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Ubuntu on a Toshiba Satellite

© May 2009 Anthony Lawrence

I installed Ubuntu 9.0.4 on an old Toshiba Satellite Laptop last night. There is nothing remarkable about that: the install went smoothly and required no fiddling or coaxing. Everything worked. It's slow, but it works.

I was doing this for a neighbor who had been given this for free. I don't know how old this is (it's a model 1905-S277), but it at least has a DVD drive so it must be from this century. The previous owner wiped the hard disk clean, operating system and all. That's why it ended up in my hands.

I suppose there is a way to get Windows back on this thing without spending a lot of money. The XP Home product key sticker is still on the bottom of the unit; all he needs is a CD and whatever Toshiba-centric drivers might be necessary. Maybe he can even get that from Toshiba and honestly - he probably should.

I put Ubuntu on because he needed something for NOW. He said something about wanting to take it to a meeting tonight; I presume he wants this to take notes with. The Ubuntu will certainly meet that need. It would also meet simple browsing/email needs, but it's going to confuse and frustrate him. I know that, so it feels a little strange to do this at all.

This really is the nub of the Linux desktop problem. If he'd never used any computer ever, this would be fine. Heck, it would be better than fine: it would be fantastic. But this is someone who is accustomed to Windows. Ubuntu won't be fine, it will be strange, awkward, troublesome. He won't like it.

Oh well.. if he wants to buy that recovery CD we can put Windows back. Too bad - Ubuntu looks good on that screen.

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-> Ubuntu on a Toshiba Satellite


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Thu May 7 14:50:47 2009: 6348   rbailin


Just a note about Toshiba laptops in general:

Last week I spent a couple of hours repairing a friend's Toshiba Satellite (A105) that had become progressively slower over the last couple of months and began to spontaneously reboot. This was all due to a build-up of dust on the leading edge of the CPU heatsink fins.

Like the heater core in a Ford, a Toshiba laptop is built around the motherboard/CPU and is a challenge to disassemble and reassemble without breaking little plastic bits. Once everything was apart, I was able to remove the 1/4" x 1" strip of dryer lint from the heatsink edge that was blocking the airflow thru the fins. It ran like new once everything was back together.

My point is, when you turn on the system, the fans run at max speed for a couple of seconds as part of the POST. Make sure you feel a good airflow from the cooler outlet at that point or whenever the fan is running at high speed. If the fan seems to always be running at high speed, even when idle, you have a dust problem.


Thu May 7 18:36:10 2009: 6349   TonyLawrence

Thanks, I'll pass it on.

Sun May 10 07:35:28 2009: 6351   drag

The dust problem seems to be a standard problem with any modern laptop.

They use heatpipes from the CPU and chipsets to a copper fins to distribute the heat and those thin fins are close enough that you can get a quite nasty build up. I recently cleaned out my Dell 1420 and it had a nice thick mat of dirt and dust in there. Came out as a block and looked like a nasty sponge.

I noticed that my laptop was beginning to lag while watching higher resolution videos. I realized that after a while of watching a video the CPU wasn't ramping up with the load.. it would do it, but then eventually just sit at 800mhz. Took me a while to realize that it was the heat protection stuff kicking in. Cleaning out the heatsink fixed that.

I had a old Gateway P4 laptop that I bought from Ebay. Used that thing for a while, but it was always a hot thing. I started it up and all of a sudden it had a nasty loud noise and vibration. What had happenned is that the mat of dirt had built up far enough so that the heatsink fan was hitting the dust slightly and the stress had built up to the point were it broke off 3-4 fins on one side.

Fri May 15 19:54:57 2009: 6369   Althage

According to Amazon.com that laptop is a 1.6 Ghz P4 with 256 MB of Ram and a 30 GB HDD. It seems like if this person could upgrade the RAM to something reasonable they could have something pretty comparable to a modern day Netbook, but with more features like a bigger screen and an optical drive.

Fri May 15 19:59:03 2009: 6370   TonyLawrence

Yeah, I just talked to him last night. He says there are doing fine with Ubuntu - that's great!

Mon Jun 1 02:40:26 2009: 6429   Tony

Was not surprised to hear that Ubuntu was OK for this person - I've migrated a few non-techie people from Windows to Ubuntu and they are usually OK with it after a few weeks of acclimation.

Nice site - thanks for maintaining it.

Fri Dec 31 18:20:41 2010: 9189   anonymous


No recovery CD is available from Toshiba for laptops older than 2006. I just tried to get one and got rejected and my laptop is newer than the one described in this article. I am going to try the Ubuntu v10.10 route.


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