Tech Tip

Linux on a Dell Optiplex 320

10.12.07 | Comment?

Back in the bad old days, installing Linux was hard work. Anymore I expect to be able to pop in a Ubuntu install disk and have Linux installed and running in less than an hour. So I was quite dismayed when, after 3 days, I still was unable to boot Linux on our new Dell Optiplex 320’s here in the lab. It turns out their BIOS and GRUB do not play nicely together.

It took me 3 days and much Googling to realize this was the problem, so I am making this post in hopes of providing one more breadcrumb for the next person who is pulling their hair out trying to get Linux running on one of these machines. The short answer is you need to use LILO or GRUB2 instead. I recommend GRUB2 and there are excellent instructions for installing it here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=409345&page=2

In case you are wondering if your problem is the same as mine, here were my symptoms:

  • Ubuntu 7.04 installed without a hitch.
  • I rebooted my computer, and the GRUB menu came up without any problems.
  • I could boot into Win XP also without any problems.
  • However, when I tried to boot Ubuntu I immediately got a blank screen with a single cursor in the upper left hand corner.
  • Trying to enter commands into the GRUB command line showed that GRUB was choking on the “kernel” command.
  • Installing GRUB2 made everything run smoothly.

Hope this is a help to others.

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