Debian Etch on Dell Optiplex 320

This page is a mirrored copy of an article originally posted on the LShift blog; see the archive index here.

After a number of false starts, we were about to give up on the Dell Optiplex 320 as a machine too weird to run Debian on. However, we persevered, and discovered the magic options that cause Debian Etch to not only install, but also boot.

  • Supply the kernel parameter pci=nomsi - this lets the installer (and, for that matter, the normal running kernel once you’ve finished installation) initialise the SATA disk controller correctly. If you omit this, you will see messages like “Unexpected IRQ trap at vector c0“, and the kernel will refuse to detect any hard disks.
  • Install LILO instead of GRUB. For some reason, GRUB refused to read the kernel from the disk after installation was complete. Happily, causing the installer to use LILO instead (on the MBR) results in a booting, kernel-loading, pci=nomsi-configured system.


On 9 January, 2007 at 4:16 pm, Jason wrote:

For X I also had to

apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-input-kbd


Then in /etc/X11/xorg.conf edit the driver under ATI Radeon to be:
Driver “radeon”

Hope that helps someone.

On 1 March, 2007 at 8:49 pm, Arne Fischer wrote:

Thank your for not giving up! Took me hours today, but then I found this article and now it works.

On 1 August, 2007 at 10:01 am, petri wrote:

great! i’m just installing etch and found this page.
indeed useful information. thanks!

On 18 November, 2007 at 10:37 am, Ekram wrote:

Thanks a lot!!! good pick!!! very very useful indeed!!

On 8 April, 2008 at 11:38 am, yan wrote:


On 6 July, 2008 at 11:09 pm, gerhard wrote:

Also big Thanks from me for this Posting here

On 12 September, 2008 at 5:26 pm, bieler wrote:

Huff, really thanks…Obscuring, i could install, but he didn’t known the CD-Rom driver, so the installation stopped on this part.