Installing CentOS 5 on a ThinkPad 600X

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Since the 600X is a fairly old machine (production stopped in 2000), and CentOS is a very stable Linux platform, they may be a good match for each other.

This document will step you through installing CentOS 5 on your ThinkPad 600X. Since I have installed Red Hat Linux and Fedora many times on many machines, I may omit some things that newer folks would not. I will endeavor to fix any such occurrences when they are pointed out.

For very thorough documentation on installation and deployment of CentOS 5, you can read the documents on this page: [1].



The 600X has a Pentium III at 450, 500 or 650MHz. The 650MHz models can easily be upgraded with processors running at 850MHz. Even the slowest is easily enough processor to run CentOS 5.

Optical Drive

I'll be using a set of installation CD's since every 600X shipped with a drive that can read CD-R discs. If your 600X has a DVD drive, it may not read recordable DVD discs, but you can certainly try. DVD-R is more likely to work than DVD+R. You will not need disc 6 for the default selections. Unfortunately, CD's 3, 4 and 5 seem to have one or two packages each in the default install.

If it's convenient, you may wish to set the performance setting on your CD drive to High Performance. This could save you a few minutes of installation time by keeping the drive spinning for longer after use.


You'll need at least 128MB RAM to install CentOS 5. CentOS 5 documentation states that the graphical installer may have problems with less than 512MB memory. If you have less than 512MB memory, you may want to consider upgrading. The 600X has 64MB RAM built in and can use two low-density 256MB PC100 memory modules for a total of 576MB RAM, which is enough to comfortably run CentOS 5 and several applications simultaneously.

Disk Space

Every 600X shipped with a hard drive of at least 6GB capacity. This is enough for CentOS 5. After my default install, 2.7GB of disk space was used. A larger disk will not hurt, and the 600X can use any ATA drive up to 120GB of space with no effort.


Dual Booting

This document will not cover dual booting, but you should note that the Quick Boot option in EZ Setup can do strange things when switching operating systems. I suggest you turn OFF quick boot if you dual boot. It will not hurt to have it off if you only boot Linux.

Screen Expansion

The graphical install runs at 800x600 resolution, and will enable screen expansion by default. This is rather ugly on the 600X. You can toggle this on the fly by pressing Fn+F8 (perhaps twice) if you prefer. I certainly recommend it.


Configure EZ Setup to boot from the CD drive before the hard disk, or clear the boot order altogether, and that will ensure the CD drive boots before the hard drive. Put CD 1 in the drive and boot (or reboot) the system. If you have at least 512MB RAM, or want to try the graphical install anyway, just press enter or wait for the bootloader to continue. I used the graphical install with 448MB, and it worked just fine.

To use the text mode installer (for low RAM or if you just prefer it), enter

linux text

at the boot prompt. This will use the text-mode installer.

You will be asked to test your installation media. I always test my media during my first install from any set.

You will be asked your preferred installation language and keyboard layout.

You will be asked about partitioning. There are many opinions on this topic, but for now I'll use the default option "Remove linux partitions on selected drives and create default layout."

Select your time zone. Select and enter the root password for the superuser account.

For software selection, I will leave the defaults set. Only Desktop - Gnome is enabled by default. I will leave the CentOS Extras repository unchecked, and Customize later set. Software can be installed easily later.

Checking dependencies will take several minutes.

You will be asked once more to continue. This is the last stage at which you can abort and keep your current system intact. You will not be offered a chance to cancel once you go on.

First Boot Configuration

The first boot takes a longer time because it will generate encryption keys. Once you are welcomed to your new system, you are asked a few more questions regarding security, time and date, users and sound.

The default firewall is very secure. If you will never attempt to log on to this machine over a network, you can also disable SSH.

SELinux is a technology that further restricts access to files from running processes. I leave it enabled.

Set your date and time if needed. If you have a wired network card installed, it may already be configured and working, and you can enable NTP to synchronize your clock. Otherwise, you can do that later if desired.

You can and should create a user so you don't log on as root. You can always get superuser access with the root password if you need it.

Sound does not work at this point, so just click Forward.

There are no more CD's so click Finish and your install is complete!

More Configuration

Video, CD, Serial, Parallel

All of these devices are properly configured at this point. You may wish to configure your display to a generic 1024x768 LCD, but that is optional.


At this point, I installed a wired network card. It identified correctly, and the link, speed and activity LED's all worked, but it would not acquire an IP address. I've had issues like this before. If you have problems getting cards to work, add this to the end of each line that begins with kernel /vmlinuz- in the file /boot/grub/grub.conf.



The acpi=noirq kernel parameter also allows the Soundcard Detection to work properly. You may have to slide the volume up nearly all the way to hear it. If it's still not working, try pressing Fn+PgUp several times to increase the speaker volume.

Suspend and Resume

At this point, the machine will suspend and resume, but there are a few glitches. If the screen shows a bunch of lines and the entire display slowly turns white, just change to a text console and back: Press Ctrl+Alt+F1, wait a few seconds then press Alt+F7. The text consoles will all not be usable until you reboot. This is not generally a big loss.

The big loss is sound. The driver for the sound chip in the 600X does not respect suspend and resume, and sound will not work until you can restart the driver, which can be rather tricky because the Gnome desktop holds the device open. There is a bug open on this in the Alsa Project since May 2004.

The "easy" way to get sound back is to reboot, but that is a lengthy process.

The second method to re-enable sound is log out, go to a text console (which can no longer be seen), and type these two commands:

#rmmod snd_cs46xx
#modprobe snd_cs46xx

I have tried setting RESTORE_SOUND="yes" in /etc/sysconfig/suspend, but it was of no help.


To get the middle TrackPoint button to work as a scrolling device, add this section just after the Keyboard0 InputDevice section of /etc/X11/xorg.conf.

Section "InputDevice"
        Identifier "TrackPoint"
        Driver "mouse"
        Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
        Option "EmulateWheel" "On"
        Option "EmulateWheelButton" "2"


Enable and test infrared.


I have not yet tried to get the modem working.

Enhancing Performance

There are several ways to get the best experience while running CentOS 5 on your 600X.


As I mentioned above, the 600X can have up to 576MB of memory installed. You can run top to see if your memory is full and you are using swap space. Do not be alarmed if your memory is all used. Linux likes to use all you have. But if your used swap is large and performance is slow, more memory may help.

Hard Drive

The 600X came with a 4200RPM hard drive with a small cache. Newer drives are faster (sometimes much faster) and can improve your experience greatly.


Click System -> Administration -> Services to bring up the Service Configuration tool. Turn off the services you will not be using. Sendmail, bluetooth, httpd and many more can be turned off. This will speed up startup and shutdown times, and leave more memory available for your applications and data.


If you want to further lighten the memory footprint of your machine, you can avoid the Gnome desktop and go with something lighter.


The first option is the XFCE4 desktop. To use this, start Add/Remove Software. In Desktop Environments, select XFCE and turn on options you like. When you next log on, you can click Session to select the XFCE desktop environment and it will save some memory.

Lightweight GUI

Another choice is to not use any desktop environment and just use a window manager, such as fluxbox or others to run your GUI. There are many web sites to learn how to use those packages.


Of course, you can just use a text console and log on that way too. This will save a lot of memory and give really good performance, but you'll turn into that guy and probably start using emacs to edit your configuration files.