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I have done this many times. To install XP on an IBM 600E , you needd to upgrade the RAM at least to 256MB. Then use a Windows install disk to install XP. After installing Windows you will have to update drivers from IBM website here: Lenovo Support & downloads - Drivers and software - ThinkPad 600... There is no driver for 600E video adapter on XP, video performances will be limited.
When you try to establish a dial-up connection after you upgrade your computer to Microsoft Windows XP from Microsoft Windows 98, from Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition, or from Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me), you may receive an error message that is similar to one of the following:
Error 721: The remote computer is not responding.
Error 678: The remote computer failed to respond.
Error 691: Access was denied because the user name and/or password was invalid on the domain.
Error 777: The connection attempt failed because the modem or other connecting device on the remote computer is out of order.
To resolve this issue, contact the hardware manufacturer to inquire about how to obtain and install the latest Windows XP-compatible driver for the modem or download an XP driver for the modem
It sounds like you have Vista but want to install Linux as a dual boot. Have you ever tried a live CD? A live CD is a CD you can download for free for just about every major distribution. You can run the live CD without installing linux to try it out on your system. If you like it, you can install it from the live CD onto whatever hard drive you wish. Most major linux's installs are graphical just like windows so you shouldn't have any problems. You can get a live CD from most major linuxs'. I recommend Ubuntu because that's what I use and I could help you with it once you got started. You can go to the site and download it and burn it as an ISO.
Windows XP normally picks up the modem and installs its drivers it knows what brand the modem is and has a vast selection in store. You said you checked the hardware and there was no info I imagine that was in the systems folder where the device manager is?. Did you query the modem in the diagnostic and still had no info.....are you sure the modem is in the computer it may have been removed???