Installing Debian Linux on a Dell XPS 600

We got some Dell XPS 600 desktop computers in the lab. Some of the hardware in these machines doesn't work with vanilla Debian Stable (Sarge). This page describes the things I had to do in order to get the network, sound, and video cards to work.

The XPS 600 comes with a nVidia GeForce 6800 video card and a nVidia nForce chipset with integrated SATA disk controller, ethernet controller, and sound card.

SATA controller

The biggest problem was with the SATA controller. Linux 2.6.8, which is the 2.6 kernel in Sarge, does not recognize the controller at boot. Linux 2.4.27 recognized the controller, but within a few minutes the machine locked up, complaining about losing interrupts and problems with DMA.

As it turns out, the problem has been fixed in newer kernels. In particular, 2.6.16 works just fine. However, it is not in stable, so you have to add some lines for unstable to your sources.list before you can install it.

Network card

Once I had completed the installation and upgraded the kernel to 2.6.16, the network card was not a problem: The forcedeth driver that comes with the kernel worked perfectly. The Debian installer, however, uses the 2.4.27 kernel, and does not have the forcedeth driver. I ended up installing using another network card that I had lying around. I suppose it would be possible to make a netinst installation CD with the proper kernel and driver.

Sound card

nVidia offers a binary, proprietary driver in version 1.0-0310 of the nForce package. This driver works fine with some earlier kernels, but with 2.6.16 it won't load. The problem is minor, however: they just make a mistake trying to detect whether the function remap_pfn_range is present. (If I understand correctly, this function replaces remap_page_range in newer versions of the kernel.) You can override the test as follows:

Video card

You need nVidea's proprietary driver for the GeForce 6800 video card. There is a Debian way of building and installing this driver, but I couldn't get it to work, and ended up using nVidia's installer for version 1.0-8762 of the driver.


Last updated: 2007-06-10