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IBM Thinkpad 600e DVD Boot?

Posted: Wed Sep 02, 2020 12:14 pm
by retroCoder24
Hello everyone!,

I am a new member of this forum and I was wondering if I could get some help with an IBM Thinkpad 600e.

Currently, I am trying to install a Linux distribution to this machine. For reasons, the developer of this distro has chosen to only provide an ISO file that is 3.8GB in size (too big for CD). Since my 600e came with a CD-ROM optical drive and I know that this machine is incapable of USB boot, my natural idea was to upgrade the optical drive to a CD/DVD-ROM (I saw that some 600e models shipped with DVD drives back in the day).

This the particular one that I purchased and installed: https://www.ebay.com/c/1700070891

After installing, the drive opens and closes. I burned this Linux distro to a DVD-RW (1-4x) disk and popped it in. I hit F1 to go into BIOS and boot from CDROM (this is what the option was called still even though I installed a DVD-ROM). Unfortunately, it did not boot from this DVD disc and said there was no boot media inserted. This DVD disk DOES work on another old laptop I have and boots successfully on that one. I tried a different distro on a CD and tried to boot that as well, and that did work. My next idea was to burn to a DVD-R instead of DVD-RW as maybe it had something to do with the format. This still did not work.

I am now wondering, do I need to update my BIOS or does the Thinkpad 600e even support boot from DVD or is it boot from CD only? I don't think the drive is defective because it was able to read the distro that was on the CD.

Here are my system specs:

BIOS Version: INET35WW, 11/20/99
Processor: Pentium II (366 MHz)

System Board Information
Model/Submodel/Revision: FC/01/00
Power management version: 1.11
POST /BIOS Version: 1.20
Video version: 1.15
Setup version: 1.09
Slave controller version: 1.08

If I cannot find a way to boot from DVD on this device, would I be able to connect my hard-drive to say, another computer and install it onto the drive using that computer? The hard drive interface is PATA.

Thank you for your help! :D

Re: IBM Thinkpad 600e DVD Boot?

Posted: Wed Sep 02, 2020 3:15 pm
by kfzhu1229
My experiences with installing OS on the original 600 has proved quite tricky.
Instead of buying a DVD-ROM drive for the 600 series (which is quite expensive), I ended up taking a dead CD-ROM drive from an external PCMCIA Ultrabay drive (for 240 series), removed the plastic housing and swapped them with a working DVD-ROM Ultrabay 2000 drive and it worked perfectly, minus the face plate being a little different.
However, no matter what drive is actually installed in the plastic casing, from time to time I would get an error saying can't boot from CD or something like that. Restarting the thing, booting from the hard drive and then next time boot from CD again fixes the issue for me.
On the 600 (not sure if this applies to the 600e), using a newer T4x machine to do any modifications to the hard drive results in the laptop thinking the drive is blank (it somehow cannot read the MBR and partition table done by the T4x machines). I have to try to get the partitioning done on the 600 itself and I have to make sure the primary partition is no larger than 8GB (and preferbly not NTFS either because somehow it would boot only half of the time if the primary partition is NT5 based NTFS)
Your problem with not booting with DVD-RW drives might just be compatibility with DVD-RW drives for older DVD-ROM drives. A DVD-R would give you better reliability. This is the case with the DVD-ROM drive inside my 770ED, despite the drive being perfectly working. Forget about the DVD+ series as they most of the time simply won't work with these old DVD-ROM drives.
However my 600 doesn't have this problem because the newer Ultrabay 2000 DVD-ROM drive recognises DVD-RW drives every single time.

Re: IBM Thinkpad 600e DVD Boot?

Posted: Wed Sep 02, 2020 7:47 pm
by Neil
It's been a really long time since I installed anything on a 600e, but a couple of options come to mind:
1- Boot from a PLOP CD (or floppy even) which will hand off to USB for installation. Even if USB boot is not supported.
2- Just pull the drive out of the 600e and connect to another computer that can be booted from USB. Install OS and plug the drive back in the 600e.

Re: IBM Thinkpad 600e DVD Boot?

Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:10 am
by SMA
Note that dvd drives can become defective in a way where only the dvd portion of the drive fails while the cd portion still works.
Happened to a dvd-rw drive of mine not long ago.

Re: IBM Thinkpad 600e DVD Boot?

Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:47 am
by Neil
That plus DVD-RW disks are the hardest to read for an older/worn drive. Might get better results with a DVD-R disk.

Re: IBM Thinkpad 600e DVD Boot?

Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2020 12:50 pm
by kfzhu1229
SMA wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:10 am
Note that dvd drives can become defective in a way where only the dvd portion of the drive fails while the cd portion still works.
Happened to a dvd-rw drive of mine not long ago.
I've have that happen to my older DVD drives too. Sometimes cleaning the lens with a cotton swab and alcohol can do the trick but other times the drive is a goner.
As a result I salvage the casing of those drives and replace them with generic laptop IDE DVD drives with face plate hot glued onto it, sometimes hot glue isn't even required if it's the same manufacturer.
Did this to my ThinkPad 600 as well as many Latitude C-bay DVD drives and they work perfectly and very reliable, well also really cheap.
Neil wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:47 am
That plus DVD-RW disks are the hardest to read for an older/worn drive. Might get better results with a DVD-R disk.
Actually DVD+RW is much harder to read if not completely unreadable even if the DVD-ROM drive is brand new. You usually need a DVD burner to read them reliably.

Re: IBM Thinkpad 600e DVD Boot?

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:13 pm
by pkiff
retroCoder24 wrote:
Wed Sep 02, 2020 12:14 pm
This the particular one that I purchased and installed: https://www.ebay.com/c/1700070891
Just to clarify and repeat, there are differences between different DVD drives, including between different versions of drives that actually shipped with early 600E and 600X machines. Some DVD drives from this era had difficulties reading *any* burned DVDs. So if trying DVD-R doesn't work, then you might need to find another method or another drive. I can't tell which model you bought based on that eBay posting. I can't read the label, to see if there is even anything written on it. And sometimes you could only tell which model you had by opening up the drive tray adapter.