Installing Debian on a ThinkPad 750P

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These instructions are for Debian 3.0, or Woody. That version actually works. While 3.1 (Sarge) says you can use ThinkPads, it won't work on this machine. You can upgrade to a later Debian, or perhaps Ubuntu, but my goal for this document is to get Woody running as fully and up-to-date as possible. You will need 6 floppy diskettes (and a 7th if you make a boot floppy), a supported 16-bit PCMCIA wired network card and Internet access. Fortunately, most such cards are supported.

The installation steps here should work on any 750-series ThinkPad. This guide does not cover partitioning or booting multiple operating systems.

Executive summary for Debian experts: Just follow the normal instructions adding floppy=thinkpad as a boot parameter and it works just as you'd expect. That parameter seems to be ignored when using the Sarge floppies.

My 750P is loaded with 36MB RAM and a 5.1GB hard disk.

Please add any information you have to make this a better document.


Download the Debian Woody floppy images: rescue, root and the four for drivers. Make diskettes. On another Linux machine, I used this command:

sudo dd if=rescue.bin of=/dev/floppy

Since diskettes are notoriously unreliable, I read each one back like this:

sudo dd if=/dev/floppy of=test.bin

Then run md5sum * to see if it matches the correct image. If not, try again, or use another diskette.

Keep in mind that installing enough to boot will require around 150MB and end with about 80MB. Getting recent updates will require about 300MB of disk during that process.


These are general instructions. If you try these steps and they are unclear, feel free to expand them or leave comments in the discussion. Some steps may or may not apply to you, depending on your goals and desired partitioning scheme. --Whizkid 01:33, 24 November 2007 (UTC) - Insert your network card and the rescue diskette and boot the machine. - At the boot: prompt, enter this command:

linux floppy=thinkpad
  • Configure the keyboard
  • Partition your disk if necessary
  • Initialize and activate swap
  • Initialize and activate the root partition
  • Initialize and activate any other partitions
  • Install Kernel and Driver Modules from floppies
  • Alternate step: Configure PCMCIA support. Select i82365 controller and leave all other options blank. Your network controller should turn on.
  • Configure device driver modules. Choose Exit immediately.
  • Configure the network, choosing a hostname and setting network parameters (DHCP works just fine).
  • Alternate step: Edit Kernel Boot Parameters to include floppy=thinkpad just as before
  • Install the Base System using network as a source. You can use or another mirror that hosts Woody (Debian 3.0).

At this point, the installer will begin to download and verify packages. If you lose connectivity and have to restart this step, it will not download any packages it has already retrieved. This can take some time.

  • Make system bootable, choosing /dev/hda if you wish to have LILO take over booting
  • Make a boot floppy if you like
  • Reboot the system

Kernel and driver installation is complete, but you are not done.

First Boot

Upon first booting the new installation, Debian System Configuration runs. You can also run it at any time. Its path is /usr/sbin/base-config. Your network card should be recognized and configured at boot time.

  • Specify GMT or Local time. If you are using only Linux or UNIX-like OS's (on any machine), I suggest you use GMT. If you sometimes boot into a popular proprietary OS made in Redmond, Washington, you may wish to keep the system clock in local time.
  • Set your time zone
  • Specify whether to use MD5 passwords
  • Specify use of shadow passwords
  • Set the password for the root account
  • Set up a normal user account
  • Answer No when asked to set up PPP if you've gotten this far

At this point, Debian will attempt to install the rest of the base system. Since Woody is no longer maintained, special steps are required.

  • For Apt Configuration, select "manually edit sources" and put these two lines in the file (omit non-free if you want only Free software):
deb woody main contrib non-free
deb woody main contrib non-free
  • Skip tasksel (run it later)
  • Skip dselect (run it later if you like) - some updates will be installed
  • Configure your mail system, choosing 4 for a stand-alone system

Congratulations! You have a working Debian Woody installation.


After installation, some devices work and some don't. Please help update this page as you get devices to work.

  • Run tasksel and select laptop
  • When asked if you want to enable IrDA, select No, as the 750 family does not have and infrared device

Things that Work

  • Keyboard
  • Hard disk
  • Floppy drive
  • Display
  • PCMCIA 16-bit slots

Function Keys

  • Fn+F3 turns display off
  • Fn+F5 volume down
  • Fn+F6 volume up
  • Fn+F7 cycles displays (LCD, CRT, both)
  • Fn+F8 inverts LCD (750, 750P only)
  • Fn+F9 toggles character brightness (750, 750P only?)

Things that Might Work

If I were to test these things, they might already be working.

  • Serial port
  • Parallel port
  • Fn+F11 power mode (how to verify...)

Things that Don't Work

  • TrackPoint
  • Audio
  • Pen

Function Keys

  • Fn+F2 display battery information
  • Fn+F4 suspend to RAM
  • Fn+F12 suspend to disk


This section will hold details on upgrading to more recent releases.