Installing Ubuntu 7.04 on a ThinkPad X60s without external drive

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The lack of a CD drive in the Thinkpad X60s helps make it very light, but also makes it more difficult to perform an OS installation. Most of the installation guides get around this by using an external CD/DVD drive, but it is still quite possible to install Linux without any external drive whatsoever.

This guide is largely adapted from Marc Herbert's excellent guide to installing Linux without an external drive. This document simplifies the process by focusing specifically on the Thinkpad X60s and Ubuntu Linux.


  • Thinkpad with a working Windows 2000/XP installation


Downloading Ubuntu

Ubuntu ISO

Even though we won't be using a CD drive, we'll still be installing from the Ubuntu CD image. However, to perform a HD-media installation, you need to use the alternate disc image, not the standard one.

To download, head to Ubuntu's site and follow the links to download the from a local mirror. Make sure you check the box for the "alternate desktop CD". The standard CD image will not work for this method.

Create a directory at c:\boot and put the ISO there.

HD-Media kernel

Go to your favorite Ubuntu mirror and navigate to the dists/feisty/main/installer-i386/current/images/hd-media/ directory. Download the files vmlinuz (the installation kernel) and initrd.gz (the installer) and put them in the same c:\boot directory as the ISO image.


You're probably familiar with the GRUB, the bootloader most commonly used for Linux. What you may not know is that there is a version of GRUB that works with the standard NT bootloader, making it easy to boot.


GRUB for NT is part of the GRUB for DOS project, so visit their homepage and download the GRUB for DOS zip file. Extract it and locate the file grldr, which contains the NT loader version of GRUB. Install it by copying grldr to the root directory (c:\), then modify c:\boot.ini, adding the following line:

C:\grldr="Start GRUB"

You may have to change the file attributes first to allow you to modify it.

attrib -r -h -s c:\boot.ini


GRUB needs to know where to find the installation kernel and initrd image.

Create the configuration file c:\menu.lst with the following contents:

title Install Ubuntu Linux
kernel (hd0,0)/boot/vmlinuz
initrd (hd0,0)/boot/initrd.gz

(hd0,0) is GRUB's notation for the first partition on the first hard disk (i.e. the Windows partition).


Shutdown Windows and reboot. After the BIOS check completes, you should see the NT bootloader menu. Choose the GRUB loader option ("Start GRUB") and hit enter. When GRUB starts, choose the first option ("Install Ubuntu Linux")

From here on in it's a standard Ubuntu installation. The installer should automatically locate the ISO image and use it as the installation source.

Other methods

External drive

You could alternately download and store the Ubuntu ISO, installation kernel and initrd on an external USB drive. The only change required is to modify the grub configuration (menu.lst), changing (hd0,0) as appropriate.

It should also be possible to make the external drive bootable, removing the need to use GRUB for NT and having an pre-installed Windows installation. Using an external firewire drive would probably also work. Readers with information about these methods should feel free to update this article on those topics.