I was given a laptop with a totally dead display. I do not want to pay to replace the broken display, but I would like to use the laptop as a server and connect to it via SSH to control it.

I have pulled out the internal hard drive from the broken laptop, and I want to install Debian GNU/Linux and the SSH server onto this HDD using a working Debian laptop.

However, the hardware in the two laptops is very different, and I am wondering what kind of problems I would run into when I plugged the drive back in to the laptop with the broken display because of this?

How would I make this work? What is the proper way for me to install a bootable copy of Linux onto a HDD that will be used by a computer with different hardware?

  • 2
    just install it. most of the hardware specific stuff is modular. and will be loaded as needed. in most cases it should at least boot. if you need special drivers afterward you can get them then. – mikeserv Dec 29 '15 at 12:16
  • OK, good to know. As long as I could at least boot to a shell, I'd be fine installing other drivers by hand. – J. Taylor Dec 29 '15 at 18:56

The Linux kernel is able to load almost every driver it needs at runtime. Distros like Debian typically build modules for every piece of hardware that might be encountered so if you just install Linux on the HDD and plug it into the laptop it will probably work. The only issue I've had doing something similar recently was for a computer that had an old Nvidia network card. The Nvidia forcdeth drivers aren't included in the standard kernel anymore so I had to install them manually but once I did it worked like a charm.

  • The graphics card was something I was worried about. The broken laptop is a fancy Alienware laptop with an NVIDIA card. But it's an older one (bought around 2008) so the card is probably more widely supported now ... Anyways, thanks for explaining. Maybe I'll just try installing regularly then, and see if it works. – J. Taylor Dec 29 '15 at 18:55

Can you attach an external monitor to the laptop with the broken display? If so, you may be able to leave the drive connected to that laptop and install Linux with all the proper hardware drivers for that laptop while being able to view the process on the external monitor.

  • 1
    No need to attach monitor. The linux can be just installed on other PC and then plugged to that laptop. Afterwards he can fix whatever he needs over ssh connection. – Svetlin Tonchev Dec 29 '15 at 12:28
  • Yes, assuming the BIOS on the broken laptop is already set to automatically switch displays, I might be able to do that if I had an HDMI to SVGA converter. I just decided to pull out the disk so I didn't have to buy anything new. Ultimately, if installing on the hard drive and using SSH won't work for some reason, then maybe I'll break down and buy the cables. – J. Taylor Dec 29 '15 at 18:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.