long. I had found my moms old Surface from 2012 running windows 8.1 made specifically for the earlier surface models, and it was a device that I knew I had to hack.

The unique thing about these laptops is they run on ARM chips (specifically the tegra 3 Nvidia chip in my case) meaning it wasn’t going to be as simple as pluging in a boot drive and replacing windows. I had to downgrade the windows download as newer versions had patched the jailbreak I used, I had utilized the Golden keys jailbreak to put the operating system into test mode, and then applied yahollo to disable secure boot.

Afterwards it was off to the races, i booted up a special version of raspbian made specifically for this project and ported it to the internal storage of the computer.

Of course I had alot of hick ups along the way. I downloaded golden keys twice which locked the drive and prompted me to have to reset the computer. I downloaded wrong recovery versions, and i screwed up downloading raspbian twice which leads me to today.

The operating system thinks the drive only has 3.7 GB of storage, and only has like 100 MB left due to the size of the operating system. The computer is supposed to have 64 GB and i think the issue is due to me incorrectly installing the operating system. I plan to continue this project after school


Nice work!

It’s crazy how many hoops companies will make you jump through just to install an operating system on hardware you own!


You forgot the part where your Mom lost the charger, but happened to have a car charger for it. So you had to take apart the charger to put a DC plug on it it to even charge it.


The operating system you are using may not be able to see past 4GB as well. This is a problem with older operating systems. It may not be anything you did, just a limitation of the OS.

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I completely forgot to update the post, my issue was i had not expanded the file in the config, pretty goofy mistake but ive since fixed it. Currently im working on putting a more efficient operating system like lubuntu on there but it has required me to start from scratch. I actual just started working on it today so ill try to keep it updated.


I don’t think that any version of Raspian has had that limitation. But if during installation an old FAT16 partition was selected, or if during manual partitioning one was created it’s possible.


Lubuntu more efficient than Raspbian? I haven’t touched anything Ubuntu based for many years, but I doubt that you’ll find *ubuntu better performing than Raspbian. If there is any measurable or perceivable difference, I doubt it’s by much either way. Please report back though - distrohopping can be really fun, especially on systems like these where you can just swap out SD cards.

As an alternative to starting over fresh with a new distro, you could just install LXQt in Raspbian (probably just sudo apt install lxqt and then maybe updating your auto-login options if you’re using auto-login). The desktop user experience is going to be basically identical.

If you have the interest, you might also checkout DietPi, Batocera, LibreElec, OSMC, etc. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you could also try installing FreeBSD, Android, or Windows IoT if that’s still a thing - scratch all that - I forgot you were on a Surface RT and not a Raspberry Pi. Whoops!


I actually did end up switching to the lxde desktop interface, weirdly enough it actually started running slower on the surface and i still can’t find out why. The reason I believe lubuntu will run better is because its a very lightweight version of linux (atleast it used to be) and it also gives me the opportunity to try and figure out how to make any distro compatible with the surface rt so I can use distros I like instead of just using a prebuilt version of raspbian for the surface rt. So far though its been doing alright, i like using it as a quick way to check up on my proxmox servers.


oh jeez - I completely forgot you were running on a Surface RT and not a Raspberry Pi… Too much Raspberry Pi in my other messages and news feed today I guess :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

There are two competing concepts here: distros and desktop environments.

  • The Lubuntu distro is really just the Ubuntu distro with the LXQt desktop environment installed by default. You can install LXQt on other versions of Ubuntu and other distros entirely. You can also install other desktop environments besides LXQt on Lubuntu.
  • Xubuntu (as another example) is Ubuntu with XFCE as the default desktop environment. You can install XFCE on Lubuntu or LXQt on Xubuntu if you wanted to. Or you can install either of those DE’s on regular old Ubuntu. It’s all the same.
  • Raspbian has it’s own desktop environment, but you can install others on it as well.
  • Some distros are lighter than others. Raspbian, being designed for single-board computing first, is probably going to be tough to beat unless you start going really minimal. Ubuntu is sorta the opposite of minimal (regardless of the desktop environment)
  • Some desktop environments are lighter than others. LXQt, XFCE, and Raspbian’s are among the lightest
  • Even a lightweight desktop environment can feel crappy if the base system is resource hungry

So if you really want to go lightweight, you need a lightweight distro and a lightweight desktop environment. I don’t think you’ll find Ubuntu to be very lightweight compared to Raspbian, but I also have zero experience with the Surface RT.

Distros that are probably even lighter than Raspbian include things like Puppy Linux or Tiny Core Linux, but I have no idea how difficult it is to put these on a Surface RT.

For a desktop environment that’s even lighter than Raspbian’s, LXQt, and XFCE, try Fluxbox! I think technically it’s just a window manager, but it comes with a configurable menu so it’s still usable despite being extremely minimal.


I have no idea what you all are talking about, but I’m happy my son has others to help him figure this out. That’s why I joined the makerspace, to begin with.


Given puppy linux has an arm image i might have to try it. Surface rts come with a tegra 3 chipset and Nvidia has drivers for linux so in theory if the linux distro is light enough you should be able to put it on a surface rt. Theres very little documentation about putting distros on the surface rt because the majority of people go with raspbian or postmarket. I really appreciate the linux distros you listed that are more lightweight than raspbian though because I knew lubuntu kinda sucked. My issue now is my drive has like 5 different partitions for raspbian and I can’t boot from the drive because a file needed for actually starting up linux (startup.nsh), I axedently deleted the the code of. When i try to boot from my fresh install of raspbian however, it keeps asking me for the keyboard layouts and all of that, then when I get to the part where it restarts to savs the settings it just goes right back to the keyboard layout screen. I tried flashing the drive with the raspbian image again but it still has the issue. This weekend I plan on working on it again and ill see if i can get puppy linux running on it instead.

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I can definitely relate to the raspberry pi stuff though, ever since the raspberry pi 5 was announced everyone has been overhyping it and its all over the place.