Installation instructions for the ThinkPad 385

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Specific installation notes for the ThinkPad 385D, 385ED and 385XD.

General Notes

The Pentium MMX/MagicGraph128 combo is not fast enough to handle modern Linux distros. Low memory builds like Puppy, DSL and SliTaz are ideal.

Since the 385 series was released no later than 1998, the BIOS battery is probably dead. Thankfully, the BIOS memory is stable as long as the power adapter or internal battery stay connected. Setting the clock and rebooting on power should work.

Distro specific Instructions

Damn Small Linux 4.4

-tested by User:Jergling on a 32MB system with HPA display

DSL 4.4 full (non-frugal) installed with GRUB, but required a few tries.

To boot from a CD (or floppy), hold F1 before sliding the power switch, select "Boot" from the menu, and reset the list to place "CD" in the first slot. Place "HDD" in the second slot.

At the DSL startup screen, push F2 and enter "fb800x600". DSL's XServer runs best in framebuffer mode.

Use "sudo cfdisk" to partition the HDD. Don't forget to add a few hundred megabytes worth of swap partition. cfdisk creates Linux partitions by default, but you'll need to use the "Type" option to set a second partition as swap (type 82). You may have difficulty installing unless the main partition is /dev/hda1 and the swap is /dev/hda2

The HDD install process is mostly automatic. Stay near the computer while installing, because the process will lose permissions if left untouched for some unspecified period of time. Select hda1 and GRUB for the partition and boot manager, respectively.

When the process finishes, it will ask you to remove the CD and restart. GRUB should show up, and the installation should complete.


  • When first launching DSL from CD, it took several tries. The bootloader threw an "ISO error" several times. This may be an issue with the CD drive's power management or just a faulty disc.
  • GRUB was not able to see the installation unless it was on hda1 and hda2 was empty swap. If hda2 contained the boot image, GRUB would fail with error 15
  • If left unattended, the HDD Install process would have a permissions failure and the kernel would never be copied over.


  • The audio card is not detected automatically by alsa applications like XMMS. See CS4237 for more info.
  • "sudo modprobe cs4232 io=0x530 irq=5 dma=1 dma2=0" also works for a single boot. Since DSL doesn't seem to work with the standard ALSA-base and ALSA-conf packages, adding this to a startup script may be the best option.
  • The 385XD does not have an ethernet port. I added a D-Link DFE-690txd ethernet card via PCMCIA. DSL recognized it and began using it immediately. If it isn't booted with the card available, you may have to run the PPPOE control panel option.
  • The included US Robotics XJ5560 is detected and enabled as /dev/ttyS1 when inserted in slot 2. DSL's PCMCIA Tool and a few insert-and-remove cycles were needed to get it recognized. Both minicom and DSL's custom Dialup applet work to dial out. Update: It suddenly died. I think it's burnt out, or the PCMCIA (software) module is screwed up.

External Sources