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Old laptop without a CD drive needs linux

Posted on 2005-04-25
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-05
I have an AST laptop Pentium 133 with 24 MB of RAM and a 1 GB hard drive.  I would like to install a small distribution of Linux on this machine to use for internet browsing.  There is not a CD drive in the machine only a floppy.  Is there anyway to connect the laptop's hard drive to another desktop to place a generically configured OS and then move it over to the laptop?  

The laptop also has the ability to use a CD drive I just do not own one.  Is there a connector that would connect the laptop to a regular CD drive from a desktop?  

If either one of these options are not an option is there a Linux distribution that could be installed via floppy?

Thank you for helping me with my OLD laptop!
Question by:johnsonconsult
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Accepted Solution

davidis99 earned 2000 total points
ID: 13863644
You may want to look at this page for starters:


There are two dlinux distros there - Wolf and XWoaf - each of which might suit your needs for a basic linux distro.  

Alternatively, for something a bit larger but still suitable for this PC, you might want to look at the "mini" distros here:


with these distros suitable for your system:

BasicLinux, jailbait, Monkey Linux, and TINY.

Once you get the laptop online, you could download a larger distribution, such as Damn Small Linux, and install it alongside whichever distribution you begin with.
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 13863821

There are a bunch of solutions to this.

1.  Boot from a floppy disk with network support (www.bootdisk.com) and access a CD-ROM drive that another computer is sharing over the network.

2.  Remove the har drive from the laptop and install it into a desktop using either an IDE adpater or a USB-to-ide adapter or external case.

3.  IF YOU HAVE A USB PORT - connect an external USB hard drive or CD-ROM.  There is USB support under DOS, if necessary, using a package called DUSE, from Cypress semiconductor.  A web search will find it and it's documentation.

4.  Use some type of easily supported parallel port device, such as a Zip drive or an old Syquest Sparq (1 gigabyte)

5.  Again, if you have a USB port, you could use a USB flash module

6.  If you have PC Card slots, there are PC Card CD-ROM drives, as well as PC Card to IDE adapters, and PC Card to SCSI adpaters (to which a SCSI CD-ROM could be attached).

There are other USB and parallel port solutions.  And one of the nice things is that since all of this stuff (zip drives, parallel port CD-ROM drives, etc.) is "old", you can find it cheap on E-Bay, a lot of this stuff can be had for less than what it will cost to get it shipped.  But between network, PC Card, parallel port, USB (if you have it) and removing the drive temporarily, there are almost too many ways to get the job done.


Author Comment

ID: 13864655
How would I go about installing Damn Small Linux on the notebook hard drive that is now connected to my desktop running windows?  I can I just reformat the drive and copy the files over.  I am not familiar with this distrobution but it would seem that something more would have to happen to make it bootable in the laptop system.
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 13866435

Assuming that the Linux distribution runs from MS-DOS, you could either make the hard drive DOS bootable, or you could boot from a floppy.  But, in either case, copy the Linux distribution to the hard drive, so that when you get the hard drive back in the laptop and boot up (regardless of whether you boot from a floppy or from the hard drive itself), the Linux distribution installation files are already there, and you can run the Linux setup program.  Presumably, the Linux distribution itself will make the laptop Linux bootable.

Expert Comment

ID: 13868075
If you want a full Linux distribution, and not some small version, there are a few that you can start from floppies, but you will need at least one other way to get data into your computer. Since a network card (wired or wireless) is very useful after the install, that was what I went with when installing Linux on an old 486 laptop.

Go to www.slackware.com and read up on how to do it. You'll likely need the vanilla floppies: Two for booting, four for drivers and one if you want to make a boot disk if you can't boot the machine.

You'll also need a machine from which you can share the CD, or just install over the internet.

Author Comment

ID: 13870929
If I do a network install the laptop does not have a network port.  I do have a wireless PCMCIA card that I can use it is a Trendnet TEW-421PC.  Is there a distribution that I can boot from a floppy with network support and that will recognize my network card?
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 13871412
Probably, but you will need the DOS driver (NDIS driver) for that network card.  If you have the floppy or CD that it came with, you should have that.  Actually, what you want to do is boot from DOS with network support, then use the network to copy (onto the hard drive) the entire Linux distribution, then do the installaion locally.  That is, during the actual installation, you won't need anything that isn't on the hard drive at that point.  You can find a dos diskette with network support at www.bootdisk.com.  It will probably require customization for your network card.
LVL 15

Expert Comment

ID: 13872545
My earlier suggestion of floppy based distros had two reasons - to make sure you could install a working distro that would provide internet access, regardless of the laptop's other connectivity, and, once completed, would allow you to directly download a somewhat larger distro, such as Damn Small Linux, over dialup (which would take time, but would be doable.)  Meanwhile, whichever floppy based distro you choose would provide you with at least a basic install, GUI, and internet access.

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