FAQ

Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

About Purism

Is Purism a non-profit or corporation?
Where is Purism based?

Short answer: South San Francisco, CA USA

Longer answer: Worldwide. Purism sources component parts from China, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States. Purism builds, assembles, quality control tests, and delivers all our hardware from our South San Francisco facility, USA. Purism has employees, contractors, and volunteers from around the world.

How Does an Emerging Company Manufacture a Motherboard?

Through business negotiations we license reference designs and prepay for all the tooling, so that we can do small quantity fabrication, albeit at a higher per-unit price.  It is not inexpensive, but it is possible! Purism’s founder, Todd Weaver, has built up these relationships for over a decade.

Can I buy my Librem with cash?

Unfortunately, no. If you are worried about privacy, you can pay with bitcoin or monero.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Credit card, cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Monero, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Decred, Ethereum) and direct bank transfer. If you need any assistance or alternative options for payment, email ops(at)puri.sm for assistance.

How can I contribute?

You can help by purchasing a Librem device and benefit from a more secure computing experience. You could also help us out with projects that we are currently working on as we are sometimes stretched thin. Finally, the easiest way would be to help answer questions in our community forums, engage with others that are considering Purism products, spreading the word about Purism, be willing to write in with bug reports or user experiences or donating time and/or money for our project. Another item would be to write a blog post about your experiences in switching to a Librem or to GNU/Linux in general. Send an email to info(at)puri.sm for questions, additional information or your willingness to be involved.

Are you hiring?

Short answer: Yes. See https://puri.sm/jobs/

Longer answer: Purism is hiring for a great number of positions, even more than are listed in our jobs section. If you are interested in any of the listed positions, or have an idea of a position you’d like to create within our organization, please send an email to hr(at)puri.sm with the following:

  • What you’re good at, or what you would like to help us with.
  • How you got good at it, or how you’d like to help us.
  • Why would you like to be involved with Purism?

We offer various forms of compensation and roles, from volunteer, part-time, paid, or margin share. Please list what forms of compensation you require and are amenable to.

Can I invest in Purism?

Yes, please reach out to ir(at)puri.sm (Investor Relations), and you will get a reply within 24 hours to discuss the opportunity.

I am having troubles with payment, what to do?

Please note that for cryptocurrency or direct bank transfer it could take some time before we validate the payment.

If you want to change your payment option, log-in to our webshop interface and go to your Account page orders section and click Pay next to your order. You’ll be taken to the checkout page, where you can choose another payment option.

In case you have other questions, send an email to info(at)puri.sm.
In case you run into problems with payment, send an email to ops(at)puri.sm.

For Beginners

What is FLOSS?

FLOSS stands for Free/Libre Open Source Software and is software with its source code available to the public and allowed to be modified, improved or whatever else users feel like doing do it. It grants you freedom.

What is GNU/Linux?

A “Linux” operating system, properly described as GNU/Linux, is an operating system based upon the Linux kernel. The Linux kernel was created by Linus Torvalds initially for his own use during his years in college. It was used with the GNU operating system. GNU, created by Richard Stallman, is the entire operating system, minus the kernel. So, when people say “Linux operating system” they should be saying “GNU/Linux operating system”, or even a “GNU operating system”.

Both Torvalds and Stallman released their software to the world for free.

What is the difference between free and libre?

English language more often uses word “free” to describe something that is gratis – while it is true that all the software in FLOSS is gratis, it is not mandatory to be like that. The important part of FLOSS is that is has the liberty to be examined, learn about it, modify it to your needs without any restriction of copyright license which forbids you to use it as you want.

Often said it is “free as in freedom”.

Isn’t GNU/Linux just for hackers, programmers and developers? Do I have to be a computer expert to use PureOS or a Librem?

No, not at all. There are many people that do in fact use GNU/Linux to program and develop applications for various operating systems (not just for Linux) but GNU/Linux is easily used by many people of all levels of computing skill.

PureOS is designed to be user friendly by utilizing one of the most popular desktop environments available called Gnome 3. Gnome 3 works well with both touch and traditional mouse and keyboard user inputs to allow for easy use. The Librem has well known traditional ports and utilizes off the shelf parts for easy replacement if something needs replaced.

I still have favorite programs from my Windows/Mac computer. Can I still use them?

Yes and no. No Windows applications will run natively on PureOS. However, some Windows applications can be run with an application called Wine. Please go to www.winehq.org to check on the availability of your program. Applications designed for Apple products can not run on a GNU/Linux based machine such as a Librem.

Additionally, you can also run Windows or Apple operating systems within our virtual box application, Boxes, which would allow you to run the applications that you need.

Please also note that Windows based programs run as non-free source/proprietary code and Purism can not offer a guarantee that your Librem will continue to be secure if you choose to install. We do not recommend doing this for your own privacy and security but you are welcome to as the Librem is your machine.

I’ve heard that I have to type in complicated commands to use Linux in something called a terminal.

You don’t have to. There is also a “terminal” in Windows, Apple and Google machines as well but like those operating systems, complicated command lines are going away in favor of graphic user interface (GUI) focus. PureOS does have a terminal just like all Linux distributions but it is not needed in many situations for newer users.

I’m used to using an Android phone and a Windows desktop. Will this computer work the same as what I’m used to?

All operating systems have their differences when comparing, for instance, a mobile operating system like Android to a computer focused one like Windows. Apple has differences from Windows as well. However, each operating system allows you to do the same or similar things – it may just be a different button to push or icon to click.

Web browsers, applications and file managers will all work in PureOS/Librem in ways that you are used to on other devices. They may look a little different than what you’re used to, but they will get you to the same place.

Do you have an app store?

Yes! Our operating system, PureOS, has an app store called “Software” where many different applications are available giving you many additional gaming, productivity, video, graphics, and office choices.

Can I watch Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon Prime?

Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime distribute content with restrictive DRM technologies that Purism does not support natively through PureBrowser. However, there are other browsers that you are free to install if you choose to.

Youtube supports HTML5 and will play without additional input.

Does a Librem have Flash, Silverlight, Java and other plug-ins preinstalled?

No, it does not, as these are major security issues. Most websites are switching to HTML5 due to these security issues. However, you can install an OS which supports this proprietary software, but have in mind that this is a bad security practice.

Are there any tutorial videos or additional information on PureOS/Linux?

Often times when we think of an operating system we think of how it looks and feels. This is called the user interface or user experience. PureOS 3 uses a Graphical User Interface (GUI, also sometimes called “Desktop Environment”) called Gnome 3. Information on this user interface can be found here:

https://www.gnome.org/gnome-3/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU2f_jkPRq4

Where can I find out more about PureOS?

PureOS home page: https://pureos.net/
PureOS FAQ: https://tracker.pureos.net/w/faq/
PureOS Wiki pages: https://tracker.pureos.net/w/
PureOS bug tracker: https://tracker.pureos.net/maniphest/
Purism Community forums, PureOS category: https://forums.puri.sm/c/pureos

Can you explain to me in plain English why I should be concerned about security and privacy issues on my computer?

The same reasons you are concerned over unwanted people entering your property, peeping through your windows, or installing cameras in your house. These same physical rights apply directly to digital rights. You should not want unwanted people having access to your digital files, your photos, emails, website history, or your camera or microphone.  Your home is your private life, your digital life should have the same rights and protections.

Will the Librem help me avoid data breaches?

Properly used, Librem will make it by magnitudes harder to have data breaches compared to Windows and Mac OS X. It has integrated full disk encryption, all of the best GNU/Linux security practices, sand boxed applications, and hardened security features.

What kind of cyberthreats can be prevented with a Librem?

All threats are bonded a lot to user interaction with their device. Librem’s underlying software by default do not track or log your keypresses, location, software usage. Default operating system (PureOS) has app isolation (with Wayland) and SELinux enabled.

Do you put up ads or steal and sell my data?

No. Quite simply, we will not show you advertisements nor do we care about mining your data. Your data, your pictures, your browsing history – that’s for you and you alone. We exist as a company because we personally wanted to have better control of our own data. And we think you do to.

Do I need special proprietary hardware, software or cables to use a Librem?

No! We hate those proprietary things! Your Librem will work with industry standards such as HDMI, USB, hardware after market parts and all software is free and libre. RAM, hard drives or solid state drives, batteries and power supplies are all “off the shelf” and available for purchase from online and big box stores.

How do I talk to a real person in case I need to?

You can:

    Librem Devices

    What is a Librem?

    The Librem name originated with the desire to make a truly freedom respecting laptop and phone. Libre is an adjective meaning “free, at liberty” and is used to distinguish it from gratis which means “free of charge”. Libre is used extensively in the GNU/Linux community to show that software is free in the sense that its source code is available as opposed to non-free software where the source code can not be viewed. Libre also translates easily to a variety of languages. The “m” was added to help it roll of the tongue.

    What are the benefits of using a Librem?

    The Librem runs PureOS as it’s operating system. This operating system is based upon the Linux kernel and is viewed by privacy and security experts as being incredibly secure. This is due to it being free software where the source code is available, meaning that people with proper technical skill can easily read, view and understand the language of the operating system. Operating systems that you are used to such as Windows and OS X are non-free and the source code is held by Microsoft and Apple. This non-free software, where the source code is not available in proprietary OSes makes it impossible to fully read and understand the computer language thereby making it impossible to fully know what your Microsoft or Apple based computer is doing or if it is secure.

    What do I get in the box?

    Your Librem, power cord and a quick start guide.

    Are they available in stores or online?

    Librems are available on our online store. Getting the product into big box stores is something that is on the Purism road map.

    Do you ship worldwide?

    Short answer: Yes.

    Longer answer: We can ship pretty much anywhere, and offer free international shipping, but the customer is responsible for customs clearing/duties, and local taxation. International shipments may be subject to customs processing and additional charges, customs policies vary from country to country, therefore you should contact your local customs office for more information. When customs clearance procedures are required, it can cause delays in arrival. If you can normally order product from the U.S. and have it shipped to you, then you can order from Purism in the same manner.

    How are the devices shipped?

    By FedEx in USA, and USPS Priority Mail International for international shipments. You can also pay for something faster, leave a note when ordering and contact ops(at)puri.sm.

    DHL is not an option.

    Why does it cost so much? What are the benefits of paying more?

    We are working hard to bring down the price of the Librems. In fact, we were able to reduce the price of the Librem 13 in April 2016 by over $200! In the simplest terms, it is the sheer economics of supply and demand. As there is more demand for privacy respecting and secure computing, the price will come down because as we will be able to order more parts for our wonderful computers.

    The truth is that we need capital in order to grow as a business. We are already working with thin margins. The benefits to supporting a privacy and security focused computer manufacturer are vast but the decision to help us is yours.

    How do the Hardware Kill Switches (HKS) work? Why do they matter?

    The HKS physically cut the power going to the microphone/webcam and the wifi/bluetooth radios in the device. There have been several cases where either big government agencies or nearby hackers have remotely accessed these devices to turn on computers or otherwise view or listen in through the microphone or web camera. Software solutions of turning the camera on and off can be easily bypassed. The HKS physically cut the electronic circuit to the accessory. No power, no work. When the switches are thrown the accessory is, quite simply, off, and can not be remotely turned back on.

    This matters as a security feature and for your own piece of mind. No longer do you have to worry about private communications being recorded or someone looking back at you through the webcam. Parents can especially enjoy this feature to help protect their children.

    The switch for the WiFi can be thrown and along with pulling out the ethernet cord will ensure you the convenience of true off line computing. Then when you want to use either the microphone/web camera or the WiFi/Bluetooth, simply return power to the accessory by turning the switch.

    What the Librem’s cases (bodies) made of?

    The outer shell is solid aluminum with a black anodized finish.

    Do you make the case yourself, or are they from a third party?

    They were custom fabricated for us.

    Will the Librem have replacement and upgrade parts?

    Yes, it is possible to order replacements for the wireless card, RAM, 2.5″ SATA drive and M.2 SSD, power adapter. Batteries are available within the USA, international shipment for batteries is on a case-by-case basis (due to carrier restrictions such as these).

    Where can I read about your warranty/return policy?

    See the policies page for our warranty, returns & refunds policy.

    Librem Key

    What is Librem Key?

    Librem Key is a USB security token to make encryption, key management, and tamper detection convenient and secure. See here to learn more about what it does, its specs and to see purchase options.

    Can this key be used with other BIOS or only coreboot?

    The tamper-evident boot only works with our Heads firmware that runs on top of coreboot. We have not yet released a Heads ROM for our systems but we are working to beta test that right now before we release it to a wider audience.

    Does Librem Key only issue warning or will it actually prevent the system from booting in case of tampering?

    We intentionally still allow users to boot even if Heads detects tampering. We do not want to lock people out of their own systems. That said, Heads is free software so you could modify it to have that behavior if you wanted to.

    Can the keys generated on a single Librem Key be used to validate multiple devices? (For example, if I have two laptops and one key.)

    At the moment you could only register a Librem Key with one Heads ROM.

    Can the keys be copied or backed up, then restored to another key, in the event that the key is lost?

    Yes, you can backup the GPG keys that you put on a Librem Key to a USB thumb drive or other backup. As far as the shared secret for tamper-evident boot, if you were to lose your Librem Key you could either skip tamper-evident checks until you got a replacement, or fall back to the 6-digit TOTP code + your phone.

    Does the Librem Key support U2F?

    The Librem Key does not currently support U2F, but we are looking into adding that feature into a future revision.

    Is there any actual difference between a Librem Key and a Nitrokey Pro?

    The Librem Key and Nitrokey Pro v2 have the same hardware and similar firmware, so yes, you can use Heads with Nitrokey Pro v2.
    Nitrokey Pro v1 has older firmware and will not integrate with Heads.

    But please understand we can provide support only for Librem Key and its integration with other Librem hardware.

    Technical & Advanced

    What CPU/RAM/storage options are available for laptops?

    Please see our products page for comparison, you can also see more detailed specs for Librem 5, Librem 13 and Librem 15.

    Would I be able to install (myself) my own choice of wifi card, RAM, second HDD/SSD and M.2 SSD?

    Yes, you can unscrew the back and add your own upgrades, like storage, RAM or wifi card.
    But bear in mind you might need additional stuff like screws and aluminium frames for mounting the disk, which don’t come by default with our laptops.

    Do Librem devices use non-ECC RAM or ECC RAM?

    Non-ECC. Because ECC RAM takes modifying the motherboard in addition to selecting a CPU that supports ECC.

    What is TPM and do I need it?

    TPM (Trusted Platform Module) is a special chip on a Librem laptop motherboard which provides some interesting security features. To best understand what it can do please read the following news articles from our blog, sorted by date:

    https://puri.sm/posts/purism-integrates-heads-security-firmware-with-tpm-giving-full-control-and-digital-privacy-to-laptop-users/
    https://puri.sm/posts/purism-collaboration-with-cryptography-expert-werner-koch/
    https://puri.sm/posts/making-heads-more-usable-with-menus/
    https://puri.sm/posts/demonstrating-tamper-detection-with-heads/

    The last link should be able to help you decide whether or not do you need it.

    Note that the software part for TPM is in early alpha-stage (still in the testing phase) and once ready, we will provide instructions to compile, install, enable and set it up on a TPM-enabled Librem laptop.

    What is coreboot and why is it important?

    Coreboot is a free software (and open-source) replacement for proprietary BIOS. Librem laptops come with coreboot pre-installed. For more info about coreboot please read this tech page.

    Can I buy a Librem laptop with a proprietary BIOS/UEFI?

    No. We ship with the free software firmware coreboot. We don’t ship Librem 13 or Librem 15 with any proprietary BIOS/UEFI.

    How much is your coreboot fork different from the mainline code?

    Most of our changes have been upstreamed and merged, there is very little difference and it’s mostly just for the most recent patches that we haven’t yet pushed.

    Do Librem laptops with coreboot support booting from USB key or SD/MMC slot?

    Yes, just press ESC when Purism logo shows up and select your device to boot.

    What is Intel Management Engine and what are concerns with it regarding Librem laptops?

    The Intel Management Engine (ME) is a separate independent processor core that is actually embedded inside the Multichip Package (MCP) on Intel CPUs. It operates all-by-itself and separate from the main processor, the BIOS, and the Operating system (OS), but it does interact with the BIOS and OS kernel. It is a black box of mystery code at the lowest level, in ring -2, with complete control over every part of the system, and therefore presents a serious threat to your security and privacy, as it could be possibly exploited by a remote attacker to gain full access to your system. It is present on every post-2008 Intel CPU system.

    Purism actively avoids this technology and even both disables and neutralizes it on a firmware level, thus minimizing or removing the threat entirely.

    What mystery code, or binary blobs remain with Purism laptops? Is there any concern with them?

    Security is a game of depth, and Purism goes deeper than any manufacturer by avoiding blobs or mystery code in the top 4 layers of a computer: applications, operating system, kernel, and bootloader.

    At the firmware level, we utilize Coreboot instead of a proprietary BIOS/UEFI, a huge advancement for current high-end laptops. Within Coreboot there is still some binaries: video initialization binary and Video BIOS. Our goal is to have them replaced with free software alternatives and we are making a slow but steady progress in this direction.

    https://puri.sm/road-to-fsf-ryf-endorsement-and-beyond/

    We are “as close to free software foundations respects your freedom as possible with current Intel CPUs” but are spending real money to advance that toward Coreboot binary freedom.

    Do you support Qubes OS?

    While there is no official certification, our laptops are generally found to work fine with Qubes OS.

    We may offer the Qubes OS installer on a USB key as an option, but we no longer offer it as a pre-loaded SSD option.

    For technical support when running Qubes OS, please refer to the Qubes community.

    Can I install a different OS on my Librem laptop?

    While we are preloading PureOS which, alongside Parabola, Trisquel and few others, is the strictest of GNU/Linux distributions—we strip all binary blobs from the Linux kernel—you can easily install any less strict up-to-date GNU/Linux distribution, such as Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu. You can even install them alongside PureOS, and simply choose what OS to run from the boot screen.

    We have not tried installing a non-GNU/Linux-based operating system, but the Librem is your computer, so you can do with it whatever you wish, even if that includes installing non-free Windows or other operating systems. We obviously don’t recommend this, but it is your computer to do what you wish with it.

    Do Librem laptops come with disk encrypting software by default?

    Yes, with full disk encryption provided by our OEM system setup (PureOS). The first time you start your Librem laptop, you will have to setup the disk encryption passphrase. See here for the full setup procedure.

    Can I have your motherboard schematics?

    We cannot share the schematics nor design currently because it is copyright encumbered from Intel reference designs. In the future, on future versions we plan to be able to release those.

    Are you looking to offer a AMD-Radeon/Ryzen-Vega or nVidia GPU option for laptops in the near future?

    No, this hardware requires proprietary firmware to even function, therefore not aligned with our philosophy. However, we are monitoring the development and will consider them if something changes in the future.