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Old 05-04-2003, 12:17 PM   #1
Registered: Feb 2003
Location: huntsville, al
Distribution: debian, opensolaris
Posts: 99

Rep: Reputation: 15
Linux on laptop, but no floppy drive

A friend of mine and I were in Birmingham, Alabama at a swap meet and purchased three Thinkpad 701C laptops (the "butterfly" model with the fold-out keyboard) for $5 apiece. The catch is, none of them have hard drives or internal floppies, but they do boot (we had to jury-rig a power supply for them). We want to make them into Linux boxes. For that we'd either need HDDs (12.7mm, 2.5") already loaded with Linux, or external floppy drives to boot from, right? The problem is that the official IBM FDD, which connects thru what looks like a miniature parallel port, is difficult to come by (cheap). A cheaper, easier option would be to buy PCMCIA floppy drives for the laptops-- but would the computer allow us to boot from one of those, without having an OS loaded already? Is there a version of Linux we could put on a PCMCIA memory card and boot that?

We've checked dozens of sites looking for spare parts and information on the computers, but it seems to us that we need the original IBM FDD to do anything. The 701C was designed to be as small as possible so it has no real ports (it's supposed to use a dock station), but it does have on-board audio support, a built-in 14.4k modem, and IrDA. We're very excited about the possibility of running Linux on them.
Old 05-04-2003, 01:23 PM   #2
Registered: Mar 2003
Location: Scotland
Distribution: Slackware, RedHat, Debian
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Good buy!

I think a lot of what you are wanting to try will be limitd by your BIOS. If your BIOS will allow booting from a device then there should be no problem - you will need to take a look at the specs for your BIOS version to see.

If you do get an HDD then you could get a caddy for attaching a laptop drive to a desktop computer and copy the install files that way.
Old 05-05-2003, 12:43 AM   #3
Registered: Feb 2003
Location: huntsville, al
Distribution: debian, opensolaris
Posts: 99

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
Not sure about the BIOS. We booted them into the BIOS setup yesterday but didn't think to check boot orders/options. We were most interested in seeing if they worked at all--they are pretty banged up on the outside. One has a couple brokend keys on the keyboard, and another's display has a burnt out backlight. But we're going to mix 'n match the parts to have two decent computers.

If I were building a laptop without an internal floppy drive, I think I'd put in an option to boot from a PCMCIA slot... but I'm not IBM.

Tomorrow I'll have time to set a power supply back up and try it. Thanks
Old 05-05-2003, 09:06 AM   #4
Registered: Dec 2002
Posts: 226

Rep: Reputation: 30
I was given, for free, a 701C with hd & floppy. I purchased a 6.5 gbhard drive, an ide connector adaptor and a torx t6 screwdriver with the hairbrained intent of: connecting the 701c drive to my PC, copying the contents to the PC and then copying this back to the 6.5g and adding Linux.
Due to lethargy, i have not implemented any of this wonderful plan.

I have been able to boot a tom's linux diskette (
The ide adaptor is about $10/15.

Sites of interest include:$swYeBxBS2USenGnI9332&request=text&parms=mainPage.txt&xhi=&xfr=F IBM Sales manual,2.8,5,7.2 - points to other pages
http://www.refurbished-laptops-and-c...hard-drive.htm - refurbisihng - drives/converters - drives parts Dual Boot Microdrive and Laptop Drive

Small Distros
Old 05-05-2003, 11:47 AM   #5
Registered: Feb 2003
Location: huntsville, al
Distribution: debian, opensolaris
Posts: 99

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
Thanks for the links. I am also a tomsrtbt user; that's what I first envisioned using to test the laptops. We've got to find a floppy drive first though.

This IDE adaptor you speak of, would that allow me to stick a laptop drive into a desktop? And where would I get one?
Old 05-05-2003, 12:21 PM   #6
Registered: Dec 2002
Posts: 226

Rep: Reputation: 30
Yes. I forget where I purchased the converter. google
2.5'' to 3.5'' ide hdd Converter Cable
Old 02-01-2006, 01:25 PM   #7
LQ Newbie
Registered: Oct 2003
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 3

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Similar Hardware to yours....

I have an IBM thinkpad model 700 which I was able to install Debian 2.1 linux on.

It was the only version of linux I could get the install disks to work most of the way on due to the odd nature of the hardware.

Something caused the OS to not set up the hard drive properly even though it seemed to install OK.

It wouldn't boot normally so I would reboot with the install disks and then drop into a shell.

I went to COMMON last year and a linux guy there figured it out for me.

I think he issued the command to define the hard drives because the device info wasn't in the proper directory when he looked, but I'm not totally sure. It worked when he was done. (text only, I haven't tried to GUI)

I would recommend getting a floppy so you can set it up from diskettes.

Good Luck.


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