Installing Debian on a Dell Latitude D400


At my work, some people have bought some D400 laptop to use Linux.
During the installation, we run into various issues. This short
document try to explain, how we managed to have a working Debian
on this.

For various reasons, we want to use a debian and this doc is
about this, but take care that installing a Redhat or a Mandrake
is really easier than a debian of this kind of laptop. I hope
debian developpers will fix this soon.

Latitude D400

  • Celeron (centrino) 1.4 Ghz / 512 Mo of RAM / 30 Go
  • CDROM / Floppy drive: USB combo
  • network card: 1Gb Broadcom BCM5700
  • sound / video : Intel 82845G
  • Wifi: True Mobile

Base Installation

First we downloaded the latest debian iso (a woody). The main
problem is that despite the bios can boot the OS using the
USB cdrom, after the woody CD boot, you can’t access to
the cdrom content, because debian developper forget to put
the usb-storage in the initrd.img. (this works fine on
RH .. ). My first try was to rebuild the debian boot system
with the debian boot-floppies package. After a try i discover
that usb-storage doesn’t detect the usb cdrom when you
compile it in the kernel, so i need to use it as module
in initrd, but i decided to try another method.

I used a windows FAT filesystem:

  • boot windows XP (provided by dell)
  • create a new partition of 1Go ( you will use this as swap after the install)
  • copy the debian content on this
  • copy the BCM5700 driver on this too
  • reboot / press F12 to boot on the debian CD
  • after the boot : press ALT-F2 to open a empty console
  • mkdir /remote
  • mount the fat fs on this: mount /dev/hda3 /remote
  • go thought the installation process, when it ask
    for the default debian package, simply choose:
    ‘mounted partition’ ‘/remote’
  • and do a normal install
  • WARNING don’t install the PCMCIA modules, because it will lock the boot process (as on every Dell !! )

Finishing the install

As i want to have a recent OS, i choose to install
the testing, so simply install from the CD:

  • kernel-header for the current kernel (bf24)
  • install gcc / make / unzip
  • build the BCM5700 driver
  • and load it in the kernel.
  • simply configure the network w/ ifconfig / route
  • now you can use a ftp to continue the install in testing
  • apt-get update / dist-upgrade
  • install latest kernel (2.4.24 for me)
  • rebuild the BCM5700 for this kernel

X / Sound / PCMCIA / ACPI

Now we have a debian testing running, we can configure it.


  • download Intel 82845G driver
  • make / install / insmod it (agpgart / i830)
  • add them to /etc/modules
  • download the 855 patch
  • build this patch and run it ./855patch 32768
  • this will allocate 32Mo of memory for the video card
  • put this in your /etc/init.d/ to have this at every boot
  • install the XFree 4.3 (from unstable since it’s not in testing right now) (it won’t work with 4.2)
  • XFree should now detect a i830 video card (it won’t do if you aren’t using intel’s agpgart )


  • load the i810_audio module (to use gnomeetting use Alsa one)
  • put it in /etc/modules to have it a boot


  • One every Dell, default PCMCIA settings will block the system so:
  • apt-get install pcmcia-cs / modules
  • when it ask for starting it answer: NO !!
  • edit the /etc/pcmcia/config.opts
  • and change include port to: include port 0×100-0x4ff, port 0xc00-0xcff
  • now you can start it :)


To enable the support for acpi in the default debian kernels you should
append the acpi=on at boot.

  • Add this “append=”acpi=on” to the lilo.conf
  • apt-get install acpid
  • now the power button should stop the laptop
  • the acpi sleep command doesn’t work right now, so you can’t do ‘suspend
    to ram’ or ‘to disk’, but this should be avalaible in kernel soon.

Related Posts

4 thoughts on “Installing Debian on a Dell Latitude D400

  1. I downloaded debian 3.0r4_cd1.iso and copy to CD. Try to boot from CD-ROM but a system is not booting from a CD-ROM. What do I have to do? Thanks

  2. Thank you. It works!

    I followed your instruction to partition my hard drive and download all files to that drive but I don’t know what I have to do during the install process. This is my first time to install a LINUX, I am very beginner. Would you plese show me step by step? PLEASE!
    Thanks in advance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>