How-To load Linux on the Compaq Presario 1600 laptop
Posted by rbTech Staff on 05 January 2012 12:21 PM

How-To load Linux on the Compaq Presario 1600 laptop

Copyright© 2000 by Rubin Bennett
Written by Rubin Bennett ([email protected])
Linux (and XFree86 4.0.x) on My Presario 1600

Compaq Presario 1600XL (Compaq Built for you, Celery 500 processor)

-LCD TFT display 1024x768 (14.1" TFT)
-60Hz vertical refresh rate
-Trident Cyberblade i1 graphics card, 8Mb VRAM, shared memory architecture
-256K RAM on board, 8M available through BIOS config
-5Gb Hard Drive (Upgraded recently to a 20Gb!)
-Synaptics TouchPad (mouse)
-install as a standard PS/2 mouse
-Compaq Winmodem
-P.O.S. Rockwell chipset (Conexant)
-no support in linux yet
I saw a page that linked to the Conexant site- they've written a driver for Linux! When I have a moment, I'll drop in a link here.
- There is now support for this modem, and it even works!!!
Check out the Conexant site
You have to accept their stoopid disclaimer, but the info and drivers are all there.
-VIA Technologies 82C686 PCI Audio controller
-Under RH6.2 & 7.0, upgrade kernel to 2.4 and compile in support. Also install XFree86 4.0
-Under Mandrake 7.2 and better, works out of the box.

First, the disclaimer...
I hereby assume absolutely no reponsibility for any damage resulting to your system by your use of the information contained in this website. Any info here is for reference purposes ONLY. If it works for you, great. If it doesn't, don't come crying to me about how you toasted your video card or LCD. Or spilled coffee on your system while you were laughing at one of my (dry but) witty comments. Or lost your dry cleaning receipts. Or anything else. To summarise, if any harm comes to you from your use of the material that I've presented here, tough nuts.

The Specifics:


I started out with RH 6.2. Fought mightily with the &^%$ video, finally got it to work with an XF86config file that I found on the net for X 4.0 (I had to upgrade from 3.3.6 which came with RedHat).

Shortly after my initial install, RH7.0 was released so I upgraded. Once I downgraded X back to 4.0, all worked fine. I still had to roll my own kernel to get the sound card to work though...

After fighting forever to get KDE2 to run on RedHat 7.0, I gave up in favor of a fresh load of Mandrake (which came with KDE2.0 as the default desktop and worked out of the box).

As an aside, I have mostly switched my linux use from RedHat to Mandrake- it's much easier to configure, it's 100% RedHat compatible, it's optimised for i586 architecture, and it have nifty features like ReiserFS available on install. Overall, I give it a huge thumbs up.

I'm now running Mandrake 8.2 (I've upgraded from 7.2-8.0-8.1 etc with most every beta in between... It just keeps getting smoother and better with each version), and everything worked out of the box. How sweet is that?! The only thing I had to do was a small mod to the XF86Config files to make the video card work properly. With Mandrake 8.1 and up, even the CyberShadow trick is unnecessary- it really works out of the box now.

Mid april, 2002: the laptop still lives, and has been upgraded to it's current incarnation of Mandrake 8.2. I briefly tried playing with KDE3, but after trashing all my KDE2 icons etc. I pulled the RPM's off and left that adventure for another day. The same old hardware still runs Mandrake 8.2 quite happily, with the only lags noticeable when I fire up StarOffice 6 or some other large app, or try to compile anything on it. Boot and shutdown speeds are quite acceptable.

November, 2002: The laptop is still limping along (but getting old and tired now after 2+ years of being dragged around with me to every client site I visit and getting banged around in the car etc.. It's beginning to crash sporadically and display other signs of old age, but it still gets the job done (most days, anyway). It is running Mandrake 9.0, and it now runs right after a fresh install with no mods necessary. The installation process is smooth, and bootup and shutdown speeds are still fine as long as I don't have too much stuff trying to launch on boot. Since it's a laptop/ workstation, and not a server, that's not a problem for the most part.
A bit of advice to those of you out there who upgrade OS a lot: keep your home directory on a different filesystem than your os (make /home a separate mount point). That way when you blow your system up trying to stuff the latest and greates OS on it, you don't have to pull your homedir from backup and waste a lot of time reconfiguring your apps.

December,2003: Well, the time has come for me to retire the trusty Presario. I went out and bought a Toshiba Satellite 1905-S303; here's hoping it is half as good as the Compaq has been for me. I went through the painful process of getting a full recovery disc from Compaq, re-installed the original 6Gb hard drive and operating system etc.. and load tested it for about 3 days to make sure it was still ok from a hardware perspective, and then it found a new home with a friend of a friend who is in College and needed a cheap system. Hopefully it'll give him the same level of service it gave me (of course, we all know that Windows will likely be to blame for any problems he may have... 8^).
If you're interested in the new laptop, you can check it out here...

Here's a link to the page that explains the Mod that you have to do to your XF86Config file on this chipset (see the "CyberShadow" reference...), and here are my config files. I don't think you need the XF86Config if you put the XF86Config-4 in /etc/X11 but I posted them both just in case.
XF86Config and XF86Config-4
Note: I have a 14.1 inch screen that is really 1024x768. If you have a smaller screen, this file ought to work, but I haven't seen it first hand so be forewarned...

Additional resources that you may find interesting... This is a fantastic page with an index on what type of laptops people have successfully (usually) loaded Linux on...
Note: This link has moved to
The following link has (I believe) been deprecated:

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