Installation Guide

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In order to make installing Linux less mysterious, Linux Now! introduces this detailed installation guide. Our past experience has been that most the only way to install a great Linux version in the past was to have an experienced user around to help. This comprehensive facts shares the knowledge we know from installing Linux onto a countless number of systems.

Please note that currently, the information contained below relates to the installation of *Slackware v3.0. Slackware is one of the more complicated Linux distributions and should only be installed by experienced computer users who want a very flexible and modifiable installation. It is recommended that new users try Red Hat Linux since it makes installation much less complicated. A detailed Redhat installation guide is coming soon...

Installation of Slackware Linux
  • Step 1: Can your system run Linux?
  • Step 2: Get the distribution
  • Step 3: Make the boot disks
  • Step 4: Partitioning part 1
  • Step 5: Partitioning part 2 and installing the distribution

    Step 1: Can your system run Linux?


    Before you begin, make sure that your PC can run Linux. Linux can run on a wide range of system, varying from 386s with 4MB of RAM to dual processor Pentium Pro's with 128MB of RAM. For hardware compatibility information, please see the *Compatibility List for Slackware v3.1.0.

    Also be advised that the full distribution is quite large in size. A full download will about 103MB but a Linux system can be installed with as little as 20MB for the base packages.

    The most important and frustrating part of installing Linux is the problem concerning disk partitions. In order to install Linux, you will need free space and ability to create a Linux partition. This is discussed in Step 4.

    Step 2: Get the distibution


    In order to download a distribution of Linux, you will need a ftp client capable of recursively downloading a file structure. Here are some of the best clients to download the distribution:

    Next, you need to download the distribution. Currently, the distribution that offers the most features and most powerful collection of software is the Slackware 96 distribution. We have installed countless Slackware Linux distributions and find that it yields the best all around operating system. It can be purchased from *Walnut Creek or downloaded from any number of archives. You will want to download the packages located in the following directory structure and place it in an isolated directory on any DOS or VFAT partition:
    • ftp.cdrom.com/pub/linux/slackware96/slakware/
    • sunsite.unc.edu/pub/Linux/distributions/slackware/slakware/
    • Or see the *mirrors sheet
    It is possible to download only the packages that you want if you need to save space. To select which packages you want, take a look at the disk sets sheet. Note that you must download the a sets.

    Step 3: Make the boot disks


    Now that you've downloaded the distribution onto your DOS side, you will need to create Linux boot disks to begin the installation procedure. You will need two disks, one for booting and another which contains the installation program. First you will need to download the program named RAWRITE which will create the boot disks. You can obtain RAWRITE from the following archives:

    • ftp.cdrom.com/pub/linux/slackware96/install/RAWRITE.EXE
    Next you will need to classify which type of boot disk fits your system. If you have a 3 1/2 1.4MB floppy, the bootdisks are located in the following directories:
    • ftp.cdrom.com/pub/linux/slackware96/bootdsks.144/
    or if you have a 5 1/4 1.2MB floppy drive, look here:
    • ftp.cdrom.com/pub/linux/slackware96/bootdsks.12/
    In order to decide which one of the files to select from the above directory, take a look at their *descriptions. The most common ones selcted are bare for IDE based systems or net for systems on a network. Now you can make the first boot disk by running RAWRITE and giving it the appropriate parameters when it prompts you. When RAWRITE finishes, label the disk and get the second one ready.

    Next, download the installation image located in the following directory:

    • ftp.cdrom.com/pub/linux/slackware96/rootdsks/
    The best one to pick is color.gz since it has the best installation program. If you don't have a color monitor, you may want to try text.gz. Once again, run RAWRITE and give it the appropriate information.

    Step 4: Partitioning part 1


    As mentioned earlier, partitioning your drives is possibly the most difficult part of installing Linux. Basically, there are two cases: all of your hard disks contains DOS or VFAT partitions (i.e. you've always had a DOS machine) or you have un-partitioned space on at least one disk.

    If you have one or multiple DOS partitions, you will need to either delete one or shrink them. If you have unoccupied space on at least one drive, and it is enough to install the distribution ( 30MB) you can skip ahead. Otherwise, here is an example: A system is equipped with two 1GB hard disks, each one has a 1GB DOS partition. The user wants to devote 500MB to Linux but has two many applications installed on both drives and can't delete one of the partitions. But the secondary disk has 700MB of free space. The answer is to shrink the second disk down to 500MB and leave 500MB unoccupied. This can be easily accomplished using a neat program called FIPS. You can download the entire FIPS program from this directory (once again, recursively download the directory structure):
    • ftp.cdrom.com/pub/linux/slackware96/install/FIPS/
    Before running FIPS, you must optimize your drive by de-fragmenting it. This moves all files into a contiguous space on your drive, leaving no fragmented data at the ends. Read the FIPS documentation thoroughly and understand what it does.

    The basic idea behind partitioning is that you need to leave some space on your drive unoccupied so Linux can create its partition and filesystem there. Once you have completed this, place the boot disk you made earlier in your boot drive and reset the system

    Step 5: Partitioning part 2 & Install the distribution


    When the boot disk comes up, it will ask you for any extra parameters. You shouldn't need to give any, so just hit enter. This will load the kernel and then prompt you to place in the second disk. Swap in the root disk and continue.

    You will be prompted with a login. Type in root and hit enter. This will bring you to the command prompt. The first thing you must now do is create a Linux native partitions and a Linux Swap drive.

    To begin the partitioning, determine which drive you will be installing Linux onto. For IDE based systems, use the following scheme:
    • /dev/hda = the first hard disk
    • /dev/hdb = the second hard disk, and so on...
    Therefore, in the example above, we freed space on the second 1GB disk and hence want to install Linux on /dev/hdb We would then enter the command fdisk /dev/hdb.

    Once we are in fdisk, we are prompted with a command line. Enter m for help to see the available options. The only ones you will need to use are
    • p to print the partition table
    • n to add a partition
    • w to write the changes
    • q to quit
    First print the table to see the current partition information with the p command. In order to add your Linux partitions, you will need contiguous space at the end of the drive. In our example, fdisk will show one DOS partition named /dev/hdb1 of size 500MB (approx 500,000blocks). We have space to add new partitions to the end. To do this, we would enter n and choose the following parameters:
    • primary partition
    • partition number 2
    • size +20MB.
    This is going to be our swap drive (10-20MB is usually a good size for the swap drive). The first cylinder is always the one right after the end of the preceding partition. When asked for a partition ID, choose 82 for Linux Swap. Once this is complete, you will be returned to the command prompt.

    Next, add the Linux native partition in the same fashion. The ID for a Linux native drive is 83. Enter w to write the partition information, q to quit, and now restart the system.

    When the system comes back up, log in as usual. You can now run the graphical installation program setup. The setup program is self-explanatory. You simply need to go through all of the categories and supply the necessary information.

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