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Installing RedHat Linux 5.2 on the Compaq Presario 1230

Last updated: October 1


  1. 5 May 2000 The winmodem now works under Linux!
  2. 14 March 1999 I have switched to Slackware Linux. This guide will no longer be updated with new information, unless emailed to me by RedHat users.
  3. 14 April 1999 Slackware and RedHat installations have now been separated for easier viewing.
  4. 15 April 1999 Added specifications for configuring sound.
  5. 23 April 1999 Added a non-destructive install method.
  6. 14 July 1999 I added a mailing list. If you want to be informed whenever the site is updated, subscribe to it. Check the Mail page for details.
  7. 19 July 1999 Added an Email Rules page.
  8. 1 October 1999 I have just been informed that the RedHat 6.0 Installation Guide works with the Compaq Presario 1245. This is done with a destructive method. Note that I have not tried this, so I have no idea if this works. Many thanks to Adrian Pead <> for this bit of information.

Laptops specifications:

Quick note and warnings:

I have switched to Slackware Linux and am no longer using RedHat Linux! That means that any updates that I will post on this guide will be from those people who claim that they work. I will not be able to confirm them! Please be sure that you have read the Disclaimer before continuing.This guide is not an intensive guide to installing Linux, nor to using it. Rather I will assume that you've already read the installation manuals. This guide will just make life a little easier by giving you the warnings and tips you need. With that in mind, let's go on to the things I don't like about this laptop...

Video card:

This laptop comes with the NeoMagic video card. This card is already supported in RedHat 5.2, so you will have little problems with it, except for maybe a few video quirks.


The laptop modem is a winmodem. Generally a winmodem will not work under Linux. However, I have been recently informed by someone that it is possible to get the modem working. Lucent has recently released Linux drivers for its winmodems, and so we can get this particular winmodem to work under Linux. Note that this was done under Slackware 7.0, but should generally work under any Linux distribution. This is how you do it. First go to and download the LucentPCI winmodem zip file. It should be under Vendor Linmodems. The current version at this time of writing is Save it and then unpack it as follows:


This should generate four files. To install the modem, type:


This will automatically load and install the modem driver. Depending on the kernel version you are using, you may get a warning. You can safely ignore this. The next thing to do is to modify /etc/rc.d/rc.local. So open it with your text editor and append the following line to it:

setserial /dev/ttyS14 uart 16550

Now if you reboot your system, your modem will be properly initialized. If you got the warning when you installed the modem driver and don't want to get it (or rather see it), then modify the following line in your /etc/rc.d:

/sbin/insmod -f ltmodem

to the following line:

/sbin/insmod -fs ltmodem

Now instead of seeing the warning, the warning will be logged into your log files instead, so you don't have to see it again. You should now be able to use your PPP software to estabilish a PPP connection to your ISP.

Rating the laptop:

All in all, I would say this laptop is pretty good, considering that 99% of the hardware is Linux compatible.

Preparations before installing:

Before you begin, you should realize that there are two ways to set up Linux on the laptop. The first method is a destructive way, which requires you to completely format and repartition your hardrive, and this is what I have outlined here. A second method, non-destructive, has been emailed to me by Jason E. Massey. Both methods will be discussed. This section will assume a few things:

Destructive method:

First of all, use the Windows 98 startup disk to boot up your computer to MS-DOS. When you enter the MS-DOS command line prompt, run FDISK. From here you want to create a Primary DOS partition as well as any other partition you may want to use under Windows 98. Don't bother creating the Linux partitions here, because you can do it later on. On my laptop I have the hard disk partitioned 50-50 for Windows 98 and Linux. After creating your DOS/Windows 98 partitions, reboot with the Windows 98 startup disk, and format your newly created partitions. When you're done formatting, that's when you want to install Windows 98. It is important that you install Windows 98 first because it tends to overwrite the Master Boot Record (MBR) and so you won't be able to boot Linux with LILO if you install Linux first, and then Windows 98. When installing Windows 98, do not use the Compaq Restore Disk! The Compaq Restore Disk will destroy your newly created partitions and restore your laptop to the way it was when you first bought it. You don't want that.

After Windows 98 is fully installed, you'll find that certain things in your computer aren't working the way they were supposed to. Like the mouse pad icon is no longer in the System Tray. Don't worry, we'll restore them. Get the Compaq Restore Disk and using Explorer, navigate your way to D:\DATA\. Copy the file D:\DATA\ to some temporary folder. Extract it, and you'll be extracting all the drivers that your laptop requires. Just install whatever drivers you think you'll be using. When you're finally done with all the installing and the rebooting, you're ready to install RedHat.

Non-destructive method:

Warning: I have not tried out this method, so I cannot confirm if it will work or not. Please do not email me with questions about it. The following is the email I received from Jason E. Massey:

Compaq corporation in its infinite wisdom provided something called a Quick Restore CD with the Presario 1230 instead of the Windows 98 CD. While this Restore CD is great to restore your computer to its factory state, it does not allow the existence of multiple partitions, which are needed to install a dual boot Linux/Win98 system. The following method is a way around that limitation using a freeware utility, called Partition Resizer, to shrink the single partition without data loss.

Note: Step number 3 below may not be necessary. It seems logical that as long as you have sufficient space left on your hard drive you shouldn't need to use the Quick Restore CD to reformat your hard drive. In that case you should be able to skip that step and follow the rest to shrink the partition. However, the directions that follow are what I did to my laptop.

Partition Resizer v.1.2.0

Steps to Install Linux and Compaq Restore CD together.

  1. Acquire the freeware utility mentioned above (Partition Resizer).
  2. Unzip this utility onto a floppy disk.
  3. Use the Compaq Restore disk to return your computer to its pre-installed state.
  4. Run Win98 Disk Defrag to put all data to the beginning of the hard drive.
  5. Follow the directions in the Resizer instructions to shrink the default single partition by about 1 gig (or so).
  6. Reboot when it is finished.
  7. Run DOS fdisk to add your Linux partition(s) to the newly free disk space (you might be able to boot to the Linux CD and use the fdisk provided there).
  8. Install Linux as per the other guides available.

Partition Resizer is available at Thank you to Jason E. Massey for this bit of information. If you have questions about the non-destructive method, please contact him at

Creating the boot disk:

If you are installing from a CD, skip this section. Otherwise, you will be required to create a RedHat boot disk. You will need to use rawrite for this, which will be included in the RedHat package. Upon execution, it will ask you for the image source, and the target source:

Enter disk image source file name: D:\images\boot.img
Enter target diskette drive: A:
Please insert a formatted diskette into drive A: and press --ENTER-- :

The boot.img file will be written to the disk. RedHat allows you to create a supplementary disk for PCMCIA services. You do not need to do this during installation.

Creating the Linux partitions:

RedHat allows you to use two utilities when creating the Linux partitions. I suggest using Disk Druid if you're not sure of what you're doing. Otherwise, you can use fdisk. Under fdisk's print option (p), here is what I have:

Device		Boot	Start	End	Blocks		Id	System
/dev/hda1	 *	    1	394	1588576+	 6	DOS 16-bit >=32M
/dev/hda2		  395	787	1584576		 5	Extended
/dev/hda5		  395	755	1455520+	83	Linux native
/dev/hda6		  756	787	 128992+	82	Linux swap

Remember that it will most probably look different on your system, depending on the size and number of partitions you crate. When you're done writing your partitions to disk, exit the partitioning utility and follow the instructions. You'll be asked to format and your newly created Linux partitions. Make sure you have them checked for bad blocks.

Installing the X Window System

During Installation, RedHat will detect your PS/2 mouse as well as the X server required to run X. Install will then run Xconfigurator, and this is where you'll need to enter some of the laptop's specifications. Choose Custom, Extended Super VGA, 50-70. You'll be asked if you want to run SuperProbe. Say yes to this. Finally you'll be asked if you want to go with the default values probed. You don't want this, so choose your own settings and make it 16-bit, 800x600. This should get X working properly, but there are some minor problems, discussed next.

Minor problems when running the X Window System

Using a 16-bit 800x600 setting will screw up any .xpm backgrounds used for the desktop. This is especially true if you're using Fvwm95 or AfterStep. You have three options here. You can either choose a solid colored background, which will work fine, or you can change your settings by running Xconfigurator again and choosing the default settings. A warning though: running under the Default settings looks really ugly. The third solution is to use WindowMaker instead since it uses .jpg files for backgrounds, which work perfect.

Installing LILO

If you want to use LILO, go ahead and install it in the MBR. Everything should work well. LILO will overwrite the MBR and will let you boot between Windows 98 and Linux. As already mentioned above, if you install Windows 98 after installing Linux, Windows 98 will overwrite the MBR and you'll have to install LILO all over again. Check the manual pages for LILO for more information on this.

Configuring sound:

I have received emails from a few people telling me that they were able to get their sound card to work under RedHat 5.2. As root, run sndconfig. Basically, here are the settings you will need to choose:

I cannot confirm that this will work. As I said, I am no longer using RedHat. So try it for yourself. Credit goes to those who informed me that the sound card does work:

Thank you for your contribution. In the meantime, consult the The Linux Sound HOWTO guide for more information.

When to email me:

Read the following before you decide to send me an email: Email Rules.