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Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).


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Old 03-01-2004, 01:29 PM   #1
LQ Newbie
Registered: Apr 2003
Distribution: Mandrake 9.2
Posts: 16

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Installing Linux on older difficult laptop

There is a laptop machine (old NEC) that someone had installed Win98 SE on (it was obviously originally a 3.x or 95 machine - probably 95). I tried to install the following OSes on it via boot CD without success:

Mandrake 9.2
Lindows 4.5
NT Workstation 4.0

It has a swappable CD-ROM/floppy drive. It can boot from CD, though it doesn't seem to want to go very far. It freezes up shortly after starting to load an OS installer from CD. Hard drive appears to be FAT16 (one partition). I removed Windows 98 by booting to command prompt only and wiping all folders and subfolders. I backed up IO.SYS, COMMAND.COM, Autoexec.bat, Config.sys, msdos.sys, and c:\windows\command\*.* and himem.sys

This way I can boot to command prompt of Win98 SE still.

Are there any decent Linux distros out there I can more likely get working on there, or even install from floppy perhaps? I'd strongly prefer CD due to lack of floppy disks and also lack of time and desire to install an OS from floppy. I guess there's always DOS and WFWG (Windows for Workgroups 3.11) which would run faster on that old hardware. Though I'm not sure I could find drivers very well. Any suggestions or tips, thoughts, etc?
Old 03-01-2004, 02:10 PM   #2
Registered: Apr 2003
Location: Tampa, Florida
Distribution: Mint 17.2 ,OpenSuse, Kali and Pepermint OS 6
Posts: 276

Rep: Reputation: 30
You are probably going to have to go with an older version of a distrro like maybe Slackware 8.1 and or Suse 7.3 something like that. What I would try first is Vector Linux it seems to work well on older hardware. I it is what I am running on my 166 laptop. and it installed with no porblems.

Good luck hoped that helped
Old 03-01-2004, 02:50 PM   #3
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Registered: Apr 2003
Distribution: Mandrake 9.2
Posts: 16

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Well, after a few more attempts (and failures) at installing Windows NT Workstation 4.0, I let it boot to command prompt only (Win98SE). Ran FDISK - it was FAT32 (3 gig drive approx.)

Ah ha. Shouldn't have mattered to Linux or NT if booted from CD, they could format it anyway... but... apparently it made some kind of difference. So, I FDISK'd it back to FAT (aka FAT16). Rebooted. Still no go on NT4, however, put in floppy drive, was able to get DR-DOS 7.03 to run installation, after formatting hard drive with Win98 SE boot disk (courtesty of ). So for now I guess I'll try Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and DR-DOS 7.03 on it. It's a 1995 era machine. 48 MB of RAM. Might just run better with DOS and WFW 3.11 for now. At some point I might put on an older Linux distro if I can get it to install. I still have Mandrake 9.2 on my secondary desktop.
Old 03-01-2004, 07:30 PM   #4
Registered: Feb 2003
Location: Pasadena, TX
Distribution: Debian Lenny
Posts: 220

Rep: Reputation: 31
Try straight Debian. I have Woody installed on a P122 Toshiba Tecra 700ct. Works fine with a lightweight window manager (forget KDE or Gnome)
Old 03-03-2004, 09:17 PM   #5
Registered: Apr 2002
Location: OK, USA
Distribution: Slackware64
Posts: 189

Rep: Reputation: 37
I have an IBM Thinkpad 760XL with Slackware 8.0... Well... I just formatted it and began installing Slackware 7.1 (I want KDE to play with for a while)

I am booting my CD through Loadlin as my CDRom isn't bootable...
(P166 w/MMX, 32 Mb of RAM, 6x CD-Rom, 2.1Gb HD)

Hope this helps.
Old 03-09-2004, 11:42 AM   #6
cap'n leaky
LQ Newbie
Registered: Aug 2003
Location: Connecticut, USA
Distribution: Ubuntu
Posts: 9

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Since the cd is bootable, did you try a live cd distro like Knoppix or DSL? I have tried DSL (Damn Small Linux) on some low end machines (not laptop, but P75 16mb ram), and it was pretty amazing what it could do with 50mb of storage.

If they boot all the way you could see if the hardware works before trying to install it to the hdd.
Old 03-09-2004, 11:50 AM   #7
LQ Newbie
Registered: Apr 2003
Distribution: Mandrake 9.2
Posts: 16

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Well, I did manage to access drive C: and FDISK/Format from a Win98 based floppy disk (from

Problem is, system is locking up on boot right at the point where it says "Starting MS-DOS" or "Starting Caldera DR-DOS" or whatever (from drive C: when not booting to floppy). DOS disks won't even boot it anymore, they lock up, but Win98 boot floppy will work (same floppy disk being used and just reformatted and SYS'd with various OS system boot files). I'm going to try manually copying some setup files and installing an OS on it and see if it does anything. It's been giving certain BIOS errors. I had attempted to update the BIOS by 3 years a bit ago and it didn't seem to work, I'm afraid I may have corrupted the BIOS somehow. Flash didn't seem to work. Still detects hardware OK on power on, and you can open the BIOS/CMOS screens and everything. Weird.
Old 03-20-2004, 10:33 PM   #8
Registered: Jan 2004
Distribution: FreeBSD, Slackware
Posts: 121

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Micah, were you able to access the cdrom when you had windows (ever)?


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