Linux and the Dell Inspiron 5150

By Ted Felix December 2008

My personal experience getting Linux to run on this laptop... Mine has the 3.06GHz processor.

Hard Drive Destruction

A common problem with laptop hard drives involves loading and unloading of the heads far too frequently. This leads to premature drive failures. When running Linux on a laptop, you need to get real chummy with the "smartctl" tool. Use it like this:

smartctl -a /dev/hda | less

(Note that /dev/hda should be changed to whatever is appropriate for your system.) Look for the fields called "Load_Cycle_Count" and "Load_Retry_Count". If these numbers get too large, the hard drive can fail.

Depending on the make and model of the drive, there are various ways to fix this problem. There are many articles covering this issue on the 'Net. The article Problem with Hard Drive Clicking at ThinkWiki is one of the best. It covers both the typical "hdparm" solution and the "smartctl -o on" solution.

Power Button and Lid Switch

One of the first things I noticed after I got Linux loaded was that the power button would not turn off the machine, and the display did not shut off when the lid was closed. Both of these are very irritating. Fortunately, both can be fixed. This worked for me:

setpci -s 00:1f.0 bb.b=0a

The power button and lid switch should work fine now. Put this command in your distro's startup scripts so that this will always work. This also gets reversed after a suspend/resume, so you'll have to find a way to make sure this is re-run on resume.

Depending on your distro, more might need to be done to get this working perfectly (especially the lid switch), but this is a major obstacle that is now out of your way.

See kernel bug 1752 for lots more.


The synaptics touchpad is a tad... well... touchy. It's too sensitive with very small movements. Otherwise it's fine. I've not tracked down what is available within Xorg to adjust this yet. Suggestions are welcome.



linux-acpi mailing list - looks like the place to post about ACPI problems. - ACPI tools like the ASL compiler for working with DSDTs. - The ACPI spec.

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