Asking for a Linux (or non-Windows) laptop during a job interview?

submitted by flakpanzer edited

I'm interviewing for a software dev job currently (it's in the initial stages). If things work out, I'd absolutely prefer a work laptop with Linux installed (I personally use PopOS but any distro will do), a Mac will be second choice, but I absolutely cannot tolerate Windows, I abhor it, I hate it... (If all computers left on earth have Windows I'd either quit this field or just quit Earth).

Sometimes it's possible to tell if they use Windows or not, for example, jobs with dotnet/C# are most likely using windows, but not in my case.

Anyways, is it too weird to ask what kind of laptop they provide to their employees? And to also specifically ask for a Linux (or anything but windows) work laptop?

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Björn Tantau

A job interview isn't just for the company to find out if you are a good hire for them. It's also for you to find out if the company is a good employer for you.

So yes, ask away. And if they cannot meet your criteria you just don't start working there.


Much like with dating, showing you have some standards and aren't just desperate for the first thing that comes along makes you a lot more attractive. If I was interviewing candidates and one of them respectfully voiced a preference for a certain OS laptop during the interview, I would probably look more favourably on them than someone who didn't voice a preference, all else being equal.

Possibly linux

Honestly its best if you say "I prefer Linux but I can be flexible with environments" although in a interview you probably have more important things to show.


Relevant username ^


They said “we’ll get you a laptop” and I said “it’s gotta be macOS or Linux, I have no idea how to use windows”


What if you aren't flexible? I never couch, I just say in use Linux for my workflow, can you accommodate that?

Possibly linux , edited

Then you may need to find another job. At the end of the day they pay you

Your Linux skills may be better served in in a Linux based company


Exactly this. There are some things I usually ask about every interview that kind of shows my hand about what I’m looking for, but also forces them to either answer me, or eliminate themselves as candidates in my mind.

However it’s important to note that this only holds true when you’re an in demand sector, where you aren’t an easily replaceable token. Otherwise they can just skip over you as too much potential trouble lol


It's not a weird thing to ask during the interview. It would be a weird thing to *request,* but not to enquire about.

Baut auf. she/her

I don't know about that. During my job interview, I requested that (with the necessary politeness) and it wasn't weird. I accepted the offer and now work daily on a GNU+Linux machine. It's nice.


I'd *enquire* during the interview and *request* when accepting the offer (or during onboarding). Don't ask me for a laptop while I'm still interviewing. It's an interview. I'm not giving you shit.

Baut auf. she/her

Obviously? Who would just give you stuff when you're not even employed 😂😂


It's a normal thing to ask in an interview, I ask the same every time, so far I've always gotten one, after all most things I work with require Windows machine to have WSL anyways, so might as well cut one layer.

That being said it all comes down to how you ask it and how valuable you are, if a junior said "I only work with Linux, either you give me a Linux box or I won't take the job" you might be cut from the race by HR before any person who even understands what you're asking gets to see you because you're being inflexible. If on the other hand you're a senior and go through the interview and at the end when you get to the questions ask what's the policy for OS on work machines, you're much more likely to get the answer you're looking for. That is unless you're working for a Windows specific program, which obviously will need a Windows box, and not many companies are willing to give you two PCs.


But dont count 2 pcs out of the race, in most cases your salary is way more expensive than the nicest laptop they offer.


For sure, in fact I do have a Windows box besides my main Linux laptop from the company I work for. But this is because I work most of the time with Linux but there's one specific thing that needs to be done on a Windows box. Luckily for me they have been very accommodating in that regard, but I could see a different company saying I would only get a Windows machine since it can do all of the flows.


I agree it's more about who, when and how you ask than the ask itself.

Possibly linux

Honestly run if you can run a bunch of VMs on a Linux host. That way you can be very flexible and have multiple test environments.


It’s not weird, but be ready to be turned down for the job if they’re a Windows shop.


You should ask this, but maybe hold back on the "I abhor it" stuff.

While for some places it may even be a good sign you want Linux, serious rejection for other platforms may look like a lack of flexibility. Who's to say you don't have the same strong feelings about other stuff?

flakpanzer [OP]

Yes that's good advice. Thanks.


Yeah focus on how much more productive and secure using Linux will make you.


IMO generally be a positive about Linux rather than negative about Windows. Asking about what systems they support is reasonable though. Just know that you may be passing up jobs if this is your hill to die on.


It's not weird, you can ask the recruiter or even the developer doing the interview what is the work environment (i.e. at the end, "do you have any question for me"). It's a perfectly valid question.

You don't have to go into details and go into a flamewar about Windows, at most just mention that it's not your preference.

I think it's better to avoid talking about how you "absolutely cannot tolerate", "hate" a given platform because that in itself could be a red flag to some interviewers. If you feel this way about Windows, maybe you'll feel this way about frameworks/libraries that has already been picked and be a pain to work with.


This is the right answer, especially if you can't afford to not take the job.


I'm not a software developer, but I absolutely do coding and one of the standard questions I ask is what OS they run on official company approved laptops. Other then a shitty bank I worked at for a few years (bad idea, but at least I got a pension out of it), all of them allow windows, osx, and at least one flavor of linux. If they don't allow that stuff, you should just turn down the offer anyway.


I ask before I take the interview. Location, salary range, linux laptop are prerequisites to me working for anyone. If they punt on the laptop question it means no and they are hoping you'll want the job even without. I can promise you I won't, and if you view that as a red flag I can promise I don't want to work there so I don't care.

If its a hard requirement for you just say that and say that's for workflow and you don't want to waste anyone's time

Sunny' 🌻 , edited

I personally got hired recently, and did ask this in one of the interviews, and luckily we can choose which OS we get to run on the machines. However only those with Windows get IT support if needed. Which I guess is fair.. Hope you get your wishes fulfilled!


As an IT Technician/Sysadmin who is responsible for ordering the laptop, my recommendation is DEFINITELY ASK because this is info the IT guy needs to know!


Yup. Our RMM tools work best on Windows machines. Honestly, Linux is fine too, but MacOS is the worst to manage.

If anything needs to be modified/deployed on MacOS, I have to create a new PPPC and deploy it through Intune/Jamf/Addigy, otherwise you can guarantee the end user won't accept the correct security prompts and things won't work.

pudcollar , edited

You wanna go for start-ups then. Most bigger and medium-sized companies have centrally-managed security where they wanna push updates and such to all computers or there's some corporate spyware everyone's gotta run or they've got everyone on M$ Office etc etc. Odds are a place that lets you use a linux laptop is going to be reluctant to buy you one and invite you to use your own. Macbooks aren't so bad, if they let you have sudo, lots of places use those.


Even at big companies, devs get flexibility because they need to run a bunch of random stuff that can look sketchy to security software.


Sometimes, somewhat.


I've lost so many days waiting for info sec to issue exception approvals to install an sdk ugh

Sentient Loom

Now I just have to find a startup... any suggestions?


Talk to people.

Unless you want to be an SDR or something either high turnover and therefore lots of demand. Then indeed or any job hunting site.

chepycou 🇻🇦

Depends, in real computer science companies technical people will use #
But if you're not in a really technical company and/or in a not-that-technical division of the company, then I guess it will be BYOD then.


No, it is not weird. Ask them


I usually ask after the interview and after i've received the offer. At that point it doesn't impact the selection process and you are still in time to reject if you want.


I develop C# dotnet on Linux. It's fine but normal "I'm the only Linux user" issues apply such as case-sensitive filenames.


I develop C# on Linux, but I run the full VS inside of a Windows 10 VM.


Rider works pretty well also if you're allowed to put add Linux support to projects. The Edit and Continue is not as nice though, even though support for it on Linux got merged into dotnet 8.


In my experience most non-Microsoft organisations use Mac's for development but deploy to Linux in production.

It's rather insane because this of course creates lots of subtle differences between Dev and prod, although not as many as if dev was a Windows box.

To answer your question though - just ask in the interview what the deal is so you know what you're in for.

If you deviate from the norm (i.e request a Linux box when everyone else is using MacOS) you're always going to be the guy with issues that nobody else has.

If the company has any kind of standard mobile device management - it probably won't work on Linux.

This will trigger the security team and probably the IT team because there's always this outlier device that can't run the standard VPN client or can't have DNS config pushed to it or the Linux version of some app has bugs that don't surface on the Mac version


Im Linux all the way, but saying the difference from Windows to prod is bigger does not take wsl into account. It is way more near linux production environments than Mac.


Thanks for saying that. I have no idea why that gets overlooked so often.

As much as I like to shit on Windows, WSL is ingenious and many dev tools integrate it nicely.

I really don't get why Apple doesn't offer anything in that direction, where devs are a big target audience for them and they already ride the POSIX train.


Those differences between Dev and prod are usually mitigated by containers to be fair.


We use containers in our work whenever possible, to reduce the problems caused by different development environments and deployment environments. And as a Linux user I embrace the idea (Linux dev containers for every project!) but it has unfortunately made things harder for our Windows developers. Docker on windows is a difficult to get right. Throw Docker-Desktop and WSL2 in the mix, you have a nightmare. They all come to me with "why isn't my Docker environment working?!".


At my company this is known as a green flag to the recruiter. ;)


It's part of salary negotiation for me. When I figure how much they have to pay me, I add some more in if it's o365 or teams.

It's a pittance, easily dwarfed by a RTO tax or forced standby tax, but it's in there.


It is absolutely not weird and I would argue it's even important. The whole point of the interview is that BOTH parties evaluate each other according to THEIR criteria. Maybe for them it is not important but for you it's a requirement, maybe you discover through that the culture is not aligned. It's great for both to understand this NOW rather than 3 months down the line, as you started to settle, they teach you everything about their specific infrastructure and... it doesn't work, now both needs to redo the process again.

So yes IMHO it doesn't matter how "silly" it might sound to you, now during the interview process, is the time to insure that it's going to be an actual fit.

You have to also be aware that they might say no, or that the question itself might lead to a rejection. They might just not want this due to internal policy, security, culture, belief system, etc. This might feel like a loss but again, better know now and look for a place that match your needs that later on.

I also don't conduct many interviews, especially not right now, but when I did anything that could help me understand what made the candidate tick, what got them genuinely excited or angry, was super important. Sure I wanted to insure the technical capability but beyond that I was looking for any clue to see if we were compatible beyond just task in, result out, because in the long run that's what would make us both happy.

TL;DR: yes, ask for whatever YOU want.


Last 3 jobs I've worked at, I made it sure they understood I needed a Linux laptop to work. They all offered MacBooks (and I made the mistake of taking the MacBook once), but as long as it's a good company (i.e. no *removed* IT department) they'll allow it


What is a removed IT department? Like contracted out?

ikidd treats their users like children and naughty words get redacted inbound and out.


What was the removed word there? Something like "outsourced"?.

onlinepersona , edited

I've always asked when talking to the person in charge (not HR, they don't know jack): "Which OS do you use and are you open to Linux?"

Had to turn down multiple jobs that were Windows/Mac only. They deployed web apps to the cloud aka linux and refused to develop on linux 🤷

Last I remember, according to the stackoverflow dev survey 40% of devs used Linux at work. Don't be afraid to ask.


Corroded , edited

Kind of unrelated but what do you like about MacOS and Linux versus Windows? I mean that in the way of things they share

I never really used a MacOS device for an extended period of time so when I did use one the differences between it and Windows/Linux really slowed me down and confused me.


As a Linux user, you can pretend the os x is just Linux. That's not true, but you can make it work with brew, some googling and your favourite ide / tech stack.

On the plus side, macs are less problematic to integrate with corporate software. You can run commercial software that's not available for Linux.

Windows is just Windows. A step back from either Linux or mac. Two steps backed when managed by corporate IT.

Sentient Loom

Yeah I use a Mac at work and it's actually amazing. Lots of stuff runs the same as in linux.


Right up until you try to use some standard Linux tool like sed and all the flags are wonky. Never understood that, is that something to do with MacOS's BSD ancestry? Idk.

d3Xt3r , edited

Yep it's a BSD thing (and deviations down the line), but you can amend your $PATH so that the homebrew GNU variants take precedence. Obviously you'd only set this for your user/shell, otherwise it'd cause issues with system-wide tools that expect the macOS variants.

Kazumara , edited

As a Linux user, you can pretend the os x is just Linux. That’s not true, but you can make it work with brew, some googling and your favourite ide / tech stack.

You can, but it's still a miserable experience because the GUI is opinionated and its opinion is shit. I've been on that boat for three years now.

Possibly linux

Why don't you just state your preference is Linux? I wouldn't worry about it to much until you get though the job screening process but if they are getting close to offering you the job it can't hurt to state your preference. Don't be demanding of course.


Most jobs I've had in the last 15 years have asked me if I want a Max or Windows PC. I've had Linux boxes at most of them as well, but not as the primary machine.

bravemonkey , edited

Sounds like it's better for you to ask now so you can decline the job if they're a Windows only shop.

Possibly linux

That's not a good way to make an impression


I wouldn’t work a windows exclusive job, it’s a deal breaker for me, so I’d definitely ask. I work in an all Mac shop that does enterprise cloud architecture.


I told my would-be boss that if he wanted me to be productive I'd better have a Linux machine


I would not ask at the interview.. I’d wait until after you’re hired…

I’m not a programmer; but a system administrator. 4 Linux and 250 windows 1 Mac; In our org. I’ve run off a MBP for 17 years now. And not had any push back when I requested it, just said I’d prefer a then 15” now 16” MBP.

Good luck

Possibly linux

I assume MBP is short for the Mac book pro. Anyway I personally wouldn't be the first person to want a Mac as they don't have all the great of virtualization support.


Sorry yeah. MacBook Pro.

It does what I need to do my job. I’ve got all the terminal tools. SSH ping nmap. MS makes a great Remote Desktop app And the built in screen sharing works great for VNC. SO. YEAH


FWIW I get along pretty well with a virtualbox vm running on my employer provided windows machine. Performance is good and virtualbox even supports multiple displays pretty well.

You do need to square things with corporate IT and security though. Some places really lock their systems down. I'd ask about how "developer friendly" their security policies are.

Possibly linux

Virtual box is very slow compared to something more native. I prefer KVM on Linux if I can get it and I'm pretty sure Hyper-V is going to be faster even though it is a tremendous pain in the ***


VirtualBox performs just fine for me and I'm not exactly light on how I use it. I have a development environment with multiple IntelliJ instances running, and Oracle database running in Docker, etc. And the desktop integration is *much* better than Hyper-V. KVM is not an option if the host is Windows.

With VirtualBox I can run full screen with multiple monitors - aside from the Windows Key being caught by Windows it's nearly complete immersion to the Linux desktop. I can then switch to "window mode" if I need to do anything from Windows. And even in "windowed mode" I still have multiple monitors (it does one window for each).

Raw performance isn't everything. The user experience here is much better than what the hypervisors provide.


Dell offers their Precision lineup of laptops with an option to ship with Linux (ubuntu) instead of Windows. As far as mainstream, enterprise support and driver updates go, you can't get any bigger than Dell. Lots of good deals to be had on eBay for these machines too, they're built like tanks and driver issues are never a thing.


If only asking the same thing for non-computer jobs would be accepted. I always have to use my personal laptop.

d3Xt3r , edited

Even in an IT job I prefer using my own gear (laptop+keyboard+mouse). Corporate laptops (+ peripherals) almost always universally suck. Therfore I won't accept a job unless they have a decent BYOD scheme. At my current workplace for instance, most of our core apps are cloud-based already, and for the few legacy apps, we can access via Citrix; plus they also reimburse me (to an extent) for using my own laptop, which is nice. With my own gear, I can spec it however I want and use my own favorite apps, without needing to go thru approvals and red tape, and more importantly - I can use my own distro/DE of choice. Like, imagine if a company offered Linux laptops, but you were forced to use *Ubuntu* or something worse like Oracle Linux... So yea, BYOD FTW. if I were you, I'd ask if BYOD is an option, and if so what their BYOD scheme is like. As a Linux person, it's always better to use your own gear, than whatever *el cheapo* locked-down system the company offers.

SecretPancake , edited

I don’t ask for, I demand a Mac.

Edit: I'm sorry that I'm privileged enough to be able to do that.

Edit2: Didn't realize I'm in the linux sub, of course there will be outrage. If it helps you sleep better, Linux would be my second choice.


Your IT dept tells jokes about you regularly


Fine by me if that's true. We Mac users are also the only ones at the company who don't have managed computers and can do whatever we want with it.

It's shit to work with Windows as a web developer. I did that for too many years and hated every second.


Ah, you "work" in "marketing"?


Web developer :) I'm doing pretty good and if a job doesn't offer Macs I can find another one. So why should I accept Windows?


I'm a software engineer. My entire team develops on Mac because we have to develop *for* Mac.


We found the graphics designer.


I KNOW I'm gonna get A LOT of hate for typing this, but if a MacBook is cheaper than the laptop you want, you should get a MacBook...


No way. Even if you try to run Linux on it, the keyboard is a mac mangled keyboard.

You're better off leaving it on MacOS, which is still better than Windows but not by much


If the laptop I want is more expensive that a MacBook its because it has some serious hardware or very specialized feature set. If you want an average spec machine save the money and just get it instead of MacBook

Possibly linux

What does that even mean?


The Apple M_ processors are great for performance to power usage ratio (and peak performance in general), so a MacBook is a good choice of laptop (even to run Linux on it).


Linux is currently not available on Apple silicon as anything other than a half baked alpha build with a ton of essential stuff missing. Not even remotely ready to be used as the primary OS. And that's on the M1. It's even worse on the more recent chips.

explore_broaden , edited

I run Asahi Linux on the M1, and it’s been working great for the last six months or so.

Edit: I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying one to run Linux at the moment, for one thing they’re overpriced, but I was clarifying why the original comment would have suggested an M1.