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Installing 64-bit Debian Squeeze on a Dell XPS L501X Laptop

Last updated: 2011-01-23

General Hardware Specifications of Dell XPS L501X:

Hardware Components
Status under Linux
Intel Core i7-740QM 1.73GHz Works No special procedure required.
15.6FHD TLF LCD L501X Display Works No special procedure required.
NVIDIA GeForce GT 435M 2GB graphics US Works Download NVIDIA Linux driver
4GB, DDR3, 2 DIMMs Works No special procedure required
500GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive Works No special procedure required
Intel Corporation Centrino Wireless-N 1000 Works Install package firmware-iwlwifi
Integrated Network Card (Realtek) Works No special procedure required
HL-DT-ST 8X DVD+/-RW GT32N Works No special procedure required
Integrated webcam Works No special procedure required
Integrated microphone Works No special procedure required
92 WHr 9-cell Lithium-Ion Battery Works No special procedure required
Intel High Definition Audio (chip: Realtek ALC665) Works Download ALSA sound driver
Backlit keyboard Works No special procedure required
Touchpad Works No special procedure required
USB 3 ports Works No special procedure required.
HDMI Not tested
Bluetooth Detected but not tested No special procedure required.

This laptop is operating under Kernel version 2.6.32-5-amd64

Basic Installation of Debian Squeeze:

Obtaining Debian 6.0 Squeeze

The latest Debian Installer can be found here. For the present installation, I used the amd64 netinst image of the squeeze Beta2 release of the installer.

Shrink Windows 7 for dual booting

If you want to keep Windows on your laptop, you can use the Disk Management program in Windows 7 to defragment and shrink the space taken up by Windows. First, it is recemmended to create recovery disks using the Dell DataSafe software that ships with the laptop, and backup your data.

To start the Disk Management program, click on the Windows Start icon, and enter Disk Management in the search box. Select the partition labeled OS (C:), then defragment it : Action > All Tasks > Properties > Tools > Defragment now. When this action is completed, shrink the partition: Action > All Tasks > Shrink Volume.

Result: 238.0 GB out of 500.1 GB of hard disk space were made available for installing Linux.


Refer to the Debian documentation: Installation Howto or Debian GNU/Linux Installation Guide.

The firmware for the WiFi card could not be loaded during the installation, so a wired connection was used. Note that GRUB 2 was chosen as the boot loader and was installed on the MBR (Master Boot Record). The dual boot works fine. Note however that the screen resolution is only 800x600 after installation.

Post-Install modifications and tweaks

Setting up additional features for Debian Squeeze
Unresolved issues
General impressions on the laptop

First and foremost the hardware of this laptop is well supported by Linux. The screen resolution and colors are excellent and the video card is well supported by the NVIDIA driver. The sound quality is very good for a laptop. The powerful processor and fast memory give this laptop much computing power and speed. The large touchpad (11.5 cm diagonal) is also a definite plus.

There are a couple of minor details about the laptop that could be annoying to some people. One is a slight surface vibration felt left of the touchpad caused by the hard drive. This was annoying at first, but I don't notice it anymore. Another is the placement of up arrow key underneath the Enter key. The Shift key size has been reduced to accommodate the up arrow key. This unusual key placement, likely for aesthetics, required an adjustment of my typing habits.

The battery is said not to last very long because of the power hungry processor and video card. If long battery operation is important, this laptop is probably not a good choice. It is also not the most portable of laptops, but it is a good size for working at a desk to do some serious work or run multimedia applications. The fan runs more frequently than I would like to evacuate the processor and video card heat. Fortunately the fan noise is relatively quiet.

Each person will have different tolerances to the various laptop characteristics, so the qualitative assessments given here should be looked at as indicators only.

Overall I am quite pleased with this laptop's look, feel, performance and compatibility with Linux.

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