Understanding the Red Hat Linux Installation Process

Understanding the Red Hat Linux Installation Process

Before starting a big job, I always find it helpful to visualize the entire sequence of tasks I must perform. The process is similar to studying a map before you drive to a place you have never been. Red Hat Linux installation can be a big job, especially if you run into snags. This section shows you the road map for the installation process. After reading this section, you should be mentally prepared to install Red Hat Linux.

Here are the general steps for installing Red Hat Linux:

  1. Gather information about your PC’s hardware before you install Red Hat Linux. The Linux operating system accesses and uses various PC peripherals through software components called drivers. You have to make sure that the version of Red Hat Linux you are about to install has the necessary drivers for your system’s hardware configuration. Conversely, if you do not have a system yet, look at the list of hardware that Linux supports, and make sure you buy a PC with components that Red Hat Linux supports.

  2. Because most PCs come with Microsoft Windows preinstalled on the hard disk, you have to perform a step known as partitioning to allocate parts of your hard disk for Linux’s use. If you have a spare hard disk, you should keep Windows on the first hard disk and install Linux on the second hard disk. With a spare second disk, you don’t need to worry about partitioning under DOS or Windows. If you have only one hard disk, however, you have to partition that disk into several parts. Use a part for Windows, and leave the rest for Linux. For Windows 95/98/Me, you can use the nondestructive repartitioning program FIPS to repartition your hard disk without destroying the existing contents. FIPS creates a new partition by shrinking the existing DOS partition. For Windows NT/2000/XP systems with disk partitions that use the NT file system (NTFS), use a commercial hard-drive partitioning tool such as PartitionMagic from PowerQuest. You can, of course, install Linux as the sole operating system on a PC; in that case, you can ignore this step and simply let the Red Hat Linux installation program automatically create the necessary partitions.

  3. Under DOS or Windows, create a Red Hat Linux installer boot disk. This boot disk is used to boot your PC and to start an initial version of the Linux operating system. If your PC is configured to boot from the CD-ROM drive, you can skip this step—instead, you can boot Linux directly from the CD-ROM. Even if your PC normally does not boot from the CD-ROM drive, you can usually press one or more keys as the PC boots and enter the BIOS setup screen from which you can select the CD-ROM drive as the boot device. You may want to consult your PC’s manual to see how you can boot from the CD-ROM.

  4. Boot your PC from the first CD-ROM or with the Red Hat Linux installer boot disk. This procedure automatically loads the Linux kernel and runs anaconda, the Red Hat Linux installation program. From this point on, you respond to a number of dialog boxes as the Red Hat installation program takes you through the steps. You have the option of using a text mode or a graphical user interface (GUI). You have to use the text mode if, for some reason, the installation program fails to start the X Window System. In addition, you have to type the linux noprobe command if the Linux kernel does not detect some of the older hardware, such as the SCSI controller and network adapter installed in your system. When you type the linux noprobe command, you have to either provide a driver disk or load the drivers for your SCSI controller and network adapter by selecting them from a list of drivers.

  5. Respond to the dialog box that asks you to choose a language to be used during installation. From subsequent dialog boxes, select the keyboard type, and the mouse type. If you have already placed the CD-ROM in the CD-ROM drive, the installation program uses the CD-ROM as the source of all Red Hat Linux files. Otherwise, the installation program starts in text mode and displays a dialog box from which you have to select the storage medium in which the Red Hat Linux files are located.

  6. Choose whether you want to install a new system or to upgrade an existing installation. For a new installation, you also have to decide whether you want to set up a Personal Desktop, Workstation, Server, or a Custom system. Select a Custom installation for maximum flexibility.

  7. Prepare the hard disk partitions on which you plan to install Linux. If you have created space for Linux by reducing the size of an existing Windows partition, now you have to create the partitions for Linux. Typically, you need at least two partitions: one for the Linux files and the other for use as the swap partition, which is a form of virtual memory. You can have the installation program automatically perform this disk-partitioning step for you, or you can manually create the partition using Disk Druid, a graphical partitioning utility. If you manually create the hard disk partitions, indicate which partition is the swap, and specify the partition on which you want to install Linux (this is called the root partition).

  8. Specify options for installing a boot loader—the GNU GRand Unified Bootloader (GRUB) or the Linux Loader (LILO)—on your hard disk, so you can boot Linux when you power up your PC after shutting it down. For the GRUB boot loader, you can also enable a password that has to be typed every time the system boots. If you are squeamish about installing a boot loader, you can skip installing the boot loader. If you do so, you have to boot Linux using a boot disk that you create a few steps later during the installation process.

  9. If the initial Linux kernel detects a network card (assuming that you have one installed on your system), the installation program lets you configure the network (the local area network, not the dial-up network). If the Linux kernel does not detect your network card, you can type the linux noprobe command and select your network card from a list. To configure the network, you can either identify a DHCP server (a DHCP server provides IP addresses to systems in a network) or specify a number of parameters, including an IP address, a host name, the IP address of name servers, and a domain name for your Linux system.

  10. Configure the firewall security level for your system by selecting one of three predefined levels of security—high, medium, or none.

  11. Select one or more languages to be used on your Linux system.

  12. Specify the local time zone. For the United States, you can also enable the use of daylight saving time.

  13. Select a root password. The root user is the super user—a user who can do anything—in Linux. You can also add one or more other users. Then, select the password-authentication method.

  14. Select various software package groups to install. Each package represents a part of Red Hat Linux, from the base operating system to packages such as the GNOME and KDE graphical desktops, the Emacs editor, programming tools, and the X Window System (a graphical windowing system that GNOME and KDE require). Select the package groups you need, and let the Red Hat installation program do its job.

  15. The installation program formats the disk partitions and installs the selected package groups.

  16. Create a boot disk you can use to boot your Red Hat Linux system if the Linux kernel on the hard disk is damaged or if the boot loader—LILO or GRUB—does not work or if you have chosen not to install any boot loader.

  17. Configure the X Window System. In response to dialog boxes that the installation program presents, provide information about your video card and monitor. In most cases, the installation program automatically detects the video card and the monitor. The installation program also lets you enable graphical login, so that when you boot your Linux system, it displays a graphical login window and (after you enter your user name and password) starts the GNOME or KDE graphical desktop after successful login.

  18. If you find that Linux does not work properly with one or more of your system components (such as the network card or sound card), you may have to reconfigure the Linux operating system to add support for those system components.

The following sections guide you through the basic installation steps and the initial booting of Linux.

Insider Insight 

Your PC must have a CD-ROM drive—one that Linux supports—to install Linux from this book’s companion CD-ROM. Most new PCs have CD-ROM drives that connect to the hard disk controller (called IDE for Integrated Drive Electronics). Any IDE CD-ROM works in Red Hat Linux. If your PC does not have a CD-ROM drive but is on a network, you can use another PC’s CD-ROM drive and can install Linux over the network by using NFS or FTP. To install Linux over the network, you must use the Red Hat installer boot disk along with a driver disk—one that contains the drvnet.img file from the \images directory of the Red Hat Linux CD-ROM.