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Copyright © 2000 by Eric S. Raymond
|Revision 5.7||2002-07-06||Revised by: esr|
|Revision 5.6||2002-01-04||Revised by: esr|
|Revision 5.6||2001-09-06||Revised by: esr|
|Added a Translation section.|
|Revision 5.5||2001-07-11||Revised by: esr|
|PnP cards are no longer a problem.|
|Revision 5.4||2001-06-14||Revised by: esr|
|Added link to Post-installation HOWTO.|
|Revision 5.3||2001-03-9||Revised by: esr|
|Fixes for various links.|
|Revision 5.2||2001-02-22||Revised by: esr|
|LDP Styleguide markup fixes.|
|Revision 5.1||2001-01-29||Revised by: esr|
|Minor corrections for the post-2.1 world.|
|Revision 5.0||2000-07-21||Revised by: esr|
|First DocBook version.|
Linux is a freely-distributable implementation of Unix for
inexpensive personal machines (it was developed on 386s, and now supports
486, 586, Pentium, PowerPC, Sun Sparc, ARM and DEC Alpha hardware, and even
the IBM System 390 mainframe!). It supports a wide range of software,
including X Windows, Emacs, TCP/IP networking (including SLIP), and many
This document assumes that you have heard of and know about Linux,
and now want to get it running. It focuses on the Intel
base version, which is the most popular, but much of the advice
applies on Power PCs, Sparcs and Alphas as well.
If you are new to Linux, there are several sources of basic
information about the system. The best place to find these is at the
Linux Documentation Project home
page. You can find the latest version of this
You should probably start by browsing the resources under General
Linux Information; the Linux
INFO-SHEET and the Linux META-FAQ. The `Linux Frequently Asked
Questions' document contains many common questions (and answers!) about
Linux -- it is a ``must read'' for new users.
The Linux Documentation Project is writing a set of manuals and
books about Linux, all of which are freely distributable on the
net and available from the LDP home page.
The book ``Linux Installation and Getting
Started'' is a complete guide to getting and installing Linux,
as well as how to use the system once you've installed it. It contains a
complete tutorial to using and running the system, and much more
information than is contained here. You can browse it, or download a copy,
from the LDP home page.
Finally, there is a rather technical Guide
to x86 Bootstrapping. This document is NetBSD- rather than
Linux-oriented, but contains useful material on disk configuration and boot
managers for multi-OS setups.
Please do not email me asking for installation
help. Even if I had the time to handle such requests, troubleshooting by
mail is much less efficient than asking help from your local Linux user's
group. You can find worldwide contact information for Linux user groups on
the LDP site.
New versions of the Linux Installation HOWTO will be periodically
posted to comp.os.linux.help and comp.os.linux.announce and news.answers.
They will also be uploaded to various Linux WWW and FTP sites, including
the LDP home page.
You can also view the latest version of this on the World Wide Web
via the URL http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/Installation-HOWTO.html.
If you have questions or comments about this document, please feel
free to mail Eric S. Raymond, at <email@example.com>. I welcome
any suggestions or criticisms. If you find a mistake with this document,
please let me know so I can correct it in the next version. Thanks.
Please do not mail me questions about how to
solve hardware problems encountered during installation. Consult
Linux Installation and Getting Started, bug your
vendor, or consult the Linux newsgroup comp.os.linux.setup. This HOWTO is
intended to be rapid, painless guide to normal
installation -- a separate HOWTO on hardware problems and diagnosis is in
Linux has now matured enough that there are now system integrators
who will assemble a workstation for you, install and configure a
Linux, and do an intensive burn-in to test it before it's shipped
to you. If you have more money than time, or you have stringent
reliability or performance requirements, these integrators provide
a valuable service by making sure you won't get hardware that's
flaky or dies two days out of the box.
For those of us without a champagne budget, the rest of this
HOWTO is about how to install Linux yourself.
Before you can install Linux, you'll need to be sure your machine is
Linux-capable, and choose a Linux to install. The Linux Pre-installation
checklist may help you organize configuration data before you
What kind of system is needed to run Linux? This is a good question;
the actual hardware requirements for the system change periodically. The
Linux Hardware-HOWTO, gives
a (more or less) complete listing of hardware supported by Linux. The
Linux INFO-SHEET, provides
For the Intel versions, a hardware configuration that looks like the
following is required:
Pentium or Pentium
II processor will do.
Non-Intel clones of the 80386 and up will generally work. You do not need a
math coprocessor, although it is nice to have one.
EISA, VESA Local
PCI bus architectures are
supported. The MCA bus
architecture (found on IBM PS/2 machines) has been minimally supported
since the 2.1.x kernels, but may not be ready for prime time yet.
You need at least 4 megabytes of memory in your machine. Technically,
Linux will run with only 2 megs, but most installations and software
require 4. The more memory you have, the happier you'll be. I suggest an
absolute minimum of 16 megabytes if you're planning to use X-Windows; 64 is
Of course, you'll need a hard drive and an AT-standard drive
controller. All MFM,
IDE drives and controllers
should work. Many SCSI drives and adaptors are supported as well; the
Linux SCSI-HOWTO contains more information on SCSI. If you are assembling
a system from scratch to run Linux, the small additional cost of SCSI is
well worth it for the extra performance and reliability it brings.
You'll want a CD-ROM
drive; effectively all Linux distributions are now CD-ROM based. If your
machine was built in 1998 or later, you should be able to actually boot
your Linux's installer right off the CD-ROM without using a boot
If your CD-ROM is ATAPI,
SCSI, or true
IDE you should have no problem
making it work (but watch for cheap drives advertising "IDE" interfaces
that aren't true IDE). If your CD-ROM uses a proprietary interface card,
it's possible the installation kernel you're going to boot from floppy
won't be able to see it -- and an inaccessible CD-ROM is a installation
show-stopper. Also, CD-ROMs that attach to your parallel port won't work
at all. If you're in doubt, consult the Linux CD-ROM HOWTO for a list and
details of supported hardware.
If your CD-ROM isn't in your machine's boot sequence, you will need a
3.5" floppy drive. While 5.25" floppies are supported under
Linux, they are little-enough used that you should not count on disk images
necessarily fitting on them. (A stripped-down Linux can actually run on a
single floppy, but that's only useful for installation and certain
You also need an MDA,
VGA, or Super
VGA video card and
monitor. In general, if your video card and monitor work under MS-DOS or
Windows then they should work under Linux. However, if you wish to run the
X window system, there are other restrictions on the supported video
hardware. The Linux
XFree86-HOWTO, contains more information about running X and its
If you're running on a box that uses one of the Motorola 68K
processors (including Amiga,
VMEbus machines), see the
for information on minimum requirements and the state of the port. The FAQ
now says m68k Linux is as stable and usable as the Intel versions.
You'll need free space for Linux on your hard drive. The amount of
space needed depends on how much software you plan to install. Today most
installations require somewhere in the ballpark of a gigabyte of space.
This includes space for the software, swap space (used as virtual
RAM on your machine), and free space for users, and so on.
It's conceivable that you could run a minimal Linux system in 80 megs
or less (this used to be common when Linux distributions were smaller), and
it's conceivable that you could use two gigabytes or more for all of your
Linux software. The amount varies greatly depending on the amount of
software you install and how much space you require. More about this
Linux will co-exist with other operating systems, such as MS-DOS,
Microsoft Windows, or OS/2, on your hard drive. (In fact you can even
access MS-DOS files and run some MS-DOS programs from Linux.) In other
words, when partitioning your drive for Linux, MS-DOS or OS/2 live on their
own partitions, and Linux exists on its own. We'll go into more detail
about such ``dual-boot''
You do not need to be running MS-DOS, OS/2, or
any other operating system to use Linux. Linux is a completely
stand-alone operating system and does not rely on other OSs for
installation and use.
In all, the minimal setup for Linux is not much more than is
required for most MS-DOS or Windows 3.1 systems sold today (and
it's a good deal less than the minimum for Windows 95!). If you
have a 386 or 486 with at least 4 megs of RAM, then you'll be happy
running Linux. Linux does not require huge amounts of disk space,
memory, or processor speed. Matt Welsh, the originator of this
HOWTO, used to run Linux on a 386/16 MHz (the slowest machine you
can get) with 4 megs of RAM, and was quite happy. The more you want
to do, the more memory (and faster processor) you'll need. In our
experience a 486 with 16 megabytes of RAM running Linux outdoes
several models of expensive workstations.
Start to finish, a modern Linux installation from CD-ROM can be expected
to take from ninety minutes to three hours.
Before you can install Linux, you need to decide on one of the
``distributions'' of Linux which are available. There is no single,
standard release of the Linux software---there are many such
releases. Each release has its own documentation and installation
instructions. All distributions pretty much share the same underlying
Linux distributions are available both via anonymous FTP and via mail
order on diskette, tape, and CD-ROM. There are many checklists and
reviews of Linux distributions out there. The Linux Weekly News site, in addition to
being an excellent general source of news and information, carries a
weekly report on distributions with pointers to many of them.
In the dim and ancient past when this HOWTO was first written
(1992-93), most people got Linux by tortuous means involving long
downloads off the Internet or a BBS onto their DOS machines,
followed by an elaborate procedure which transferred the downloads
onto multiple floppy disks. One of these disks would then be
booted and used to install the other dozen. With luck (and no
media failures) you'd finish your installation many hours later
with a working Linux. Or maybe not.
While this path is still possible (and you can download any one of
several distributions from Metalab),
there are now much less strenuous ways. The easiest is to buy one of the
high-quality commercial Linux distributions distributed on CD-ROM, such as
Red Hat, Debian, Linux Pro, or WGS. These are typically available for less
than $50 at your local bookstore or computer shop, and will save you
many hours of aggravation.
You can also buy anthology CD-ROMs such as the InfoMagic Linux
Developer's Resource set. These typically include several Linux
distributions and a recent dump of major Linux archive sites, such
as metalab or tsx-11.
In the remainder of this HOWTO we will focus on the steps needed to
install from an anthology CD-ROM, or one of the lower-end
commercial Linuxes that doesn't include a printed installation
manual. If your Linux includes a paper manual some of this HOWTO may
provide useful background, but you should consult the manual for
detailed installation instructions.
It's wise to collect configuration information on your hardware
before installing. Know the vendor and model number of each card
in your machine; collect the IRQs and DMA channel numbers. You
probably won't need this information -- but if it turns out you do,
you'll need it very badly.
If you want to run a "dual-boot" system (Linux and DOS or Windows or
both), rearrange (repartition) your disk to make room for Linux. If you're
wise, you'll back up everything first!.
If you have an EIDE/ATAPI CDROM (normal these days), check your machine's
BIOS settings to see if it has the capability to boot from CD-ROM. Most
machines made after mid-1997 can do this.
If yours is among them, change the settings so that the CD-ROM is checked
first. This is often in a 'BIOS FEATURES' submenu of the BIOS
Then insert the installation CD-ROM. Reboot. You're started.
If you have a SCSI CDROM you can often still boot from it, but it gets
a little more motherboard/BIOS dependent. Those who know enough to
spend the extra dollars on a SCSI CDROM drive probably know enough to
figure it out.
Prepare the Linux filesystems. (If you didn't edit the
disk partition table earlier, you will at this stage.)
Install a basic production Linux from the
Boot Linux from the hard drive.
(Optional) Install more packages from CD-ROM.
Here are the basic parts of an installable distribution:
The README and FAQ files. These will usually be
located in the top-level directory of your CD-ROM and be readable
once the CD-ROM has been mounted under Linux. (Depending on how
the CD-ROM was generated, they may even be visible under
DOS/Windows.) It is a good idea to read these files as soon as you
have access to them, to become aware of important updates or
A number of
bootdisk images (often in
a subdirectory). If your CD-ROM is not bootable, one of these is the file
that you will write to a floppy to create the boot disk. You'll select
one of the above bootdisk images, depending on the
type of hardware that you have in your system.
The issue here is that some hardware drivers conflict with each
other in strange ways, and instead of attempting to debug hardware
problems on your system it's easier to use a boot floppy image with
only the drivers you need enabled. (This will have the nice side
effect of making your kernel smaller.)
A rescue disk image. This is a disk containing a basic
kernel and tools for disaster recovery in case something trashes
the kernel or boot block of your hard disk.
RAWRITE.EXE. This is an MS-DOS program that will write
the contents of a file (such as a bootdisk image) directly
to a floppy, without regard to format.
You only need RAWRITE.EXE if you plan to create your boot and
root floppies from an MS-DOS system. If you have access to a UNIX
workstation with a floppy drive instead, you can create the
floppies from there, using the `dd' command, or possibly a
vendor-provided build script. See the man page for dd(1) and ask
your local UNIX gurus for assistance. There's a dd example later
in this document.
The CD-ROM itself. The purpose of the boot disk is to get
your machine ready to load the root or installation disks, which in
turn are just devices for preparing your hard disk and copying
portions of the CD-ROM to it. If your CD-ROM is bootable, you can boot
it and skip right to preparing your disk.
Linux makes more effective use of PC hardware than MS-DOS, Windows
or NT, and is accordingly less tolerant of misconfigured hardware.
There are a few things you can do before you start that will lessen
your chances of being stopped by this kind of problem.
First, collect any manuals you have on your hardware -- motherboard,
video card, monitor, modem, etc. -- and put them within easy reach.
Second, gather detailed information on your hardware configuration.
One easy way to do this, if you're running MS-DOS 5.0, or up, is to
print a report from the Microsoft diagnostic utility msd.exe (you
can leave out the TSR, driver, memory-map, environment-strings and
OS-version parts). Among other things, this will guarantee you
full and correct information on your video card and mouse type,
which will be helpful in configuring X later on.
Third, check your machine for configuration problems with
supported hardware that could cause an un-recoverable lockup
during Linux installation.
It is possible for a DOS/Windows system using IDE hard
drive(s) and CD ROM to be functional even with the master/slave
jumpers on the drives incorrectly set. Linux won't fly this way.
If in doubt, check your master-slave jumpers!
Is any of your peripheral hardware designed with neither
configuration jumpers nor non-volatile configuration memory? If
so, it may require boot-time initialization via an MS-DOS utility
to start up, and may not be easily accessible from Linux. CD-ROMs,
sound cards, Ethernet cards and low-end tape drives can have this
problem. If so, you may be able to work around this with an
argument to the boot prompt; see theLinux Boot Prompt HOWTO for
Some other operating systems will allow a bus mouse to share an
IRQ with other devices. Linux doesn't support this; in fact, trying it may
lock up your machine. If you are using a bus mouse, see the Linux Bus Mouse HOWTO, for
If possible, get the telephone number of an experienced Linux user
you can call in case of emergency. Nine times out of ten you won't
need it, but it's comforting to have.
Budget time for installation. That will be about one hour on
a bare system or one being converted to all-Linux operation. Or
up to three hours for a dual-boot system (they have a much higher
incidence of false starts and hangups).
(This step is only needed if you can't boot from a CD-ROM.)
Your Linux CD-ROM may come with installation aids that will take
you through the process of building boot, root, and rescue disks
with interactive prompts. These may be an MS-DOS installation
program (such as the Red Hat redhat.exe program) or a Unix
script, or both.
If you have such a program and can use it, you should read the rest
of this subsection for information only. Run the program to do
actual installation -- its authors certainly knew more about the
specific distribution than I, and you'll avoid many error-prone
More detailed information on making bootdisks, see the
Linux Bootdisk HOWTO.
Your first step will be to select a boot-disk image to fit your
hardware. If you must do this by hand, you'll generally find that either
(a) the bootdisk images on your CD-ROM are named in a way that will help
you pick a correct one, or (b) there's an index file nearby describing each
Next, you must create floppies from the bootdisk image you selected,
and optionally from the rescue disk images. This is where the MS-DOS
program RAWRITE.EXE comes into play.
Next, you must have two or three high-density
MS-DOS formatted floppies. (They must be of the same type; that is, if
your boot floppy drive is a 3.5" drive, both floppies must be
high-density 3.5" disks.) You will use RAWRITE.EXE to write the
bootdisk images to the floppies.
Invoke it with no arguments, like this:
Answer the prompts for the name of the file to write and the floppy
to write it to (such as A:). RAWRITE will copy the file, block-by-block,
directly to the floppy. Also use RAWRITE for the root disk image (such as
COLOR144). When you're done, you'll have two floppies: one containing the
boot disk, the other containing the root disk. Note that these two floppies
will no longer be readable by MS-DOS (they are ``Linux format'' floppies,
in some sense).
You can use the dd(1) commands on a UNIX system to do the same job.
(For this, you will need a UNIX workstation with a floppy drive, of
course.) For example, on a Sun workstation with the floppy drive on device
/dev/rfd0, you can use the command:
$ dd if=bare of=/dev/rfd0 obs=18k
You must provide the appropriate output block size argument (the `obs'
argument) on some workstations (e.g., Suns) or this will fail. If
you have problems the man page for dd(1) may be be instructive.
Be sure that you're using brand-new, error-free floppies. The
floppies must have no bad blocks on them.
Note that you do not need to be running Linux or MS-DOS in order to
install Linux. However, running Linux or MS-DOS makes it easier to
create the boot and root floppies from your CD-ROM. If you don't
have an operating system on your machine, you can use someone
else's Linux or MS-DOS just to create the floppies, and install
On most used systems, the hard drive is already dedicated to
partitions for MS-DOS, OS/2, and so on. You'll need to resize
these partitions in order to make space for Linux. If you're going
to run a dual-boot system, it's strongly recommended that you read
one or more of the following mini-HOWTOS, which describe different
Even if they are not directly applicable to your system, they will
help you understand the issues involved.
Some Linuxes will install to a directory on your MS-DOS
partition. (This is different than installing from an
MS-DOS partition.) Instead, you use the ``UMSDOS filesystem'', which allows
you to treat a directory of your MS-DOS partition as a Linux filesystem. In
this way, you don't have to repartition your drive.
I only suggest using this method if your drive already has four
partitions (the maximum supported by DOS) and repartitioning would
be more trouble than it's worth (it slows down your Linux due to
filename translation overhead). Or, if you want to try out Linux
before repartitioning, this is a good way to do so. But in most
cases you should re-partition, as described here. If you do plan to
use UMSDOS, you are on your own -- it is not documented in detail
here. From now on, we assume that you are NOT using UMSDOS, and
that you will be repartitioning.
A partition is just a section of the hard drive
set aside for a particular operating system to use. If you only have MS-DOS
installed, your hard drive probably has just one partition, entirely for
MS-DOS. To use Linux, however, you'll need to repartition the drive, so
that you have one partition for MS-DOS, and one (or more) for Linux.
Partitions come in three flavors: primary,
extended, and logical. Briefly,
primary partitions are one of the four main partitions on your
drive. However, if you wish to have more than four partitions per drive,
you need to replace the last primary partition with an extended partition,
which can contain many logical partitions. You don't store data directly
on an extended partition---it is used only as a container for logical
partitions. Data is stored only on either primary or logical
To put this another way, most people use only primary partitions.
However, if you need more than four partitions on a drive, you
create an extended partition. Logical partitions are then created
on top of the extended partition, and there you have it---more than
four partitions per drive.
Note that you can easily install Linux on the second drive on your
system (known as D: to MS-DOS). You simply specify the
appropriate device name when creating Linux partitions. This is
described in detail below.
Back to repartitioning your drive. It used to be that there was no way to
resize partitions without destroying the data on them. Nowadays there are
partitioning utilities that can resize non-destructively; they know about
the structure of file systems, can find the free space on a file system,
and can move file data around on the partition to move free space where it
needs to be in order for a resize to work properly. It's still suggested
that you make a full backup before using one of these, in case of program
or human error.
Under Linux GNU
parted allows you to create, destroy, resize and copy partitions. It
supports ext2, FAT16, and FAT32 filesystems, Linux swap devices; it also
knows about MS-DOS disk labels. Parted is useful for creating space for new
operating systems, reorganising disk usage, copying data between hard
disks, and disk imaging. It is relatively new code, but is reported to
work well and not trash data.
There is a non-destructive disk repartitioner available for MS-DOS,
called FIPS. With
FIPS, a disk optimizer (such as Norton Speed Disk), and a little bit of
luck, you should be able to resize MS-DOS partitions without destroying the
data on them.
The older method of resizing a partition, if you don't have one of these
resizing partition editors available, is to delete the partition(s), and
re-create them with smaller sizes. If you use this method, you absolutely
must make a backup in order to save any of your data.
The classic way to modify partitions is with the program
FDISK. For example, let's say that you have an 80 meg
hard drive, dedicated to MS-DOS. You'd like to split it in half---40 megs
for MS-DOS and 40 megs for Linux. In order to do this, you run
FDISK under MS-DOS, delete the 80 meg MS-DOS partition,
and re-create a 40 meg MS-DOS partition in its place. You can then format
the new partition and reinstall your MS-DOS software from backups. 40
megabytes of the drive is left empty. Later, you create Linux partitions on
the unused portion of the drive.
In short, you should do the following to resize MS-DOS partitions
Make a full backup of your system.
Create an MS-DOS bootable floppy, using a command such as
Copy the files FDISK.EXE and
FORMAT.COM to this floppy, as well as any other
utilities that you need. (For example, utilities to recover your system
Boot the MS-DOS system floppy.
Run FDISK, possibly specifying the drive to modify (such as
C: or D:).
Use the FDISK menu options to delete the partitions which
you wish to resize. This will destroy all data on the affected
Use the FDISK menu options to re-create those partitions,
with smaller sizes.
Exit FDISK and re-format the new partitions with the
Restore the original files from backup.
Note that MS-DOS FDISK will give you an option to create
a ``logical DOS drive''. A logical DOS drive is just a logical
partition on your hard drive. You can install Linux on a logical
partition, but you don't want to create that logical partition
with MS-DOS fdisk. So, if you're currently using a logical
DOS drive, and want to install Linux in its place, you should
delete the logical drive with MS-DOS FDISK, and (later)
create a logical partition for Linux in its place.
The mechanism used to repartition for OS/2 and other operating
systems is similar. See the documentation for those operating
systems for details.
After repartitioning your drive, you need to create partitions for
Linux. Before describing how to do that, we'll talk about
partitions and filesystems under Linux.
Linux requires at least one partition, for the root
filesystem, which will hold the Linux kernel itself.
You can think of a filesystem as a partition
formatted for Linux. Filesystems are used to hold files. Every system must
have a root filesystem, at least. However, many users prefer to use
multiple filesystems---one for each major part of the directory tree. For
example, you may wish to create a separate filesystem to hold all files
under the /usr directory. (Note that on UNIX systems,
forward slashes are used to delimit directories, not backslashes as with
MS-DOS.) In this case you have both a root filesystem, and a
Each filesystem requires its own partition. Therefore, if you're
using both root and /usr filesystems, you'll need to
create two Linux partitions.
In addition, most users create a swap partition,
which is used for virtual RAM. If you have, say, 4 megabytes of memory on
your machine, and a 10-megabyte swap partition, as far as Linux is
concerned you have 14 megabytes of virtual memory.
When using swap space, Linux moves unused pages of memory out to
disk, allowing you to run more applications at once on your system.
However, because swapping is often slow, it's no replacement for
real physical RAM. But applications that require a great deal of
memory (such as the X window system) often rely on swap space if
you don't have enough physical RAM.
Nearly all Linux users employ a swap partition. If you have 4
megabytes of RAM or less, a swap partition is required to install
the software. It is strongly recommended that you have a swap
partition anyway, unless you have a great amount of physical RAM.
The size of your swap partition depends on how much virtual memory
you need. It's often suggested that you have at least 16 megabytes
of virtual memory total. Therefore, if you have 8 megs of physical
RAM, you might want to create an 8-megabyte swap partition. Note that
there are platform-dependent limits on the size of swap partitions;
see the Partition-HOWTO if you want to create a swap partition larger
You can find more on the theory of swap space layout and disk
partitioning in the Linux Partition mini-HOWTO (http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/mini/Partition.html).
Note: it is possible, though a bit tricky, to share swap partitions
between Linux and Windows 95 in a dual-boot system. For details, see the
Swap Space Mini-HOWTO.
Gotcha #1: If you have an EIDE drive with a partition that goes
above 504MB, your BIOS may not allow you to boot to a Linux installed
there. So keep your root partition below 504MB. This shouldn't be a
problem for SCSI drive controllers, which normally have their own drive
BIOS firmware. For technical details, see the Large Disk Mini-HOWTO.
Gotcha #2: Are you mixing IDE and SCSI drives? Then watch out.
Your BIOS may not allow you to boot directly to a SCSI drive.
Besides your root and swap partitions, you'll want to set up
one or more partitions to hold your software and home directories.
While, in theory, you could run everything off a single huge root
partition, almost nobody does this. Having multiple partitions
has several advantages:
It often cuts down the time required for boot-time file-system
Files can't grow across partition boundaries. Therefore
you can use partition boundaries as firebreaks against programs
(like Usenet news) that want to eat huge amounts of disk, to
prevent them from crowding out file space needed by your kernel
and the rest of your applications.
If you ever develop a bad spot on your disk, formatting
and restoring a single partition is less painful than having to
redo everything from scratch.
On today's large disks, a good basic setup is to have a small root
partition (less than 80 meg), a medium-sized /usr partition (up to
300 meg or so) to hold system software, and a /home partition
occupying the rest of your available space for home directories.
You can get more elaborate. If you know you're going to run
Usenet news, for example, you may want to give it a partition
of its own to control its maximum possible disk usage. Or create
a /var partition for mail, news, and temporary files all together.
But in today's regime of very cheap, very large hard disks these
complications seem less and less necessary for your first Linux
installation. For your first time, especially, keep it simple.
The first step is to boot the bootdisk you generated. Normally
you'll be able to boot hands-off; the boot kernel prompt will fill
itself in after 10 seconds. This is how you'll normally boot from
an IDE disk.
What's actually happening here is this: the boot disk provides a
miniature operating system which (because the hard drive isn't
prepared) uses a portion of your RAM as a virtual disk (called,
logically enough, a `ramdisk').
The boot disk loads onto the ramdisk a small set of files and
installation tools which you'll use to prepare your hard drive and
install a production Linux on it from your CD-ROM.
(In times past this was a two-stage-process, involving a second disk
called a `root disk'; this changed when kernel modules were introduced.)
By giving arguments after the kernel name, you can specify various
hardware parameters, such as your SCSI controller IRQ and address,
or drive geometry, before booting the Linux kernel. This may be
necessary if Linux does not detect your SCSI controller or hard
drive geometry, for example.
In particular, many BIOS-less SCSI controllers require you to
specify the port address and IRQ at boot time. Likewise, IBM PS/1,
ThinkPad, and ValuePoint machines do not store drive geometry in
the CMOS, and you must specify it at boot time. (Later on,
you'll be able to configure your production system to supply
such parameters itself.)
Watch the messages as the system boots. They will list and describe
the hardware your installation Linux detects. In particular, if you
have a SCSI controller, you should see a listing of the SCSI hosts
detected. If you see the message
Then your SCSI controller was not detected, and you will have to
figure out how to tell the kernel where it is.
Also, the system will display information on the drive partitions
and devices detected. If any of this information is incorrect or
missing, you will have to force hardware detection.
On the other hand, if all goes well and your hardware seems to be
detected, you can skip to the following section, ``Loading the
To force hardware detection, you must enter the appropriate
parameters at the boot prompt, using the following syntax:
There are a number of such parameters available; we list some of
the most common below. Modern Linux boot disks will often give
you the option to look at help screen describing kernel parameters
before you boot.
hd=cylinders,heads,sectors Specify the drive geometry.
Required for systems such as the IBM PS/1, ValuePoint, and ThinkPad.
For example, if your drive has 683 cylinders, 16 heads, and 32 sectors
per track, enter
tmc8xx=memaddr,irq Specify address and
IRQ for BIOS-less Future Domain TMC-8xx SCSI controller. For
Note that the 0x prefix must be used for all
values given in hex. This is true for all of the following
st0x=memaddr,irq Specify address and
IRQ for BIOS-less Seagate ST02 controller.
t128=memaddr,irq Specify address and
IRQ for BIOS-less Trantor T128B controller.
ncr5380=port,irq,dma Specify port,
IRQ, and DMA channel for generic NCR5380 controller.
port, IRQ, and SCSI ID for BIOS-less AIC-6260 controllers. This includes
Adaptec 1510, 152x, and Soundblaster-SCSI controllers.
If you have questions about these boot-time options, please read the
Linux SCSI HOWTO, which should be available on any
Linux FTP archive site (or from wherever you obtained this document). The
SCSI HOWTO explains Linux SCSI compatibility in much
After boot, all current Linuxes run a screen-oriented installation
program which tries to interactively walk you through these steps, giving
lots of help.
You will probably get the option to try to configure X right away
so the installation program can go graphical. If you choose this
route, the installation program will quiz you about your mouse and
monitor type before getting to the installation proper. Once you
get your production Linux installed, these settings will be saved
for you. You will be able to tune your monitor's performance
later, so at this stage it makes sense to settle for a basic
640x480 SVGA mode.
X isn't necessary for installation, but (assuming you can get
past the mouse and monitor configuration) many people find the
graphical interface easier to use. And you're going to want to
bring up X anyway, so trying it early makes some sense.
Just follow the prompts in the program. It will take you through
the steps necessary to prepare your disk, create initial user
accounts, and install software packages off the CD-ROM.
In the following subsections we'll describe some of the tricky
areas in the installation sequence as if you were doing them
by hand. This should help you understand what the installation
program is doing, and why.
Your first installation step once the root-disk Linux is booted
will be to create or edit the partition tables on your disks.
Even if you used FDISK to set up partitions earlier, you'll
need to go back to the partition table now and insert some
Linux-specific information now.
To create or edit Linux partitions, we'll use the Linux version of
the fdisk program, or its screen-oriented sibling
cfdisk. Note that the argument to the
fdisk needs to be the device corresponding to an entire
disk (e.g. /dev/sda) rather than any of its partitions
(such as /dev/sda1).
Generally the installation program will look for a preexisting
partition table and offer to run fdisk or
cfdisk on it for you. Of the two,
cfdisk is definitely easier to use, but current versions
of it are also less tolerant of a nonexistent or garbled partition
Therefore you may find (especially if you're installing on virgin
hardware) that you need to start with fdisk to get to a
state that cfdisk can deal with. Try running
cfdisk; if it complains, run fdisk.
(A good way to proceed if you're building an all-Linux system and
cfdisk complains is to use fdisk to
delete all the existing partions and then fire up cfdisk
to edit the empty table.)
A few notes apply to both fdisk and
cfdisk. Both take an argument which is the name of the
drive that you wish to create Linux partitions on. Hard drive device names
/dev/hda First IDE drive
/dev/hdb Second IDE drive
/dev/sda First SCSI drive
/dev/sdb Second SCSI drive
For example, to create Linux partitions on the first SCSI drive in
your system, you will use (or your installation program might
generate from a menu choice) the command:
If you use fdisk or cfdisk
without an argument, it will assume /dev/hda.
To create Linux partitions on the second drive on your system,
simply specify either /dev/hdb (for IDE drives)
or /dev/sdb (for SCSI drives)
when running fdisk.
Your Linux partitions don't all have to be on the same drive. You
might want to create your root filesystem partition on
/dev/hda and your swap partition on
/dev/hdb, for example. In order to do so just run
fdisk or cfdisk once for each
In Linux, partitions are given a name based on the drive which they
belong to. For example, the first partition on the drive
/dev/hda is /dev/hda1, the second
is /dev/hda2, and so on. If you have any logical
partitions, they are numbered starting with /dev/hda5,
/dev/hda6 and so on up.
You should not create or delete partitions for operating
systems other than Linux with Linux fdisk or
cfdisk. That is, don't create or delete MS-DOS
partitions with this version of fdisk; use MS-DOS's
version of FDISK instead. If you try to create MS-DOS
partitions with Linux fdisk, chances are MS-DOS will not
recognize the partition and not boot correctly.
Here's an example of using fdisk. Here, we have a
single MS-DOS partition using 61693 blocks on the drive, and the rest of
the drive is free for Linux. (Under Linux, one block is 1024
bytes. Therefore, 61693 blocks is about 61 megabytes.) We will create just
two partitions in this tutorial example, swap and root. You should
probably extend this to four Linux partitions in line with the
recommendations above: one for swap, one for the root filesystem, one for
system software, and a home directory area.
First, we use the ``p'' command to display the
current partition table. As you can see, /dev/hda1
(the first partition on /dev/hda) is a DOS partition
of 61693 blocks.
Command (m for help): p
Disk /dev/hda: 16 heads, 38 sectors, 683 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 608 * 512 bytes
Device Boot Begin Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/hda1 * 1 1 203 61693 6 DOS 16-bit >=32M
Command (m for help):
Next, we use the ``n'' command to create a new
partition. The Linux root partition will be 80 megs in size.
Command (m for help): n
p primary partition (1-4)
Here we're being asked if we want to create an extended or
primary partition. In most cases you want to use primary
partitions, unless you need more than four partitions on a
drive. See the section ``Repartitioning'', above, for more
Partition number (1-4): 2
First cylinder (204-683): 204
Last cylinder or +size or +sizeM or +sizeK (204-683): +80M
The first cylinder should be the cylinder AFTER where the last
partition left off. In this case, /dev/hda1 ended on
cylinder 203, so we start the new partition at cylinder 204.
As you can see, if we use the notation ``+80M'', it specifies a
partition of 80 megs in size. Likewise, the notation ``+80K''
would specify an 80 kilobyte partition, and ``+80'' would
specify just an 80 byte partition.
Warning: Linux cannot currently use 33090 sectors of this partition
If you see this warning, you can ignore it. It is left over from an
old restriction that Linux filesystems could only be 64 megs in
size. However, with newer filesystem types, that is no longer the
case... partitions can now be up to 4 terabytes in size.
Next, we create our 10 megabyte swap partition,
Command (m for help): n
p primary partition (1-4)
Partition number (1-4): 3
First cylinder (474-683): 474
Last cylinder or +size or +sizeM or +sizeK (474-683): +10M
Again, we display the contents of the partition table. Be
sure to write down the information here, especially the size of
each partition in blocks. You need this information later.
Command (m for help): p
Disk /dev/hda: 16 heads, 38 sectors, 683 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 608 * 512 bytes
Device Boot Begin Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/hda1 * 1 1 203 61693 6 DOS 16-bit >=32M
/dev/hda2 204 204 473 82080 83 Linux native
/dev/hda3 474 474 507 10336 83 Linux native
Note that the Linux swap partition (here,
/dev/hda3) has type ``Linux native''. We need to
change the type of the swap partition to ``Linux swap'' so that the
installation program will recognize it as such. In order to do this, use
the fdisk ``t'' command:
Command (m for help): t
Partition number (1-4): 3
Hex code (type L to list codes): 82
If you use ``L'' to list the type codes, you'll
find that 82 is the type corresponding to Linux swap.
To quit fdisk and save the changes to the
partition table, use the ``w'' command. To quit
fdisk WITHOUT saving changes, use the
After quitting fdisk, the system may tell you to
reboot to make sure that the changes took effect. In general there is no
reason to reboot after using fdisk---modern versions of
fdisk and cfdisk are smart enough to
update the partitions without rebooting.
After you've edited the partition tables, your installation program
should look at them and offer to enable your swap partition for
you. Tell it yes.
(This is made a question, rather than done automatically, on the off
chance that you're running a dual-boot system and one of your
non-Linux partitions might happen to look like a swap volume.)
Next the program will ask you to associate Linux filesystem names
(such as /, /usr, /var, /tmp, /home, /home2, etc.) with each of the
non-swap partitions you're going to use.
There is only one hard and fast rule for this. There must be a
root filesystem, named /, and it must be bootable. You can name
your other Linux partitions anything you like. But there are some
conventions about how to name them which will probably simplify
your life later on.
Earlier on I recommended a basic three-partition setup including a
small root, a medium-sized system-software partition, and a large
home-directory partition. Traditionally, these would be called /,
/usr, and /home. The counterintuitive `/usr' name is a historical
carryover from the days when (much smaller) Unix systems carried
system software and user home directories on a single non-root
partition. Some software depends on it.
If you have more than one home-directory area, it's conventional
to name them /home, /home2, /home3, etc. This may come up if you
have two physical disks. On my personal system, for example, the
layout currently looks like this:
Filesystem 1024-blocks Used Available Capacity Mounted on
/dev/sda1 30719 22337 6796 77% /
/dev/sda3 595663 327608 237284 58% /usr
/dev/sda4 1371370 1174 1299336 0% /home
/dev/sdb1 1000949 643108 306130 68% /home2
The second disk (sdb1) isn't really all /home2; the swap
partitions on sda and sdb aren't shown in this display.
But you can see that /home is the large free area on sda
and /home2 is the user area of sdb.
If you want to create an partition for scratch, spool, temporary,
mail, and news files, call it /var. Otherwise you'll probably
want to create a /usr/var and create a symbolic link named
/var that points back to it (the installation program may
offer to do this for you).
Once you've gotten past preparing your partitions, the remainder of
the installation should be almost automatic. Your installation
program (whether EGA or X-based) will guide you through a series of
menus which allow you to specify the CD-ROM to install from, the
partitions to use, and so forth.
Here we're not going to document many of the specifics of this
stage of installation. It's one of the parts that varies most
between Linux distributions (vendors traditionally compete to add
value here), but also the simplest part. And the installation
programs are pretty much self-explanatory, with good on-screen
After installation is complete, and if all goes well, the
installation program will walk you through a few options
for configuring your system before its first boot from hard drive.
LILO (which stands for LInux LOader) is a program that will allow
you to boot Linux (as well as other operating systems, such as
MS-DOS) from your hard drive.
You may be given the option of installing LILO on your hard drive.
Unless you're running OS/2, answer `yes'. OS/2 has special
requirements; see Custom LILO
Installing LILO as your primary loader makes a separate boot
diskette unnecessary; instead, you can tell LILO at each boot time
which OS to boot.
You may also be given the chance to create a ``standard boot
disk'', which you can use to boot your newly-installed Linux
system. (This is an older and slightly less convenient method
which assumes that you will normally boot DOS, but use the boot
disk to start Linux.)
For this you will need a blank, high-density MS-DOS formatted
diskette of the type that you boot with on your system. Simply
insert the disk when prompted and a boot diskette will be created.
(This is not the same as an installation bootdisk, and you can't
substitute one for the other!)
The post-installation procedure may also take you through several
menu items allowing you to configure your system. This includes
specifying your modem and mouse device, as well as your time
zone. Follow the menu options.
It may also prompt you to create user accounts or put a password
on the root (administration) account. This is not complicated
and you can usually just walk through the screen instructions.
If everything went as planned, you should now be able to boot Linux
from the hard drive using LILO. Alternatively, you should be able to boot
your Linux boot floppy (not the original bootdisk floppy, but the floppy
created after installing the software). After booting, login as
root. Congratulations! You have your very own Linux
If you are booting using LILO, try holding down
shift or control during
boot. This will present you with a boot prompt; press
tab to see a list of options. In this way you can boot
Linux, MS-DOS, or whatever directly from LILO.
You should now be looking at the login prompt of a new Linux,
just booted from your hard drive. Congratulations!
post-install procedures has some good suggestions about things you
can do just after installation to minimize problems later on.
Depending on how the installation phase went, you may need to
create accounts, change your hostname, or (re)configure X at this
stage. There are many more things you could set up and configure,
including backup devices, SLIP/PPP links to an Internet Service
A good book on UNIX systems administration should help. (I suggest
Essential Systems Administration from O'Reilly and
Associates.) You will pick these things up as time goes by. You should
read various other Linux HOWTOs, such as the
Printing-HOWTO, for information on other
LILO is a boot loader, which can be used to select either Linux,
MS-DOS, or some other operating system at boot time. Chances are
your distribution automatically configured LILO for you during the
installation phase (unless you're using OS/2, this is what you
should have done). If so, you can skip the rest of this section.
If you installed LILO as the primary boot
loader, it will handle the first-stage booting process for all operating
systems on your drive. This works well if MS-DOS is the only other
operating system that you have installed. However, you might be running
OS/2, which has its own Boot Manager. In this case, you want OS/2's Boot
Manager to be the primary boot loader, and use LILO just to boot Linux (as
the secondary boot loader).
An important gotcha for people using EIDE systems: due to a BIOS
limitation, your boot sectors for any OS have to live on one of the
first two physical disks. Otherwise LILO will hang after writing
"LI", no matter where you run it from.
If you have to configure LILO manually, this will involve editing the
file /etc/lilo.conf. Below we present an example of a
LILO configuration file, where the Linux root partition is on
/dev/hda2, and MS-DOS is installed on
/dev/hdb1 (on the second hard drive).
# Tell LILO to install itself as the primary boot loader on /dev/hda.
boot = /dev/hda
# The boot image to install; you probably shouldn't change this
install = /boot/boot.b
# The stanza for booting Linux.
image = /vmlinuz # The kernel is in /vmlinuz
label = linux # Give it the name "linux"
root = /dev/hda2 # Use /dev/hda2 as the root filesystem
vga = ask # Prompt for VGA mode
append = "aha152x=0x340,11,7,1" # Add this to the boot options,
# for detecting the SCSI controller
# The stanza for booting MS-DOS
other = /dev/hdb1 # This is the MS-DOS partition
label = msdos # Give it the name "msdos"
table = /dev/hdb # The partition table for the second drive
Once you have edited the /etc/lilo.conf file,
run /sbin/lilo as root. This will
install LILO on your drive. Note that you must rerun
/sbin/lilo anytime that you recompile your kernel in
order to point the boot loader at it properly (something that you don't
need to worry about just now, but keep it in mind).
Note how we use the append option in
/etc/lilo.conf to specify boot parameters as we did when
booting the bootdisk.
You can now reboot your system from the hard drive. By default LILO
will boot the operating system listed first in the configuration file,
which in this case is Linux. In order to bring up a boot menu, in order to
select another operating system, hold down shift or
ctrl while the system boots; you should see a prompt
Here, enter either the name of the operating system to boot (given by
the label line in the configuration file; in this
case, either linux or msdos), or
press tab to get a list.
Now let's say that you want to use LILO as the secondary boot
loader; if you want to boot Linux from OS/2's Boot Manager, for
example. In order to boot a Linux partition from OS/2 Boot
Manager, unfortunately, you must create the partition using OS/2's
FDISK (not Linux's), and format the partition as FAT or
HPFS, so that OS/2 knows about it. (That's IBM for you.)
In order to have LILO boot Linux from OS/2 Boot Manager, you only
want to install LILO on your Linux root filesystem (in the above
example, /dev/hda2). In this case, your LILO config file
should look something like:
boot = /dev/hda2
install = /boot/boot.b
image = /vmlinuz
label = linux
root = /dev/hda2
vga = ask
Note the change in the boot line. After running
/sbin/lilo you should be able to add the Linux partition
to Boot Manager. This mechanism should work for boot loaders used
by other operating systems as well.
This document is copyright 1998 by Eric S. Raymond. You may use,
disseminate, and reproduce it freely, provided you:
Do not omit or alter this copyright notice (you may translate it)
Do not omit or alter or omit the version number and date.
Do not omit or alter the document's pointer to the current WWW version.
Clearly mark any condensed, or altered versions as such.
These restrictions are intended to protect potential readers from
stale or mangled versions. If you think you have a good case for
an exception, ask me.
My grateful acknowledgement to Matt D. Welsh, who originated
this HOWTO. I removed much of the Slackware-specific content
and refocused the remainder of the document on CD-ROM
installation, but a substantial part of the content is still his.
The 4.1 version was substantially improved by some suggestions from
David Shao <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
© 2009 - 2015 Silicon Graphics International Corp. All Rights Reserved.