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I have a somewhat ancient Toshiba laptop (which can't boot from USB) that I want to install linux on (probably Ubuntu).

I'm currently running Windows XP and Ubuntu via Wubi. I want to delete these OSs and replace with Ubuntu only.

The laptop does have a network boot option. I'm wondering if the easiest way might be to setup a network boot server on my other computer (which runs Ubunutu) and boot the laptop from it. Could this allow me to install Linux on the laptop?

I can't seem to find instructions on the 'net as to how to go about doing this.

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migrated from serverfault.com Mar 20 '10 at 16:14

This question came from our site for professional system and network administrators.

    
Can the laptop boot from CD? If so, just download the newest install cd and do it the old-fashioned way. –  Scott Pack Mar 20 '10 at 14:14

4 Answers 4

Does it have a floppy? You could then use a gPXE floppy image and install Linux via that. gPXE can be used as a command interpretor for network installs. It is very flexible and you don't need either dhcp-server nor tftp, it can download everything over http via proxy if you need.

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gpxe seem to be forked to ipxe, use that instead. –  Jimmy Hedman Apr 20 '11 at 13:25

If you don't want to go through the complexity of pxe install's, then take the harddrive out of the machine, and place it another machine. You will need an ide converter cable. Once connected , boot an install cd and go through the install process. Replace the drive in the laptop, and bingo! you have a system.

Beware that older hardware does not like some new bootloaders like grub, so if it hangs at the boot prompt, try lilo.

Also, if the laptop has limited resources, think about using a light distro such a puppy or damm small linux.

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I'm assuming it doesn't have a CD drive, that would be the easiest way.

If you have the equipment, pulling the hard drive and putting in another computer then installing linux, and finally putting the drive back in the toshiba laptop would also work.

Otherwise setting up a network boot server is an option, though it's the most complex. There are many HowTos, like this one.

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If your laptop supports PXE network boot, you can set up a spare Ubuntu system as a boot server to boot the Ubuntu install. See the guide on the Ubuntu Community Wiki https://help.ubuntu.com/community/PXEInstallServer for some (admittedly pretty high level) instructions.

Keep in mind that two DHCP servers on the same network generally won't play well together; if your network already uses a DHCP server (for instance a home router), you can either run another network temporarily just for your network install (using a separate switch or a crossover cable between the boot server and laptop), or if the DHCP server you already have supports it you can add a "next-server" setting with the address of the Ubuntu boot server (as mentioned in the guide).

Also, the process for booting a computer from the network varies a lot; on many, you have to go into the BIOS setup and put the network boot option into the startup order; and on some you have to enable some kind of "network boot ROM" BIOS option and reboot once before you can even see network boot as a choice to be put in the startup order.

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