- Q: How Do I Get Started?
- Q: What
are the Disk Space Requirements for Minimal, Server, and Workstation
- Q: What are the
Minimum and Maximum Memory Requirements?
- Q: What Is the Best Distribution,
SCSI Card, Editor, CD-ROM Drive, etc?
- Q: How Can I Get a Distribution?
- Q: Where Are the Linux
- Q: How Do I Install Linux
- Q: How Can I Get Linux
Without FTP Access?
- Q: How Do I Install Linux?
A: If you are new to Linux, you should start by buying
or downloading a general-purpose Linux distribution. A distribution
is a complete operating system, including the Linux kernel and
all the utilities and software you are likely to need, ready
to install and use. Most distributions include thousands of software
packages, including user-friendly desktops, office suites, and
There are a handful of major Linux distributions, and as a
beginner you are probably safer using one of them. For information
about them, and how they are installed, see the Distributions-HOWTO
from the Linux Documentation Project. Also, a list of distributions
is updated weekly at http://lwn.net.
Before you select which distribution you want to try, read
their descriptions carefully and compare them to your needs.
Each distribution is tailored to a particular type of user. Some
are optimized to function as servers, some are optimized for
gaming, and some are optimized for desktop and office use.
There are a few distributions which are considered to be outstanding
choices for new users:
- Red Hat is particularly good for servers
- Mandrake is excellent as a desktop system
- SuSE is also excellent as a desktop system
There are also a large number of releases which are distributed
less globally that suit special local and national needs. Many
of them are archived at ftp://ftp.tux.org.
What are the Disk Space Requirements for Minimal, Server,
and Workstation Use?
A: Linux needs about 10Mb for a very minimal installation,
suitable for trying Linux, and not much else.
You can fit a typical server installation, including the X
Window System GUI, into 80Mb. Installing a small Debian GNU/Linux
workstation takes from 500Mb to 1GB, including kernel source
code, some space for user files, and spool areas.
Installing a commercial distribution that has a desktop GUI
environment, commercial word processor, and front-office productivity
suite, will claim 15.1 GB of disk space, approximately.
A fully installed Debian GNU/Linux system could use several
Gigabytes of disk space.
are the Minimum and Maximum Memory Requirements?
A: Linux needs at least 4MB, and then you will need
to use special installation procedures until the disk swap space
is installed. Linux will run comfortably in 4MB of RAM, although
running GUI apps is impractically slow because they need to swap
out to disk.
Some applications, like StarOffice, require 32 MB of physical
memory, and compiling C++ code can easily consume over 100 MB
of combined physical and virtual memory.
There is a distribution, "Small Linux", that will
run on machines with 2MB of RAM. Refer to the answer to: Where Are the Linux FTP Archives?.
A number of people have asked how to address more than 64
MB of memory, which is the default upper limit in most standard
kernels. Either type, at the BOOT lilo: prompt:
Or place the following in your /etc/lilo.conf file:
The parameter "XXM" is the amount of memory,
specified as megabytes; for example, "128M."
If an "append=" directive with other configuration
options already exists in /etc/lilo.conf, then add the
mem= directive to the end of the existing argument,
and separated from the previous arguments by a space; e.g.:
# Example only; do not use.
append="parport=0x3bc,none serial=0x3f8,4 mem=XXM"
Be sure to run the "lilo" command to install
the new configuration.
If Linux still doesn't recognize the extra memory, the kernel
may need additional configuration. Refer to the /usr/src/linux/Documentation/memory.txt
file in the kernel source as a start.
For further information about LILO, refer to the manual pages
for lilo and lilo.conf, the documentation in
/usr/doc/lilo, the LILO-HOWTO, and the answer
for: How Do I Set
the Boot-Time Configuration?, below.
Q: What Is the Best Distribution,
SCSI Card, Editor, CD-ROM Drive, etc?
A: The "best" of anything depends on your
particular needs. Discussions like these frequently occur on
Usenet. Most often they're flame bait. Answering is generally
a waste of time. Free software licensing is unrestrictive enough,
that, with a little experience, you can perform your own testing
on your own hosts.
A better way to phrase a specific inquiry might be: "Where
can I find...."
Q: How Can I Get
A: If you can, please dig into your wallet and buy
a copy of your distribution. Linux distributions are extremely
inexpensive - usually around $30 for a complete system, and anywhere
from $70 to around $150 for a larger system with more server
software or development tools. Even the $30 "basic"
systems contain the equivalent of thousands of dollars in proprietary
tools, and are an incredible value. The distributors invest many
of your dollars into further development, and most of them fund
outside open source projects.
Commercial distributions are available from book and electronics
stores, or you can order from their websites.
If you use Debian GNU/Linux, which is a volunteer project
and a non-profit, you can donate directly to them instead.
A: There are some websites that sell Linux CD's very
A: Every distribution provides a download on their
home page. This is a requirement of the licensing terms of the
software, so if you cannot afford to pay for your distribution,
you can get a copy this way. Some people compromise between paying
and downloading, for example by buying each major release (such
as 6.0) but downloading the point releases (such as 6.1 and 6.2).
Also, archives of many of the distributions are on line at:
A: Some hardware vendors now ship systems with Linux
pre-installed. However, they sometimes make it very difficult
to buy them - they offer Linux on only a few systems, which are
server machines, or they require you to go to a special "Linux"
section on their website.
Q: Where Are
the Linux FTP Archives?
A: There are three main archive sites for Linux:
The best place to get the Linux kernel is ftp://ftp.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/.
Linus Torvalds uploads the most recent kernel versions to this
Of the U.S. distributions, Debian GNU/Linux is available at
Red Hat Linux's home site is ftp://ftp.redhat.com/, and Linux Slackware's
The Small Linux distribution, which can run in 2 MB of RAM,
is located at http://smalllinux.netpedia.net/.
The contents of these sites is mirrored (copied, usually approximately
daily) by a number of other sites. Please use a site close to
you will be faster for you and easier on the network.
Please send updates and corrections to this list to the Linux
FAQ maintainer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Not all of these mirror all of the other "source" sites,
and some have material not available on the "source"
Q: How Do I Install
Linux Using FTP?
A: Most distributions are too large and complex to
make FTP installation practical. Installing a basic Linux system
that doesn't have a GUI or major applications is possible with
FTP, however. The main non-commercial distribution in use is
Debian GNU/Linux, and this answer describes an installation of
a basic Debian system, to which you can add other Linux applications
and commercial software as necessary.
This answer describes installation on IBM-compatible machines
with an Intel x86 or Pentium processor. You will need a machine
with at least a 80386 processor, 8 Mb of memory, and about 100
Mb of disk space. More memory and a larger disk is necessary
however, for practical everyday use.
For other hardware, substitute "-arm", "-ppc",
"-m68k", or other abbreviation in directory names for
For detailed and hardware-specific information refer to: http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/.
- Connect to http://ftp.debian.org/dists/stable/main/disks-i386/current/.
If you use anonymous FTP, connect to ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian/dists/stable/main/disks-i386/current/.
- Choose the images-*/ subdirectory that matches the
type of floppy drive installed on your machine, if unsure try
images-1.44/. Retrieve the rescue.bin, root.bin,
and driver-*.bin disk images. Once you have installed
those floppy images, the rest of the system can be retrieved
from a Debian mirror site, or installed from CD. If you have
a Linux machine, you can use dd to write the images to the diskettes.
If you are creating the installation diskettes on a MS-DOS machine,
also download the RAWRITE.EXE MS-DOS utility, which will
copy the raw binary images to floppy disks. Also download the
install.en.txt document, which contains the detailed
- Create the installation disk set on floppies using either
dd under Linux (e.g.: dd if=resc1440.bin of=/dev/fd0),
or the RAWRITE.EXE utility under MS-DOS. Be sure to
label each installation diskette.
- Insert the rescue diskette into the floppy drive and reboot
the computer. If all goes well, the Linux kernel will boot, and
you will be able start the installation program by pressing Enter
at the boot: prompt.
- Follow the on-screen instructions for partitioning the hard
disk, installing device drivers, the basic system software, and
the Linux kernel. If the machine is connected to a local network,
enter the network information when the system asks for it.
- To install additional software over the Internet, be sure
that you have installed the ppp module during the installation
process, and run (as root) the /usr/sbin/pppconfig utility.
You will need to provide your user name with your ISP, your password,
the ISP's dial-up phone number, the address(es) of the ISP's
Domain Name Service, and the serial port that your modem is connected
to, /dev/ttyS0 /dev/ttyS3. Be sure also to
specify the defaultroute option to the PPP system, so
the computer knows to use the PPP connection for remote Internet
- You may have to perform additional configuration on the PPP
scripts in the /etc/ppp subdirectory, and in particular,
the ISP-specific script in the /etc/ppp/peers subdirectory.
There are basic instructions in each script. For detailed information,
refer to the Debian/GNU Linux installation instructions that
you downloaded, the pppd manual page (type man pppd),
and the PPP HOWTO from the Linux Documentation project,
- Once you have a PPP connection established with your ISP
(it will be displayed in the output of ifconfig), use the dselect
program to specify which additional software you want to install.
Use the apt [A]ccess option to retrieve packages
via anonymous FTP, and make sure to use the [U]pdate
option to retrieve a current list of packages from the FTP archive.
Q: How Can I Get
Linux Without FTP Access?
Q: How Do I Install Linux?
A: Once you obtain a distribution, it will contain
instructions on installation. Each distribution has its own installation
A: Some distributions (e.g., Debian GNU/Linux) can
be installed via anonymous FTP from various Linux archive sites,
but unless you have cable, DSL, or some other broadband Internet
access, the size of the distribution makes this impractical.
See Where Are the Linux
Postings on the Usenet News groups, including the FAQ, are
archived on http://groups.google.com/.
Search for news:comp.os.linux,
and their subgroups, or whatever is appropriate, to retrieve
articles from the Linux News groups. See What
News Groups Are There for Linux?.