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. 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)

Red Hat 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. Red Hat Linux also supports non-Intel processors such as the Cyrix 6x86 and the AMD K5, K6, and Athlon. However, a few problems are unique to non-Intel processors. For example, Red Hat reports that some AMD K6 systems freeze during the Linux install. Similarly, some users have also reported installation problems with AMD Athlons, which were solved by updating their system BIOS or replacing their system motherboard.[1]

[1] Two of my Linux systems use AMD CPUs?a K6 and an Athlon; neither has presented special problems.

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. Red Hat Linux supports the standard ISA, EISA, PCI, and VESA (VLB) system buses used on most IBM-compatible PCs, as well as the AGP, USB, and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) auxiliary buses.

Your motherboard should include at least 64 MB of RAM for optimum Red Hat Linux performance. Some very determined and skilled users have managed to coax Linux into working on systems with as little as 4 MB of RAM. However, Red Hat does not recommend or support systems containing so little RAM. A handful of motherboards present special problems when installing Red Hat Linux. Generally, problems stem from a 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 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 Red Hat Linux, you should have a minimum of 400 MB of free hard disk space. More realistically, you should have at least 2 GB.

For convenient installation using the CDs included with this book, 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 Linux 8.0 Installation Guide and Red Hat Linux 8.0 Reference Guide, available at http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/linux/.