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I have a laptop with a fried graphics processor. The computer will boot up, but nothing shows up on the screen. After investigating, this model of laptop has had issues with its graphics processor over heating. The laptop is out of warranty too.

Now, I love recycling computer parts, and being cheap. Recently, I have been considering to get a computer dedicated to serving media and documents to all the devices on my network. I thought instead of buying a new system, I could just use this laptop. With the screen shot, it wouldn't need to do anything except connect to the network and serve files from the hard drive.

The problem I am now faced with is that since the display isn't working, I have no way to get any feedback from it at all. I can't navigate any menus to install linux (or any os for that matter). I would be fine if I could just get ssh setup, but I can't even get that far. Is there any way to use some other output or feedback method to temporarily install and configure linux?

It would seem like such a waste to dispose of this laptop, when everything else works fine (I know I can salvage the hdd and ram, but...)

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you didn't mind, at least initially, running the system off a USB drive, you could probably get a linux liveusb setup with unetbootin, with persistent mode, and set up SSH on that.

if you were willing to invest a little more time and effort, this SF thread suggests that kickstart for fedora based installs, and preseeding for ubuntu based installs would be a solution... Which leads me to suggest...

Set up a base system on a debian VM which includes ssh, remastersys and anything else you think you need. Make a backup disk of it from remastersys - boot into it, and use ssh to connect to the system (You would need to know the ip address of the system somehow - maybe look at the router, or set it up to have a static IP?) - the debian remastersys varient has remastersys-installer (The ubuntu version uses ubiquity and needs a gui) will let you install a CLI system, so you should be able to run the installer off a ssh session

Hopefully that should work.

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Thanks for all the info! – drdrez Aug 4 '12 at 21:03

Something you could do is test out the installation on a computer with a display, and remember every action you did to install the things you need. Then use the arrow keys to navigate the virtual menu on your headless laptop.

Another option (better in my opinion) is to use the computer with a display to install Linux and all the necessary software like TeamViewer. Then move the hard drive into the headless laptop, and everything should work fine. (Linux is very good at picking the right drivers for any computer setup)

There really isn't a way to get direct output from a computer with no gfx chip.

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Thanks for the suggestion, but I couldn't get it working... – drdrez Aug 4 '12 at 21:05

If you are going to install some GNU/Linux distribution then you can just install the OS to the laptops drive using another computer. Luckily linux is not picky when it comes down to hardware. After that you can log in via SSH or X and continue installing you media software.

Alternatively: If you laptop has a classic serial port or a firewire port you can do a headless install using a serial console.

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+1 for suggesting the serial port. I've never heard of using firewire for serial consoles though. – Journeyman Geek Aug 4 '12 at 23:36
I never heard of it until I started to read the FreeBSD manual on kernel debugging. Specifically the part on the serial or firewire console. Then I got curious. :) – Hennes Aug 4 '12 at 23:46

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