GNU/Linux On A Toshiba T1000LE Laptop Using ELKS

This document describes how you can install GNU/Linux on a Toshiba T1000LE laptop.

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This document describes how I installed GNU/Linux - or ELKS (the Embeddable Linux Kernel Subset) to be more precise - on my Toshiba T1000LE laptop, which I bought on eBay.


There is a product specification section on the Toshiba T1000LE homepage which describes the hardware characteristics of the laptop.

As far as I can tell the hardware of my T1000LE is quite OK. There are some minor problems, but nothing really serious:

  • The Caps Lock LED doesn't work.
  • The battery is quite dead. It lasts no longer than a few minutes.
  • I don't own the power supply of the laptop. This is quite a problem. I'm currently using the power supply of another laptop of mine, an IBM L40SX (386SX), which has slightly different characteristics, i.e. 15V output instead of 12V and 2.7A instead of 1.7A. I'm quite sure that this will toast my poor T1000LE pretty soon, so I have to hurry up writing this article :-)

Installing GNU/Linux On The T1000LE

You cannot install or boot a "normal" Linux kernel on this laptop, because Linux only works with i386 (or better) type computers.

But luckily there's the Embeddable Linux Kernel Subset (ELKS) project.
ELKS is a stripped down Linux Kernel which can run on 8086 and 286 computers, among others.

  • Downloading ELKS

    First we need to download ELKS and some related packages:

  • Creating ELKS Boot/Root Disks

    Now we will create a boot/root disk so we can boot ELKS on the laptop.

    • unzip
      This should extract the image files boot (boot disk), root (root disk), comb (combined boot/root disk), comb_net (combined boot/root disk with networking support), full3 (combined boot/root disk with networking support and additional utilities) and sibo (boot disk for a Psion SiBO, we don't need this).
    • Insert an empty floppy disk and type:
      dd if=boot of=/dev/fd0 bs=8192
      This creates an ELKS boot floppy. Of course you can create any of the other disks by replacing boot with one of the other image files.
      I recommend to use full3, as this has everything included on one disk.
  • Booting ELKS

    Insert your newly created boot/root disk and reboot the laptop. ELKS should now be booting and will leave you with a Login: prompt.

    Login as root, there is no password, just press ENTER. That's it, you just entered sash, the Standalone Shell, a very small /bin/sh replacement used by ELKS.

    Now you can do whatever you want with the laptop, i.e. partition/format the harddisk, install stuff on the harddisk etc. etc.

  • Partitioning The Harddisk

    Now we will partition the harddisk of the laptop and format it:

    • fdisk /dev/bda
      Note: This is not /dev/hda as one would expect. ELKS uses /dev/bda (BIOS disk0).
    • As the harddisk of the T1000LE is only 20 MB, there's not much room for more than one partition, so we create one 20 MB primary partition. The partition type is automatically set to 81 (Linux/Minix) because ELKS uses the Minix filesystem (nope, not ext2).
    • mkfs /dev/bda1 20000
      This creates a Minix filesystem on the harddisk. According to the ELKS FAQ the size mkfs can handle is limited to 32 MB, but my harddisk is only 20MB so that's no problem.

    We have a working harddisk now, which we can mount with mount /dev/bda1 /mnt, and where we can store our stuff now.

  • Installing ELKS On The Harddisk

    The next thing we want to achieve is to install ELKS on the harddisk and also boot from the harddisk.

  • Building ELKS From Source


  • Networking With ELKS



Here are some pointers to related projects and further information.


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T1000LE PS

I have one of those... I currently don't have a ps for mine but I use a 12VDC powersupply for in car devices. They are not all that expensive and usually are at the radio shacks. Most can support upto 5 amps so you could also run that mini car refrigerator... :) Oh and you could run that computer safely off the power in a car with no regulation as long as the car is 12VDC and not 6VDC.