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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Choosing How to Install Red Hat Linux

Red Hat Linux can be installed in a variety of ways using different techniques and hardware.

Most users install Red Hat Linux by booting to the installation directly from a CD-ROM. Other options include

  • Booting to an installation using a floppy diskette

  • Using a hard drive partition to hold the installation software

  • Booting from a DOS command line

  • Booting to an installation and installing software over a network using FTP or HTTP protocols

  • Booting to an installation and installing software from an NFS-mounted hard drive

How you choose to install (and use) Red Hat Linux depends on your system's hardware, networking capabilities, corporate information service policy, or personal preference. The following sections describe the issues surrounding each of these types of installation.

Installing from CD-ROM

Most PCs' BIOS support booting directly from a CD-ROM drive, and offer the capability to set a specific order of devices (such as floppy, hard drive, CD-ROM, or USB) to search for bootable software. Turn on your PC, set your PC's BIOS if required (usually accessed by pressing an F key after powering on), and then insert the CD-ROM and boot to install Red Hat Linux.

To use this installation method, your computer must support booting from CD-ROM, and the CD-ROM drive must be recognizable by the Linux kernel. You can verify this by checking your BIOS and then booting your PC.

In the past, booting the Red Hat installer using some CD-ROM drives required a kernel patch, but this should no longer be a problem; see Table 3.1 in this chapter, which lists a driver disk image used to support older drives.

Booting to an Install from DOS

As previously mentioned, you can use a DOS utility such as LOADLIN (or BOOTLIN) to either directly boot to an install from the CD-ROM or to load the Red Hat Linux install kernel.

See the dosutils directory on the first Red Hat Linux CD-ROM included with this book, and read the README file under the dosutils directory for an overview of the DOS utilities. The directory contains a one-line DOS batch file (.bat file) that can help boot to an install:

loadlin autoboot\vmlinuz initrd=autoboot\initrd.img

In this example, the LOADLIN command will boot the Red Hat Linux install kernel residing under the dosutils/autoboot directory, and then load the installation software to launch an install.

Making an Installation Boot Diskette

Your Red Hat Linux installation can also be started using a boot floppy. A boot floppy can be used to support booting the Red Hat CD-ROM on older CD-ROM drives. A boot floppy can also be used to start a Red Hat install over a network when the PC does not have a CD-ROM drive but has a network interface card (NIC). Boot floppies are created from floppy images (.img files). These images are contained in the images directory on the first Red Hat Linux CD-ROM.

Red Hat provides a number of images, as listed in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Red Hat Linux Boot and Driver Disk Images




CD-ROM boot image supporting single-media network installs


Enable booting to an install using all install methods


Utility image containing various hardware drivers, such as SCSI


Auxiliary network interface card drivers to support network installs


PCMCIA driver disk with support for SCSI, network, and other adapters


Directory containing a PXE-enabled Linux boot kernel and RAM-disk image use to support booting to a network install

Most of the images listed in Table 3.1 support booting to an install. The pxeboot directory contains a kernel that supports a remote booting protocol named PXE that enables installation, or upgrades of Red Hat Linux for network-only PCs. Use of this software requires a properly configured DHCP server and a supported BIOS. Although it may be possible to use a floppy boot disk, this method is not supported by Red Hat. Browse to http://www.compaq.com/products/servers/linux/redhat-whitepapers.html and read the Compaq white paper titled "Configuring a Preboot eXecution Environment (PXE) using Red Hat Linux 7.1 on Compaq ProLiant Servers" to see one way of booting to an install using PXE. Browse to http://www.europe.redhat.com/documentation/mini-HOWTO/Remote-Boot.php3 to read how to set up remote boot environments using older versions of Red Hat.


If your PC's BIOS supports booting from a USB device, you can use a USB floppy drive to boot to an install. It is also possible to boot from an IEEE-1394 (FireWire) CD-ROM if supported by your PC's BIOS.

You can create the boot floppies using the DOS RAWRITE command or the Linux dd command. You'll need one or more blank floppies. Use the RAWRITE command after starting DOS like this:


Follow the prompts to create the images, entering a source filename and a target drive (such as A or B). To set a xopy of the latest version of RAWRITE, browse to http://www.tux.org/pub/dos/rawrite/.

To create a boot diskette while running Linux, use the dd command. The first step is to insert the first Red Hat Linux CD-ROM and to make sure that it is mounted:

$ df
Filesystem   1k-blocks   Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/hda2    18714368 10410280  7353444 59% /
/dev/hda1      46636  13247   30981 30% /boot
none        120016    0  120016  0% /dev/shm
/dev/cdrom     655808  655808     0 100% /mnt/cdrom

This example uses the disk filesystem or the df command to show free hard drive space and currently mounted devices and partitions. As you can see, the contents of the first Red Hat CD-ROM is found under the /mnt/cdrom directory. If the CD-ROM is not mounted, use the mount command to manually mount the CD-ROM. You will need to be the superuser or Linux root operator to do this (see Chapter 5, "First Steps with Linux," for details about how to become root):

# mount -t iso9660 /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom

You can then use the convert and copy or dd command like so:

# dd if=/mnt/cdrom/images/nameofimage.img of=/dev/fd0

This will take the contents of the specified image file (from Table 3.1) and create a diskette in the DOS drive A (represented by /dev/fd0). Use /dev/fd1 if you want to use an installed secondary floppy drive.


PC notebook users installing via a network or external CD-ROM drive using a PCMCIA adapter should also create the pcmciadd.img diskette.

Hard Drive Partition Installation

Another way to install Red Hat is to use a Linux or DOS hard partition to either boot the Red Hat Linux install or hold the software required for an install. The partition must be large enough to hold .iso images (binary images of a CD-ROM). Copy the images of the first and second Red Hat Linux CD-ROMs into a directory on the local hard drive. If you use this type of install and don't need the required hard drive space later on, keep the images installed on the hard drive because Red Hat can then be quickly reinstalled from the partition.

The .iso images can be downloaded from Red Hat, Inc. or a mirror FTP site (see http://www.redhat.com/download/mirror.html for links). To perform this installation, you will need to know the hard drive's device name (such as /dev/hdb), along with the partition number and the name of directory containing the images (such as /dev/hdb1 and /redhat/images; if you simply copy the images to the formatted DOS or Linux partition, you don't need the directory information). See Chapter 10, "Managing the Filesystem," for more information about using hard drive partitions.

Installing Using a Network

Red Hat Linux can be installed using a local network (or even over the Internet if you have broadband access). You will need access to a Web, FTP, or NFS server hosting Red Hat Linux installation packages. To boot to a network install of Red Hat, use a network boot floppy or the first Red Hat CD-ROM included with this book. Boot your PC with the boot floppy or, if you use the CD-ROM, type linux askmethod at the boot prompt. You'll then be asked to choose the type of network installation.

Installing Red Hat Linux using the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) will require access to an FTP server (see Chapter 18, "Secure File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Service," to see how to set up a server and use FTP). You'll need to know the hostname or IP address of the server, along with the path (directory) holding the Red Hat Linux software. One way to prepare a server to host Red Hat Linux installs is to

  1. Create a directory named RedHat under the FTP server's pub directory. The directory will be /var/ftp/pub on a Red Hat server.

  2. Create a directory named base and a directory named RPMS underneath the RedHat directory.

  3. Copy or download all RPM packages included with Red Hat Linux into the pub/RedHat/RPMS directory.

  4. Copy all original base files (comps, hdlist, hdlist2, hdstg1.img, netstg1.img, stage2.img, TRANS.TBL) from the first Red Hat CD-ROM's base directory into the pub/RedHat/base directory.

Installing Red Hat Linux using a remotely mounted Network File System (NFS) is similar to a hard drive installation, but requires access to an NFS server. You'll need access permission, a permitted IP address or hostname for your computer, the hostname or IP address of the NFS server, and the path to the Red Hat Linux software. See Chapter 13, "Network Connectivity," for more information about NFS and network addressing.

To install Red Hat Linux using HTTP, you will need the hostname or IP address of the remote Web server, along with the directory containing Red Hat Linux. See Chapter 16, "Apache Web Server Management," to see how to set up a Web server.

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