QubesOS Review (Thinkpad x230) 2023

Before I get into the specifics, I want to say that this operating system is great. It’s almost too good to be true. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this.

Not too long ago I decided I needed a laptop before I went off to university after graduating. I decided to buy a second hand Thinkpad x230 for ~$150 USD. After buying it, I bought an SPC Flasher and flashed Coreboot with the Seabios payload and partially removed and disabled intel management engine by using me_cleaner. I also upgraded the ram to 16GB. The current CPU in my laptop is the Intel i7-3520m. It is a great laptop, and if anyone is wondering whether or not to look into it for running QubesOS, I’d say it’s a very good option.

Installation and Setup (First Impressions):
The installation process was very easy and worked flawlessly. However, that is the only process that was easy for me. I have used Linux Distros such as Gentoo and Arch for years, and found the learning curve for this operating system somewhat difficult, but also very rewarding. After installing, I took recommendations on this forum for a minimal install and changed my default qubes to minimal installations, and limited their ram. After this I set up a ProxyVM using OpenVPN to use as a network VM and was blown away by how cool it was. The fact that I can have my network traffic granted only by another qube (which I can also set firewall rules for) blew my mind. Of course I could do things such as proxychains on a normal linux distribution to route certain apps, but that is nowhere near as secure or stable.

Needed Tweaks:
After setting everything up, I realized that xfce just was not for me. I usually prefer Gnome as my desktop environment, and xfce was probably about as far from gnome as you can get. The UI looked very dated, along with the icons. Luckily, switching my desktop environment to KDE is a quick and easy fix, and improved my experience greatly. After doing this, I made custom keybinds for all the xfce features that were not carried over (full screen, screenshot, etc). I also had to disable grouping in the task manager as each application from a qube would wrongfully be grouped together by KDE. After this, I disabled all performance tanking features on KDE (such as making the compositor faster/disabled) and noticed it was a lot smoother too. This has me wondering: why is KDE not the default environment? At least in my experience, it not only looks better, but is faster too. Of course, if gnome ever does eventually end up being supported, I will switch to that no questions asked.

Compromises and compatibility:
To my surprise, things such as printing worked perfectly for me with 0 compromises needed to be made. This was a great surprise to have. On the other hand, things such as Bluetooth and USB headphones are simply too much of a hassle/security risk to have work well. For this reason, I decided to just use some Apple earpods wired directly to the audio jack, which works fine.

QubesOS is amazing and I will definitely be sticking to using it. If anyone is looking to see someone’s experience using a Thinkpad x230 and QubesOS in 2023, know that it can be slow at times, but it is definitely usable. My computer starts to slow down with audio/video streaming stutters at around 3-4 extra qubes open. I hear that using things such as Arch qubes can increase performance, however I have not looked into this. All in all, it is very usable for watching 1080p video, coding, doing school work, etc. I definitely recommend this amazing operating system to anyone looking to increase their security (and maybe privacy too).


what are you using it for? Do you have a hard drive or SSD? How would you rate laptop performance?