Installing Linux Mint 12 on the Alienware M17x R3

I was tasked with getting Linux Mint 12 going on an M17x today. I did what I usually do, which is plop in the cd, keep my fingers crossed, and just hope that all my hardware gets found out of the box. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case this time around, and as you probably know, when that happens, you are in for a bumpy ride. I did finally manage to get everything working right, and thought I would log it here as usual, knowing I would need it again in the future.

My system is configured with a GTX580M gpu, a reguar HDD on Slot 0, and an SSD on Slot 1. I have Windows 7 on the HDD, and my goal is to keep Windows working on this drive, while installing Mint on the SSD. Assuming your goals align, here is what I had to do:

Configuring the BIOS:

The first thing to do is to configure the bios to boot off the Second hard drive (the SSD) first, as this is the drive on which grub will be installed. To do that, go into the bios, and under the Boot menu, set the boot order as -> CD/DVD/BD, Second Hard Drive and finally Hard Drive. Press F10 to save your configuration and exit.

Getting Mint to Boot:

Restart the computer and plop in the Mint 12 DVD. Now normally you would select the Start Linux Mint option, but Mint will fail to boot because acpi runs into problems with the graphics card. To work around this, you will allow you to edit the configuration options passed into the kernel. Highlight this option and press Tab, then right after where it says splash, leave a space and type acpi=off, so it now looks like this:

 quiet splash acpi=off -- 

. Press Enter to boot. You should now be able to boot into the Live Desktop.

The only downside to having acpi off is that your fans will be running at full speed all the time during the install. Don’t worry, we will be able to fix this later.

Installing Mint:

Once the OS has loaded, connect to a Wi-Fi network if possible so the OS can download updates when installing. Click on the CD Icon on the desktop to begin installation. During installation, after you finish partitioning the hard drives, make sure you select the option to install GRUB on the second hard drive, if your configuration is similar to mine. Failing to do so can cause some problems when booting into Windows (the usual ntldr is missing). Installation typically takes about 5 minutes. When its done, pull out the disk and reboot the system.

Rebooting after installation:

You will run into the same acpi issue when rebooting into the operating system, and you will have to edit the kernel params again. When you hit the GRUB page asking you to pick the operating system to boot, highlight “Linux Mint 12” and hit “e” on your keyboard to edit the configuration. You will again have to add acpi=off to the end of the line which has the quiet and splash options. When you are done, press F10 to boot.

Fixing the GPU:

When you connect to the internet, Mint should automatically detect your graphics card, and ask you to install the restricted drivers from Nvidia. Select the option which says “Post release updates”. Wait for the driver to download and install. Once this is done, also do a full update of the system using the package manager. Now when you reboot your system, you shouldn’t have to edit the kernel params any more, and acpi (which also controls the fans) should work fine.

Fixing Sound:

To fix the sound issue, open a terminal and type

<code>gksudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf</code>

. In the file that opens, append

<code>options snd-hda-intel model=alienware</code>

at the end, in a separate line. Press Ctrl+s to save the file. Now, after you reboot, sound should work fine.

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