Debian on HP Compaq nc4000 and Debian

This information is out of date
HP nc4000

In the following, I'm going to describe how to install Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 (lenny) on a HP Compaq nc4000 notebook. This page only contains nc4000-specific information and should therefore be read together with Debian's more general installation guide.

Please note that I no longer own a HP Compaq nc4000 notebook, so I won't provide further updates to this page.

Installing Debian

There are multiple ways to install Debian. The most convenient method is probably net booting via PXE. Alternatively, you can boot from an USB CD-ROM drive if you have the docking station with a CD drive or an external USB drive. Finally, it is also possible to boot from an USB memory stick.

Installation via the net using PXE

In order to perform the installation via booting from the net using PXE, you first have to configure a PXE server. Joe Nahmias wrote a good summary about this, and there is a wiki entry with more information. Once you have a PXE server to boot from, you have to configure your laptop to enable net booting. When you boot, press F10 to get into the BIOS. Then, select Security, Device Security and Internal Network. There, you have to enable adapter boot and set Boot mode to PXE. After you've enabled PXE, you'll be able to select Notebook NIC when the nc4000 asks you where to boot from. If your PXE server is configured properly, it will be found automatically.

Installation from a CD

First, you have to download a CD image with Debian on it. Torrents are available. Once you have a CD with Debian, you can boot from your USB CD-ROM drive. For this, you have to first turn Enable USB Legacy Support on in your BIOS. You will then have the choice to boot either from the laptop hard drive or from the USB CD-ROM drive.

Booting from USB memory stick

Aleksandr Koltsoff wrote that he was able to boot from a USB memory stick. He said that you have to do some trickery:

  1. instead of partitioning the flash, you make the msdos-filesystem directly on it (/dev/sda instead of /dev/sda1).
  2. then run syslinux on /dev/sda

(or whatever the memory stick is instead of /dev/sda)


The nc4000 has a Broadcom NetXtreme BCM5705M chip which supports Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000). The Linux kernel includes the tg3 driver for these types of chipsets.


The laptop has an ALi Corporation M5451 audio chip which is supported by Linux. By default, ALSA will be used and the snd_ali5451 module is loaded.


The nc4000 features a ATI Radeon IGP 340M graphics chip. As far as I know, this chip is also known as Mobility U1. During the installation, will be installed and it will automatically work, using the ati driver.


Both the touchpad and pointer stick work without any problems.

Additional Buttons

Aki Mimoto mentioned that you can also get the 7 special buttons on the upper side of the keyboard to work. Simply add the following lines to your ~/.Xmodmap file:

keycode 160 = F21
keycode 174 = F22
keycode 176 = F23
keycode 136 = F24
keycode 248 = F25
keycode 138 = F26

(160 = cpqmute, 174 = cpqvoldown, 176 = cpqvolup, 136 = cpqpresentation, 248 = cpqwireless, 138 = cpqlock)


USB works without any problems.


The Linux 2.6.26 kernel shipped in Debian lenny has the ath5k module with which wireless works without any problems. You don't need any binary firmware to use wireless.

Power management

ACPI correctly reports the battery status as well as information about the fans. Frequency scaling is done automatically.

Radeon PowerPlay

Fabian Kneißl pointed out to me that the Radeon IGP video chip has a power-saving feature known as PowerPlay which can be activated in with the following line:

       Option            "DynamicClocks"          "true"

You can use my info/xorg.conf file and save it as /etc/X11/xorg.conf. You should see the following in /var/log/Xorg.0.log when starting X:

(**) RADEON(0): Option "DynamicClocks" "true"
(II) RADEON(0): Dynamic Power Management Enabled

Software Suspend

You can use s2disk to hibernate your system (i.e. to write the content to disk and power it off). Suspend to memory does not work on the nc4000.


Not tested. Bdale Garbee said he got it to work.


Not tested.


It works without any problems. All modules are loaded automatically.

Useful utilities

Michael Rasmussen pointed out that laptop-mode-tools is a useful package for laptops. The package contains several userland scripts that can be used to save considerable battery power. By default, this package remounts your partitions with the noatime parameter when you are on battery. Unfortunately, this breaks mutt, a popular e-mail client. Please be sure to read through the documentation of this package and to look at the configuration file, /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf.


  • Aleksandr Koltsoff told me that memdisk (a program to boot e.g. from a floppy image via the network) does not work; interestingly, I observed the same so this seems to be a bug in the nc4000. Aleksandr observes that "there's definitely something fishy about the BIOS since for example using memdisk with syslinux doesn't work on nc4000, although on nc6000 it works as expected."
  • When the laptop is in the docking station and I connect a USB memory stick during bootup, the system freezes hard.

Configuration Files

The output of lspci is available, along with the output from lspci -v and lspci -vv. The output of dmesg from a 2.6 kernel can be viewed as well.


Thanks to Herbert Xu for kernel related help. Jerullah K. and Aki Mimoto for various tips. Michael Schulz for telling me that wireless works, and Bdale Garbee for miscellaneous help. Aleksandr Koltsoff for information on booting from an USB memory stick. Bob Proulx for various stuff. Michael Rasmussen for information about swsusp, and the wireless LED. Fabian Kneißl for information about Radeon's PowerPlay feature.