Installing Linux

So now you have taken the Knoppix Linux live CD for a test drive and now you want to install it on your hard drive. First, you need to do a little planning. Are you using an older computer with limited hard drive space and memory? That's OK, it'll work, but you need to make sure sufficient resources are available. Linux takes up significant hard drive space. I wouldn't recommend installing it in less than about 10 Gig of space. You could probably install it in as little as 4 or 5 Gig, but it wouldn't leave you much free space to work with. Take into account any work files (or your massive MP3 collection) that you might want to move onto the computer and make sure you will have space for them. So, do you have the necessary space? If not, hey, hard drives are cheap these days. Why not drop a bigger one into your system and give yourself some room to maneuver?

Also the amount of memory in your computer makes a big difference in how fast Linux runs (this is true for Windows too). Memory is dirt cheap these days, so why not upgrade?. An absolute minimum of 128 Mb of RAM is required to make Knoppix (and most other distros) work, but it will be painfully slow and limited with so little RAM. 256 Mb is better. 512 MB is better yet. If you are going to upgrade the RAM in your computer, you need to do it before installing Linux. The Linux swap partition is sized according to your memory size at install time. Your swap partition can be resized after installation, but it is not something an absolute beginner would want to try to tackle.

Next, I'm going to assume you will be creating a dual boot system like I recommend for easy migration to Linux. If so, then you need to install Windows first, if it isn't already installed. (if you want Linux to be the only operating system on your computer then you can skip the next couple of paragraphs.)

If you are doing a clean install on a blank hard drive, you will need to first create a partition for Windows to reside in. (I'm going to assume here that you are familiar with the concept of disk partitioning and know how to use fdisk or other similar partitioning tools.) Only use as much of the available space as is necessary for the Windows installation. Reserve the rest for Linux and leave it as unpartitioned free space.

If you already have a computer with Windows installed and your drive has enough space left to install Linux, then half the work is already done. One problem though is that the Windows partition will probably be taking up the whole drive. There are tools that will allow you to resize the existing Windows partition and leave unpartitioned space to install Linux. Partition Magic and FIPS are two such tools. Resizing partitions can on rare occasions cause problems though. You should back up any important data on the Windows partition before attempting such an operation.

While you are creating partitions, you may want to create an extra partition to use to exchange data between Windows and Linux. On dual boot machines I usually create an extra FAT32 partition. Both Linux and Windows can read and write to FAT32 partitions with no problem at all (Linux has trouble with NTFS and Windows can't access any Linux file format). This extra partition is a great place to put files that need to be accessed from either operating system. I keep things like my MP3 collection, important data files, and my work in progress, and anything else I might want to access from either operating system.

If Linux will be the only operating system on the computer, then you are ready to start installing Linux now.

Now you can just insert the Knoppix Live CD into your CD drive and restart the computer. The computer will boot into Knoppix Linux just like during our earlier test drive. Once Knoppix is up running, we can finally get started with the installation.

Open up a console window. At the prompt type su and hit enter. This will make you the root user. Note that you are not prompted for a password when running from the CD. Once you are root, you can start the install. Type knx2hd at the root prompt and hit enter. The install script will then start up.


Starting the Knoppix hard drive installation.

After you click the OK button, you will be presented with a list of installation actions. I like to start with partitioning of the hard drive, which is the third option on the list. Choosing this option will start up a GUI disk partitioning tool called QTParted.


The Knoppix installation actions list.


The QTParted disk partitioning tool.

If you have used primitive partitioning tools like fdisk, then you will be greatly impressed with QTParted. it is every bit as good as commercial partitioning tools like Partition Magic which you will pay a lot of money for. Knoppix is worth downloading just for this one tool alone.

You will need to partition your HD so that it looks something like my example above. When you first start up QTParted, you will only see your existing Windows partition and the unpartitioned free space left over (that is if you are creating a dual boot system). Out of the unpartitioned space you will need to create two new partitions. One will be the main linux partition where the OS will be installed, and the other is a swap partition that will serve as virtual memory. Make sure during this partitioning process that you make no changes to your existing Windows partition.

Most of the unused space will go toward the Linux OS partition. How much to set aside for the swap partition is a subject of much debate in the Linux community. Ask a dozen Linux users about it and you are likely to get a dozen different answers. Many recommend a partition at least twice the size of your RAM memory. But if you are short of space on your hard drive, this is probably a waste of good HD real estate. If you have the space, go ahead and make the swap partition twice the size of your RAM. Whatever you do though, you should probably make it at least the same size as your RAM and not smaller.

The rest of the free space on the drive should be dedicated to the Linux OS partition. Here you have a choice about which file system to use. Again, the "best" file system to use is a matter of great debate in the Linux community. A discussion of the virtues and deficiencies of different Linux file systems is beyond the scope of this web site. I suggest that for now you use whatever is the default choice in the install program. As as you gain more familiarity and experience with Linux, you may wish to experiment with other file systems.

Once you have created the necessary partitions, commit your changes and exit from QTParted. You will then be taken back to the installation actions list. Next choose the # 1 option to Create a new configuration. You will then be presented with a list of questions. The first question is what system type to install. I recommend that you go with the default beginner option. This will produce a system on your HD very similar to the system on the live CD, with all the wonderful hardware auto-detection Knoppix is so known for.


Choose the Beginner option.

Next you will be asked which partition to install to. Choose the Linux partition you just created.

Then you will be asked your whole name. Then the user name you'd like to use to log on to the system and then the password you'd like to use.

Next you will be asked what the administration password for the system should be. Make sure you either write this down somewhere or you choose something you are sure you can remember. If you lose or forget the root password then it will be impossible to configure and update the system.

Next you will be asked what the host name for the computer should be. This is the name the computer will have on your network.

The last question is where the Linux bootloader program Lilo should be installed. The default setting of the Master Boot Record should work fine.

With all the questions answered, you can finally start the installation. The partitions you created will be formatted and then the copying of files will begin. This will take a while.


The linux installation under way.

After all the files are copied you are given the option of making a floppy boot disk to use if the HD install somehow becomes unbootable. I generally skip this option because I can always boot off Live CD and fix any problems.

That's it. You're done. You just installed Linux. Now that wasn't so hard, was it? You can now reboot the computer and try out your new dual-boot system.

At the beginning of the reboot the bootloader will run and present you with the option of booting into either Linux or your original Windows installation. Try out both options and make sure they both boot without problems.

Next you should move on to the Using Linux section to learn how to put your newly installed Linux operating system to work.

 

 

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