Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Installing Debian on an HP Stream 11/13

The HP stream 11/13 is a great little low-cost linux machine. here are some instructions for installing debian linux on your new laptop.


Create a restore disk from windows. Go to the control panel and search for 'restore'. Then choose the create restore disk option and insert an SD card larger than 8GB.

Modify BIOS Settings

Spam the ESC key on bootup, and choose the F10 option to edit BIOS settings. Switch to Legacy Boot mode. Save your BIOS settings (using F10).

Get your install media

As the WiFi requires a non-free firmware module, you should download the unofficial debian installer image with non-free firmware linked to from this page. This file is 280 MB in size.
Then install a USB memory stick (won't work on SD card), and insert it. Use the 'dmesg' command to find out the device number for your usb stick. In my case it was /dev/sdb.
# sudo cp firmware-8.0.0-amd64-netinst.iso /dev/sdX
# sync
where /dev/dsX is your USB memory stick device.

Base Debian Install

Insert your usb stick and spam the ESC key during bootup. Choose F9 and choose your USB stick (in legacy mode). Your system should now boot from the debian install.
Install as usual for a debian system, I chose all the default options. However when you get to the final step, deselect all the options when you get to tasksel because we will upgrade the WiFi before continuing.
Reboot your system. It should give you a root prompt.

Connect to WiFi

Find the name of your network device. It should be wlan0
  # ip a
  # iwconfig
  # ip link set wlan0 up
Scan for available networks and get network details:
  # iwlist scan
Find the key and append it to the /etc/network/interfaces file
  # wpa_passphrase myssid my_very_secret_passphrase >> /etc/network/interfaces
Now edit the file /etc/network/interfaces to remove the unnecessary parts and your file should look something like
auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
    wpa-ssid [ESSID]
    wpa-psk ccb290fd4fe6449e050edd02ad44627b16ce0151668f5f53c01b
You can now bring your interface up and down with the usual ifup and ifdown commands. If you added auto wlan0 as in the example above, the interface should be brought up automatically during boot up.

Update the Wireless Drivers

The WiFi drivers are not very reliable. To fix this, download a new driver
# apt-get install linux-headers-amd64 linux-kbuild-3.16 gcc make
# wget
cd rtlwifi_new-master/
sudo make install
Reboot your system

Update for Kernel 4.2 and Later...

I get WiFi freeze on the wireless card. The symptoms are that the network just hangs after a few minutes. This first appeared when upgrading to kernel 4.x.

This can be fixed by adding a file /etc/modprobe.d/rtl8723be.conf, with the following contents:

#Prevent  WiFi card from automatically sleeping

# and halting connection
options rtl8723be fwlps=0 swlps=0
Then reboot

Installing a Desktop Environment

Bring your wireless up using
# ifup wlan0
Now run tasksel,
# tasksel
and choose your desktop environment. I choose KDE, and the laptop packages.

Installing ZRam

Linux can slightly increase the CPU load and compress your RAM. This is worth it on a machine like the stream that has 2GB of RAM.
Follow the instructions here.


  1. Hi, is 3G modem in your laptop working or no?

  2. My HP Stream doesn't have the 3G modem (unfortunately).

  3. I've updated with instructions for avoiding intermittent WiFi freezes. This happened after upgrading to the newer 4.x series linux kernels. The fix is tell the WiFi module to avoid sleep mode...

  4. Thanks so much!!!
    I've bought my HP stream 13 and installed Fedora, but I was bot ab le to install rtlwifi_new module (I don't know why).
    Switching to Debian was not a problem and now I have not to restart my wireless connection something like 20 times per day!

    You are the man!

  5. Hi, what version of debian did you install? 8.5 won't recognize the MMC card.

  6. Thanks for this. Installed today debian stretch. Works like a charm!!!

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