2.1 Minimum Hardware Requirements

Linux supports a wide range of PC hardware, but not even Linux supports every known device and system. Your PC must meet certain minimum requirements in order to run Linux, which I describe in the following sections. For the latest and most complete information, you should check Red Hat's hardware compatibility web site, http://hardware.redhat.com/hcl. This site will also help you determine whether Linux supports the devices installed in your system. If you're not familiar with PC hardware, check out Robert and Barbara Thompson's PC Hardware in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference (O'Reilly), an excellent introduction and reference to PC hardware.

2.1.1 Central Processing Unit (CPU)

Linux does not support the Intel i386 and earlier processors. However, it fully supports the Intel i486, Celeron, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Pentium III, and Pentium IV processors and compatible processors manufactured by others, such as AMD's Athlon, Athlon XP, and Athlon MP. Such processors are members of what is known as the x86 family of processors. Linux also supports non-Intel processors such as AMD's AMD64 processor, IBM's PowerPC processor, and certain processors used in IBM mainframes. And, it supports Intel's Itanium processor.

Although Linux supports processors other than members of Intel's x86 processor family, special measures are required to install it on such processors. This book describes the installation, configuration, and use of Linux on only the x86 family of processors.

Apart from the processor model, there's the issue of processor speed. You should generally have a 400 MHz Pentium II or faster processor for satisfactory results using Linux desktop applications.

2.1.2 Motherboard

The motherboard is the main part of a PC. It holds the CPU, RAM, and other internal computer components, linked by several buses. Linux supports the standard ISA, EISA, PCI, and VESA (VLB) system buses used on most IBM-compatible PCs, as well as the AGP, and USB auxiliary buses. Fedora Core includes limited support for the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) bus. However, the related software components are largely untested.

Your motherboard should include at least 256 MB of RAM for optimum Linux performance. However, this figure is merely a guideline. Many people manage to install Linux on systems having only 192-256 MB of RAM. Some especially determined and skilled users have managed to coax Linux into working on systems with as little as 4 MB of RAM by using their own installation programs or methods. However, unless you're a skilled system administrator and programmer, it's not recommended that you attempt such an exotic installation.

Red Hat does not support systems having less than the required amount of RAM.

A handful of motherboards present special problems when installing Linux. Generally, problems stem from bad BIOS, for which a fix is often available. Check the Red Hat web site for details; the best way to do so is via the knowledgebase search page at http://www.redhat.com/apps/support.

2.1.3 Drives

An anonymous wag once quipped that one can never be too thin, be too rich, or have too much hard disk space. Fortunately, Linux is not extremely hungry for disk space. To install and use Linux, you should have a minimum of 4000 MB (4 GB) of free hard disk space. More realistically, you should have at least 10 GB.

The "free hard disk space" required by Linux must by truly free, unpartitioned space. you cannot install Linux into a partition owned by another operating system, such as Windows. However, Linux and Windows can co-exist on a single system, so long as each operation system has its own partition or partitions. For more information on partitions and partitioning, see Section 2.3.

For convenient installation using the Linux installation CDs, your system needs a CD-ROM drive (both common types, IDE and SCSI, are acceptable). Most recently manufactured PCs can boot from a CD-ROM. If your PC can't do so, your system should include a 3.5-inch floppy drive. You'll use the floppy drive to boot your system from a special Linux diskette you create. Instructions for how to create the boot floppy can be found in Chapter 3.

It's also possible to install Linux from a PCMCIA CD-ROM drive; an FTP, Web, or NFS server; or a hard drive. See the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Installation Guide and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Reference Guide, included on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux installation media. These documents are also available at http://www.redhat.com/docs. Because Fedora was only recently inaugurated, it does not yet have documentation of a quality comparable to that included with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. However, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux documentation contains much information that is also applicable to Fedora.