Once again I installed Debian on a notebook. This time on a friends IBM Thinkpad X20. This is not exactly spectacular, but I ran into some small problems, which I want to write down as a reference for others.

Please feel free to edit and extent this howto.


Thinkwiki.org tells you something about the ingredients of this notebook.


The table below shows compatibility with kernel >= 2.6.15. Everything highlighted in green is fully supported. Orange means particularly supported and everything in red isn't supported at the moment.





video card

sound card


not tested - visit Thinkwiki for more information

ethernet device


CF-Card slot

not tested - visit Thinkwiki for more information

special keys


Before installing Linux on your notebook make sure it runs the latest Bios (v 2.25) and "Embedded Controller Program" (v 1.36). Without these updates you may experience problems with its fan. Though there are only update utilities for Windoze and DOS you have the choice:

There are several possibilities to install Debian though it hasn't a built-in CD-ROM drive. The easiest approach is to use an external USB-drive.

The installation of Debian Etch (Debian Installer Etch beta 2) worked smoothly.



Because of some problems with Speedstep (have a look at the FAQ) I compiled my own kernel. The .config-file is slightly different from Debian's standard.


Nothing spectacular. Here is the xorg.conf.


Speedstep doesn't work

After trying to load speedstep modules the following message appears: FATAL: Error inserting speedstep_smi (/lib/modules/2.6.15-1-486/kernel/arch/i386/kernel/cpu/cpufreq/speedstep-smi.ko): No such device

To get this working you'll need a kernel with this option enabled:


That's the case with recent Debian kernels. Go on and disable the speedstep-lib checks by by creating a /etc/modprobe.d/speedstep-lib file with this content:

options speedstep-lib relaxed_check=1

And then, you may add these 2 lines to /etc/modules:


Further informations concerning speedstep can be found here: thinkwiki.

Speedstep still doesn't work

You have disabled the speedstep-lib checks like explained above, but speedstep still doesn't work with kernels <=2.6.15? It's a kernel bug. Try to enable this kernel option:


Speedstep does work but I can't use ondemand governor

This governor doesn't work on older laptops without Enhanced Speedstep (and guess: the X20 is a "plain-speedstep" notebook).

Starting with kernel 2.6.16 my soundcard doesn't work

The alsa driver fails to probe the sound chip:

PCI: Found IRQ 5 for device 0000:00:0b.0
never read ISV3 and ISV4 from AC'97
CS4281: probe of 0000:00:0b.0 failed with error -5

It's a bug. Wait until it'll be fixed or switch back to kernel 2.6.15.

The fan is very noisy and doesn't stop working

You need to update the "Embedded Controller Program" to version 1.36 and the Bios to 2.25. The bad news: IBM only provides update utilities for Windoze and DOS. A friend runs Windoze on his notebook. So I changed the harddisks and installed the update. Thinkwiki tells you how to proceed without Microsoft Software.

3Com 10/100 Ethernet card is not being recognized

This is a problem with all Linux kernels prior to 2.6.14-rc1. Update your kernel or have a look at Thinkwiki

Debian_on_IBM_X20 (last edited 2012-06-13 21:26:20 by anonymous)

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