How to Install Linux on iPaq?

Before proceeding with installing Linux on your iPaq, it is a wise precaution to back up your current installation of Windows CE. Additionally, you must also follow the installation instructions exactly as stated for improper installation of Linux would cause the iPaq to be unusable. Older versions of iPaq, namely H3100, H3600, H3700, H3800, H3900, H5100, H5400, and H5500 have better support for Linux as far as hardware is concerned. As for newer models, upgrades occur in very favorable intervals. Therefore, owners of new iPaq pocket PCs do not have to wait for long periods of time to play around with Linux on your hand-held.

How to Install Linux on Your iPaq?

Getting Prepared

Having identified the right model for the installation, the next step is to choose a proper Linux distribution for your iPaq. As you all know, Linux comes in an assortment of distributions, streamlined for different usage requirements. For the use in an iPaq, the particular Linux distribution that we will be eyeing at is called ‘Familiar’.

Hardware Prerequisites

Go through the following checklist. All items are mandatory.

  • iPaq with Windows CE
  • Computer with Microsoft Windows and ACTIVESync installed.
  • A cradle to connect the PC with the iPaq.

Software Prerequisites

Make sure these software items are also available before you begin installation.

  • The latest Bootloader files (BootBlaster.exe and bootldr files)

download at

  • Linux Familiar (The kernel and base system plus the GUI/desktop environment)

downloaded at

Installing Bootloader

Similar to the GRUB in desktop PCs, Bootloader is the program that enables your handheld device start up with the operating system. You must carefully follow these steps to install the bootloader in your iPaq.

  • Connect your iPaq to the PC using the cradle.
  • Using ActiveSync copy BootBlaster.exe and bootldr files from your destop to your handheld.
  • Once copying is complete, run BootBlaster.exe and follow the onscreen instructions to backup the existing bootloader and the operating system of the iPaq
  • Allow the backup process to finish. Usually a progress bar indicates this.
  • From BootBlaster.exe screen menu:

Flash->Program->Select your bootloader from the dialog box that opens

  • Wait patiently while the bootloader installation finishes. It is very important that your iPaq not be interrupted during this installation process. You may observe screen freezing, hanging during this period.
  • If the freezing continues for more than 15 seconds reboot your iPaq and repeat the process of selecting and starting bootloader application.
  • Once the installation finishes you need to verify it. Go to:


  • This should show a valid bootloader. If it doesn’t do not ever reset it. Repeat the process of selecting the bootloader again, fail in which you must call for some online assistance

Rebooting iPaq

After successfully installing the bootloader, you need to reboot the iPaq. Here is how.

  • Ensure that the terminal emulator is configured to 115200 baud and no flow control
  • Boot with bootlrd’s command line prompt (boot >) by pressing and holding the suspend button for a few seconds followed by pushing the recessed reset button. You need to hold the suspend button for a little longer and release it.

Installing the Operating System

The final step of this process is to install Familiar on your handheld device.

  • Connect the iPaq and cradle to a serial port under Linux
  • Copy (jffs2 file, reflash.ctl and md5sums ) to the root of the CompactFlash card from your PC and put the card in the Jacket
  • Once the copying finishes reboot the device by pressing and holding the record button on the left side.
  • Select the image and install it.
  • Now the installation is complete. Congratulations!

Author: Nilanka

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