Red Hat Linux Installation from the CD-ROM

Last updated: March 6, 2001
Development stage: Beta

This installation guide will help you get through the Red Hat Linux CD-ROM installation; the CD-ROMs I order for Linux are from CheapBytes, for about 2 dollars each (plus about 5 dollars for shipping and handling); what's on the CD-ROM is basically what you can download from Red Hat FTP mirrors. You can also get those kinds of CD-ROMs from Linux Central. It seemed a little faster when Linux Central sent me CD-ROMs. If you want to go with the official Red Hat set, this guide still works.

This installation guide is based on my experience in installing Red Hat Linux 4.2, 5.2, and 6.2 from the CD-ROM. I'm assuming that you have a PC with a 386 or higher processor, and that you are installing this from a CD-ROM. Use common sense and adjust whatever settings you feel may be necessary; I just tell the reader to do stuff so the installation will go faster and be less confusing.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Installing
  3. Starting Linux
  4. Jumping Points
  5. Author's Notes
  7. Summary

Getting Started

Take a few deep breaths, and brace yourself. The first time around, this could be very daunting. But the end result will be well worth it.

Create a Bootdisk

You will not have to create a bootdisk if you have the CD-ROM these days with a newer computer. Just go into your BIOS as your computer starts up and make it look at the CD-ROM drive first. With your CD-ROM in the drive, it should take you directly to installation, so you can skip the rest of this bootdisk creation section. Having a bootable CD-ROM just makes things so much easier.

Go to the DOS prompt and insert a 1.44 megabyte floppy into your a: drive. From the CD-ROM prompt (drive D I'll assume... you know what drive it is), go to the directory where the DOS Utilities are (\DOSUTILS). Type rawrite -f \images\boot.img -d a:. The source file should be a file called boot.img in the \images directory (so you would type in "\images\boot.img" as the target) and the target should be your a: drive (type "a:")." After you do this, set the disk aside to use later.

If you have the official Red Hat Linux distribution, the bootdisk should already have been made for you. This is how to create a bootdisk in case those disks are damaged. If you have the CheapBytes version, the top would have helped you.

You don't have to use a bootdisk to get into the installation program if you're using DOS without Windows running. You can just type autoboot from the \DOSUTILS\ directory. These days, you can boot from the CD-ROM as well; just go into your BIOS and make it look at the CD-ROM first in the boot sequence.


If you want to retain your old DOS/Windows system data, create a DOS system disk. Take another floppy that is new or that you don't need, and at the DOS prompt, type format a: /s. After you're done formatting, look for the files FDISK.EXE and FORMAT.COM in a directory with all the DOS programs. Copy those files to the DOS system disk you just created.

Make sure you backed up all the programs that you want to keep. Defragment your hard drive in Windows or DOS so you can split it up (aka resize). It is best to reformat and reinstall your Windows completely, actually, because if you only resize your partition, Windows will think it was its previous size when you actually shrunk the partition.


If you created a bootdisk, put it in your floppy drive; otherwise, just put the CD-ROM in there so Red Hat installation can boot off the CD-ROM. It will display a message: LILO boot: . Leave it alone (or type 'linux'), and it will start up the installation program.


When you get to the point where it asks you about the partitions and swap space for Linux, select Edit. You might be asked if you want to use Disk Druid or fdisk. I prefer fdisk so that is what I will explain. You can use the information about fdisk to use Disk Druid as well.

Once you're in the fdisk program, print out your partition information (p). Looking at the index of commands also helps greatly (m). If you want to resize your Windows/DOS partition to make room for Linux, delete (d) it first and then re-create it with a smaller size (taking up less cylinders). If you want to wipe it out altogether, you can just delete the whole thing and give Linux more space. Remember to leave room for the swap space. Remember to tag ("t") your DOS partition (number 6).

For the swap space, create an extended partition out of the room left over on the hard drive after deciding how much to give to Linux and how much to give to Windows. After that, create a logical partition (partition number 5) that takes up the same cylinders as the extended partition. Then tag (t) it as Linux swap (number 82).

After creating all the partitions, you should print out your partition table. See if it looks okay. If not, go back and resize the partitions or tag the partitions as what they're supposed to be.

Partition Size

You can set aside space for Linux partitions as big as you want; if you have the room, give it a gigabyte (a very comfortable installation will work with 500 megs but extra space is recommended in case you want to download a bunch of stuff). Leave the remaining partitions for DOS (which you've already created) and the Linux swap space (which should be at least twice the amount of RAM that you have). If Linux is going to be your main operating system, consider giving it more generous portions (4-5 gigs perhaps).

The way I personally have it set up right now, I have an 8.4 gigabyte drive, entirely dedicated to Linux. I have a 2 gigabyte partition (/), another 2 gigabyte partition (for /home/), and a 4 gigabyte partition (for /usr/). Luis Garza (known as the ever-peppy The_Vox on the Undernet #LinuxHelp) recommends giving a 20 megabyte boot partition (to later be /boot/ on your Linux filesystem) at the very beginning of the drive.

Next make an extended partition, and then make another partition within the extended partition, called a logical partition. The logical partition should be partition number 5 or above, no matter whether you already have 4 partitions made before it or not. The number of cylinders is proportional to how much space you have on your hard drive, so if you want to give half of the drive to Linux, then use half the number of total cylinders when making partitions. You'll probably want to use all the cylinders left on the hard drive when making these last two partitions.

Tag Partitions

After this, tag the partitions; the primary partition should be tagged as "Linux native". The other partitions should be tagged as Linux swap space. Try to stay organized by tagging the partitions as soon as you make them (except for the extended; you have to create a logical partition within the extended partition or else the partitioning program will give you an error about having to delete it); otherwise, just print the partition table by typing 'p' from the main Linux partitioning program (fdisk), which will print out the information about the partitions and their type on your hard drive. If all this is done, then type w to write to the partition table and exit.

You will find yourself at the screen you were last in, so press enter on "Done" or "Okay" since you already edited the partition tables for Linux. If you have an older, slower computer, it might take Linux a while to "initialize the swap space" (which it is really just "formatting" it, really). Just sit back and wait, and/or do something else while it does this.

Splitting Your Hard Drive

In case you still want to keep your old DOS/Windows partition, you must resize it. The tool I prefer to use is the fdisk utility in Red Hat installation (though DiskDruid is available for you). I go about it by "deleting" the DOS/Windows partition in Linux fdisk (during Red Hat installation). (Note that it does not really get deleted right at the moment when you choose to delete it.) Next, I re-create it, only smaller, so it takes up only however much of the drive that I want. When doing this, be sure to make it big enough so that it will at least hold your existing data, so none of it gets damaged or lost.

After re-creating the DOS/Windows partition in a smaller size, be sure that you tag it properly. Then, create your Linux partition(s) (tagged as Linux native) and your swap space (tagged as Linux swap).

Software Installation

When Linux installation is finished setting up swap space, it will ask you what programs to install. Choose what you're interested in, modify what is about to be installed, and proceed. It might take a long time if you have an older computer. You can easily manually select what packages you want to install through the menu that Red Hat installation provides, or choose to install everything (I think by checking off the box at the bottom).

If you want to be able to build programs on your system from their source code (compiling), or get into programming sometime, be sure to install the development packages. I would also suggest installing the networking packages. It's safe to install all the packages, but if you're short on hard drive space just choose the packages that you don't think you'll need, and if you need them later, you can install them separately.

Installing LILO, the Bootloader

When the programs are done installing, write the Master Boot Record to /dev/hda (/dev/sda if you have a SCSI system.. if you don't know what I'm talking about then don't worry about it, just use /dev/hda). You want to do this at sector 0 (the beginning of the HD) because there's where the BIOS on your computer looks on your hard drive to boot up (if you want to use some other bootloader, that's fine, but LILO is really the only one I know how to use).

Starting Linux

When Linux prompts you that installation is complete, just reboot with no floppies in your floppy drive(s). When the screen says LILO boot:, type Linux (doesn't matter what is capitalized), and Linux will start up. If you don't do anything, LILO will just load what is on the first partition on your hard drive. You can later configure it so that it will load something else on default. To do that, refer to the fdisk section of the guide.

Now, when it's time for you to login, your username will be root, and you use the password that you typed in during install. Your Linux adventure/struggle begins.

Jumping Points

If you don't know what to do now, there's plenty! You can get your graphical interface set up, you can get connected to the Internet, and learn some Linux commands. And that's just the beginning. There are more pages in this guide to keep you occupied for a while. :-)

  1. Accessing Your Floppy Drive, CD-ROM Drive, and Other Partitions
  2. Configuring X
  3. Installing Software Packages
  4. Linux Commands
  5. Setting Up a Dialup PPP Connection

You should also check for updates to Red Hat at These should plug up security holes and fix bugs that might have been in the software packages. To install these, read the quick guide on using RPM.

Author's Notes

When you use the Linux fdisk (FIPS.EXE in \DOSUTILS\ on the Red Hat CD-ROM, I think) to partition your hard drive, it will retain all the data that is already on your MS-DOS FAT partition, provided that your hard drive is not overly fragmented. When you do a dir command in DOS, however, it will show its size before it was repartitioned, so DOS/Windows will think that your partition was never modified in the first place.

If you already know quite a bit about Linux and want to create separate partitions that are to be mounted for each root filesystem, I would suggest that you make /usr/ the largest partition. More information on modifying your partitions is available in the fdisk section of the guide. That guide is useful especially for changing your Linux filesystem after you get Linux up and running.


Fips.exe _definitely_ needs a defragged drive to work. fips won't
chop off space that contains files. This could be an issue when one is
running Norton Utilities which puts rescue information at the very last
cluster of the DOS partition, even after defragging (which would normally
gather all files at the beginning.). Also, one needs PartitionMagic to do
this kind of work on a FAT32 disk, as they come with win95b.

Mans Axel Nilsson              Sound Engineer

Shawn Ormond wrote about his MetroX problem during installation. MetroX, as far as I know, is only in the offical Red Hat distribution, not the 2 dollar CheapBytes version. But here it is anyway:

Well, I fixed the problem....Maybe you might wanna make a note of this
in your manual or something....I don't know, but the solution was
kinda weird....On Red Hat Linux 5, the installation, gives you an
option of installing MetroX.  Well, I usually installed it, whenever I
reinstalled it. (I installed it for the 15th time today :c) ) Well,
this time I didn't.  Let everything run its course.  And there we go,
I got full color.  I don't know exactly why it did that, maybe a
conflict between MetroX and the regular X-Windows thingy....I dunno,
but from what I understand MetroX has to do with X-Windows.  Anyway,
thanks for responding to my email, I appreciated it.

                                                        Shawn Ormond

That's a lesson to be learned... if XFree86 supports your card, there's no need for MetroX. More information on configuring X or whatnot is through another document I wrote, Configuring and Troubleshooting X. However, that doesn't list what video cards XFree86 supports; you might want to try or one of its mirror sites.


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Copyright © 1997-2000 Joshua Go (joshuago at users dot sourceforge dot net). All rights reserved. Permission to use, distribute, and copy this document is hereby granted. You may modify this document as long as credit to me is given.