Red Hat Hard Drive Installation

Last updated: November 23, 1998
Development stage: Alpha

To prevent any confusion, this is when you download the required files through FTP to your hard drive. This will also work if you copied the contents of the CD-ROM to your hard drive for reasons such as unsupported CD-ROM type. Just remember, if you're copying from CD-ROM, don't download what you already have.

If it's not too inconvenient, I would suggest buying a CD-ROM from CheapBytes or Linux System Labs to save you much trouble in downloading.

Download It

The first thing you do is make sure you have at least 500 megs free on your hard drive so that you can download the tree (the files you need in order to install Red Hat Linux) and so you can split it up. Before you play with partitioning, be sure to defragment the DOS partition that you're going to split so that all your data is at the beginning of the hard drive and you don`t lose anything in the process of resizing. After you've done that, find a site with the Red Hat distribution. Below is a list of fast ones that I've used myself.

The username is 'anonymous' or 'ftp', and the password is usually whatever you want it to be. Some FTP sites will only let you in if you use your e-mail address as the password, like you should be doing.

When downloading, the first thing you have to do is create a tree structure like this example. (unless your FTP program creates all the subdirectories for you; I heard WS_FTP does it)

  |----> RedHat - a subdirectory of C:\RedHat\, so it'll be C:\RedHat\RedHat
           |----> RPMS         -- binary packages - important
           |----> base         -- small filesystem setup archives - important
           |----> instimage    -- image used for graphical installs
  |----> images                -- boot and ramdisk images - download to follow this guide
  |----> dosutils              -- installation utilities for DOS - download to follow this guide
  |----> doc                   -- various FAQs and HOWTOs
  |----> misc                  -- source files, install trees
  |----> COPYING               -- copyright information
  |----> RPM-PGP-KEY           -- PGP signature for packages from Red Hat
  |----> SRPMS                 -- Source RPMS for Red Hat distribution (not really needed unless you want to build RPMs)

Make sure that you have all the files in "RPMS" and "base". If you miss one critical package, you could potentially mess up your installation. However, some large packages you probably won't need immediately are TeX, LaTeX, and Emacs. Those are pretty large packages that I haven't found much use for. You can download them later, though, if you need them.

You don't need to get the SRPMS directory. In fact, according to Matt Alcala all you need for a successful installation is the "RPMS" directory and the "base" directory. Also get the stuff in the "images" directory.


I suggest you do not take chances and backup your system before you attempt to install it (if you have the ability and hardware to do so).

If you can't do a backup, at least defragment your DOS/Windows partition so you can repartition your hard drive later.

Of course, if you want to rid your system of Microsoft altogether, you can just delete your DOS/Windows partition.

Getting Into Red Hat Installation

After downloading it all, either get the boot image (it should be C:\RedHat\images\BOOT.IMG) or Autoboot (AUTOBOOT.BAT). Some prefer Autoboot because it boots from MS-DOS mode and runs Red Hat setup in a snap. If you get the bootdisk, get RAWRITE.EXE (in the DOSUTILS directory on the FTP server) also and "rawrite" it to a formatted floppy disk. Make sure you have the supplementary image (C:\RedHat\images\SUPP.IMG (so you can put in the supplementary disk when Red Hat Installation asks for it) and rawrite that to another formatted floppy. Set those aside for later.

When you're using RAWRITE, it will ask you to specify the source and target. The source should be whatever .IMG file you're trying to write to the disk, and the target should usually be A:, or whatever your floppy drive is.

Reboot with the bootdisk that has the image BOOT.IMG on it. This will take you to Red Hat's installation program. Once you're in there, it will ask at some point to insert the supplementary disk (the one with SUPP.IMG on it). Insert the supplementary disk and you're ready to go.

Creating, Deleting, and Re-creating Your Partitions

Next, you have to repartition your hard drive. It's possible to install Linux on a second hard drive; just pick which one. The devices are as follows:

When there are partitions on the hard drive that you choose, the device will be followed by a number according to its partition number. For example, if you have a partition on your secondary master hard drive, it might be /dev/hdb2 if it's the second partition.

Linux "fdisk"

In Red Hat install, when it gives you the option of using either Disk Druid or fdisk, choose what you want (I like fdisk) and do the following:

  1. Make a primary partition (n).
  2. Tag it as Linux native (t).
  3. Make an extended partition (n).
  4. Make a logical partition (n) and tag it as Linux swap (t).

The extended partition is there so that the logical partition can overwrite it and exist within it. The number of blocks you specify determines how many megabytes that the partition will take up. If you want to use space from an already existing DOS FAT partition, you should remove the existing partition first and then make another one, then tag it as "DOS 16-bit > 32", in most cases. However, make sure the DOS partition was defragmented before you repartition. Primary partitions should be numbers 1-4, as well as your extended partition. The logical partition, though it takes up the same cylinders as your extended partition, can only exist as partition number 5 and above.

Using the Partitioning Program

The "fdisk" should present you with a menu if you press 'm' upon starting them. Among the most useful commands to me are the following:

All you have to do is re-create your DOS partition with a different size to leave room for Linux, create a primary partition, tag it as Linux native (83), create an extended partition (numbers 1-4), create a logical partition (partition number 5 and up), and then tag the logical partition as swapa (82).

When you're in installation, it will mention cylinders. The number of cylinders is proportional to the capacity of your hard drive. In other words, if you have a 2.5 gig hard drive that has 620 cylinders, 310 cylinders is equal to somewhere between 1.2 and 1.3 gigs. To find out how many bytes a cylinder is on your hard drive, divide the number of bytes there are (2,500,000,000 in my case) by the number of cylinders (620). The result for me would be about 4,032,258 bytes, or around 4 megabytes a cylinder.

Install Software Packages

After putting a new partition layout on your hard drive, Red Hat installation now leads you up to installing the software that will come with your system. If you've got the room, go ahead and do a full installation. The process is pretty straightforward, and all you do is press [Enter] a few times and all the packages you select will be installed.

If you want to compile programs yourself (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. For now don't worry about it.

Install LILO, the Linux Loader

Make sure you install LILO, the bootloader, unless you really know what you're doing and/or already have another bootloader that you know can load Linux. If you don't install LILO, make sure you have LOADLIN.EXE somewhere, and the Linux kernel (a file called vmlinuz usually) which you can get from a friend who might already be using Linux. You can later use LOADLIN with the kernel you have on your Linux system, which should be copied onto your DOS/FAT partition so that you can load it with LOADLIN.


When Red Hat installation is finished, reboot without the floppies in the drive. It will show a prompt:

LILO boot:

That's where you type 'linux' (or Linux, or LiNUX.. it's not case sensitive). When it shows a login prompt, type 'root' as the username and for the password, type in what you set the password as in Red Hat installation.

Your Linux struggle begins. Prove yourself worthy. Read other portions of this guide. :-)

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.

Send all feedback to joshuago at users dot sourceforge dot net. You can also use the help form or guestbook.

Copyright © 1997-1998 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.