I have an old 2003 IBM Thinkpad my father in law wants to use as a netbook.

However, he got it in some sort of "wiped" condition with only a basic install of XP. The DVD drive seems to have a hardware problem. The Ethernet port, the wireless card, and the USB drives apparently don't have drivers installed and Windows doesn't seem to find them when I try to reinstall.

I don't see an option to boot from USB in the BIOS.

How can I make this machine usable? I have the Ethernet drivers... if only I could get that 1 meg executable on to the machine and get it networked I could do everything else from there.

4 Answers 4


Wow, that's a tough one. Every suggestion I thought up requires either the USB to be working or the DVD to work.

I think you may be stuck getting a new DVD drive for the ThinkPad. You should be able to take it out of the laptop. Somewhere on it should be the model number of the DVD drive, which you could Google and see if you can find a replacement part online.

The only other option I could think of would be pulling the hard drive from the ThinkPad, putting it in an USB external enclosure, and hooking it up to a computer and then copy the files over to the harddrive. Based on the age of the laptop, I would assume that the harddrive is a 2.5" IDE drive. Newegg.com has a bunch of enclosures that could do that for you.

  • Is replacing the DVD drive something I can do myself? I'm reasonably technical and not at all afraid of computer hardware (I've built desktops before) but I haven't ever worked on a laptop...
    – user3064
    Dec 22, 2009 at 15:11
  • Very easy with a laptop - everything's modular (especially on ThinkPads). Check out this link here and find your model number in the list www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/… - it will get you a repair manual that will show you exactly how to take apart any part of the laptop. Dec 22, 2009 at 16:00
  • I wasn't sure of your model number, so I picked one from the list to look at that was made in 2003, and the instructions on drive replacement (for the hard drive and then DVD) started on page 81 of the PDF. Dec 22, 2009 at 16:03

One way you could make it usable, with the problems you described, is to directly load the drivers into a folder on the hard drive. Since it's a 2003 laptop, I'd bet that the hard drive connection is a 2.5" PATA connection. You'll need another computer, and a USB hard drive adapter that supports 2.5" PATA drives (easy to find at MicroCenter or online at Newegg). Take the hard drive out of the laptop, connect it to the USB adapter, conenct that to a second PC, and "sideload" the files on it. Once you plug in the USB adapter and Hard Drive to the second PC, you will see it as an additional hard drive.

  • Also, I was able to purchase my USB adapter for about $20.
    – trip0d199
    Dec 22, 2009 at 14:59

At this stage, I'd consider the machine almost a lost cause. There's only one option I can think of ...

I'm thinking that the state this machine is in isn't a "wiped" version of XP, it sounds like a retail clean install. (Most laptops would have included a "system restore" disc that brings you back to the fresh install, with all the drivers in place.)

Without a means of getting the drivers on the machine, you're hosed. You could try pulling the hard drive out of the laptop, plugging it into another machine (perhaps via an external hard drive "dock" -- you can get those at Fry's, MicroCenter, etc.), and then adding the files. That might get you where you need to be.


Does it have a working serial port? If so you can probably use hyperterm (built in in XP) to recieve a file via kermit or whatever serial file transfer protocols it is able to use. It may take a while but that's the way I'd do it if I had to.

All you'd need is a serial cable... If you don't have one to hand they're easy to make up if you have a soldering iron available.

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