The Linux Installation HOWTO

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
    1.1. Purpose of this document
    1.2. Translations
    1.3. Other sources of information
    1.4. New versions of this document
    1.5. Feedback and Corrections
2. Recent Changes
3. The Easiest Option: Buy, Don't Build
4. Before You Begin
    4.1. Hardware requirements
    4.2. Space requirements and coexistence
    4.3. Time requirements
    4.4. Choosing a Linux distribution
5. Installation Overview
    5.1. First Installation Steps: The Easy Way
    5.2. First Installation Steps: The Hard Way
    5.3. Continuing the Installation
    5.4. Basic Parts of an Installation Kit
6. Installation In Detail
    6.1. Getting prepared for installation
    6.2. Creating the boot and root floppies
    6.3. Repartitioning your DOS/Windows drives
    6.4. Creating partitions for Linux
    6.5. Booting the installation disk
    6.6. Installing software packages
    6.7. After package installations
7. Booting Your New System
8. After Your First Boot
    8.1. Beginning System Administratration
    8.2. Custom LILO Configuration
9. Administrivia
    9.1. Terms of Use
    9.2. Acknowledgements

1. Introduction

1.1. Purpose of this document

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 applications.

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.

1.2. Translations

This document has been translated to [
doc/install/index.html] Catalan and [
Installation-HOWTO-sl.html] Slovenian and []

1.3. Other sources of information

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 at Linux Documentation
Project home page. You can find the latest version of this document there.

You should probably start by browsing the resources under General Linux
Information; the Linux INFO-SHEET and the Linux [
HOWTO/META-FAQ.html] 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.

1.4. New versions of this document

New versions of the Linux Installation HOWTO will be periodically posted to and comp.os.linux.announce and news.answers. They will
also be uploaded to various Linux WWW and FTP sites, including the LDP home

You can also view the latest version of this on the World Wide Web via the
URL [] http://

1.5. Feedback and Corrections

If you have questions or comments about this document, please feel free to
mail Eric S. Raymond, at <>. 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 preparation.

2. Recent Changes

  * Added the `Buy, Don't Build' section.
  * Added the material on booting from CD-ROM.

3. The Easiest Option: Buy, Don't Build

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.

4. Before You Begin

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 begin.

4.1. Hardware requirements

What kind of system is needed to run Linux? This is a good question; the
actual hardware requirements for the system change periodically. The [http://] Linux Hardware-HOWTO, gives a
(more or less) complete listing of hardware supported by Linux. The [http://] Linux INFO-SHEET, provides another

For the Intel versions, a hardware configuration that looks like the
following is required:

Any 80386, 80486, 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.

The ISA, EISA, VESA Local Bus and 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 better.

Of course, you'll need a hard drive and an AT-standard drive controller. All
MFM, RLL, and 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 floppy.

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 troubleshooting tasks.)

You also need an MDA, Hercules, CGA, EGA, 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, Atari, or VMEbus machines), see the [http://] Linux/m68k FAQ 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.

4.2. Space requirements and coexistence

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 later.

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'' systems later.

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

4.3. Time requirements

Start to finish, a modern Linux installation from CD-ROM can be expected to
take from ninety minutes to three hours.

4.4. Choosing a Linux distribution

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 codebase, however.

Linux distributions are available both via anonymous FTP and via mail order
on diskette, tape, and CD-ROM. There are many checklists and comparative
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.

5. Installation Overview

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!.

5.1. First Installation Steps: The Easy Way

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 configuration

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.

5.2. First Installation Steps: The Hard Way

  * Make installation floppies.
  * Boot an installation mini-Linux from the floppies in order to get access
    to the CD-ROM.

5.3. Continuing the Installation

  * 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 CD-ROM.
  * Boot Linux from the hard drive.
  * (Optional) Install more packages from CD-ROM.

5.4. Basic Parts of an Installation Kit

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

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.

6. Installation In Detail

6.1. Getting prepared for installation

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 the[http://] Linux 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 [http://] 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

6.2. Creating the boot and root floppies

(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 hand-entry steps.

More detailed information on making bootdisks, see the [http://] 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 image.

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:
|C:\> RAWRITE                                                               |

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 from there.

6.3. Repartitioning your DOS/Windows drives

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 dual-boot configurations.

  * The DOS-Win95-OS2-Linux mini-HOWTO.
  * The Linux+Win95 mini-HOWTO.
  * The Linux+NT-Loader mini-HOWTO

Even if they are not directly applicable to your system, they will help you
understand the issues involved.

Note 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 partitions.

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 with FDISK:

 1. Make a full backup of your system.
 2. Create an MS-DOS bootable floppy, using a command such as
    |FORMAT /S A:                                                   |
    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 from backup.)
 3. Boot the MS-DOS system floppy.
 4. Run FDISK, possibly specifying the drive to modify (such as C: or D:).
 5. Use the FDISK menu options to delete the partitions which you wish to
    resize. This will destroy all data on the affected partitions.
 6. Use the FDISK menu options to re-create those partitions, with smaller
 7. Exit FDISK and re-format the new partitions with the FORMAT command.
 8. 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.

6.4. Creating partitions for Linux

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.

6.4.1. Partition basics

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 /usr

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 than 1GB.

You can find more on the theory of swap space layout and disk partitioning in
the Linux Partition mini-HOWTO ([

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 Linux 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.

6.4.2. Sizing partitions

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 checks.
  * 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

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.

6.5. Booting the installation disk

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
|SCSI: 0 hosts                                                              |

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 root disk.''

To force hardware detection, you must enter the appropriate parameters at the
boot prompt, using the following syntax:
|linux <parameters...>                                                      |

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
    |linux hd=683,16,32                                             |
    tmc8xx=memaddr,irq Specify address and IRQ for BIOS-less Future Domain
    TMC-8xx SCSI controller. For example,
    |linux tmc8xx=0xca000,5                                         |
    Note that the 0x prefix must be used for all values given in hex. This is
    true for all of the following options.
  * st0x=memaddr,irq Specify address and IRQ for BIOS-less Seagate ST02
  * t128=memaddr,irq Specify address and IRQ for BIOS-less Trantor T128B
  * ncr5380=port,irq,dma Specify port, IRQ, and DMA channel for generic
    NCR5380 controller.
  * aha152x=port,irq,scsi_id,1 Specify 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 more detail.

6.5.1. Choosing Console or X installation

After boot, all current Linuxes run a screen-oriented installation program
which tries to interactively walk you through these steps, giving lots of

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.

6.5.2. Using fdisk and cfdisk

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 table.

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

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 are:

  * /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:
|cfdisk /dev/sda                                                            |

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 

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 drive.

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.

Note 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        

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                                                   |
|Command action                                                             |
|    e   extended                                                           |
|    p   primary partition (1-4)                                            |
|p                                                                          |

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 information.
|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, /dev/hda3.
|Command (m for help): n                                                    |
|Command action                                                             |
|    e   extended                                                           |
|    p   primary partition (1-4)                                            |
|p                                                                          |
|                                                                           |
|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 ``q'' command.

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.

6.5.3. Post-partition steps

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).

6.6. Installing software packages

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 help.

6.7. After package installations

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.

6.7.1. LILO, the LInux LOader

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

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 Configuration below.

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.

6.7.2. Making a production boot disk (optional)

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!)

6.7.3. Miscellaneous system configuration

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.

7. Booting Your New System

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 system.

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.

8. After Your First Boot

You should now be looking at the login prompt of a new Linux, just booted
from your hard drive. Congratulations!

The GNU/Linux post-install procedures has some good suggestions about things
you can do just after installation to minimize problems later on.

8.1. Beginning System Administratration

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 Provider, etc.

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 NET-3-HOWTO and Printing-HOWTO, for information on other configuration

8.2. Custom LILO Configuration

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 such as
|Boot:                                                                      |

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                                                     |
|compact                                                                    |
|                                                                           |
|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.

9. Administrivia

9.1. Terms of Use

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.

9.2. Acknowledgements

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 <>.

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