Linux a Viable Alternative to Windows 95/98/NT:
Switch over to Linux Now!
do I install Redhat 5.x Linux on my system which already has
DOS/Windows 9x on it?
This Guide is not meant to be exhaustive. It is just an outline to
the complete procedure of installing Redhat Linux 5. Please read the
documentation on your Redhat CD in the docs directory before
proceeding with the installation.
Installing Linux on your Win 9x machine is not all that techie as
you may have heard. What you need is a little care, a systematic
approach, and a little bit of understanding of what is actually going
on. In order to install Linux on a system with Win 9x on it the
following steps must be followed:-
In case we have no spare partitions on our hard disk, we will
set aside some free space.
Using programs supplied, we split up ( No! Not with a knife!
) the hard disk to create a new partition.
We reboot and start the Linux installation.
Let us take up each step one by one.
Step 1: Making space for
Linux is an independent Operating
System ( OS ), independent of Windows. Hence we cannot just install
Linux just like any other Windows program. Linux, like any other OS
, needs to have some space on the disk exclusively for itself.
However, we have Windows data+programs all over the disk. In order
to make space for Linux, all the Windows data need to be 'pushed' to
one side of the disk. This is exactly one of the things which is
done by the Windows Program called 'defragmentation'. In the
'Accessories' menu , on Windows,we find an item called 'Disk
Defragmentation' and we run it. In case we have Norton
Utilities, we can run its defragmentation program with the
option 'Consolidate Free Space only' . This option would just be
much faster than the default Defrag program.
Step 2: Splitting up the
On our Redhat Linux CD, we
observe a directory called 'dosutils'.
We just copy that directory with all its contents to C: A new
directory, c:\dosutils is created.
Create a Windows startup
disk. To do this, we put a new floppy in our floppy drive and in
the Dos prompt , type the command ' format /s a:'
Restart the computer in Dos
mode. ( Caution: Not Dos Prompt
to directory C:\Dosutils ( which we had earlier created ).
that directory we see several executable ( .exe) files. Copy the
file restorrb.exe to the newly created
boot floppy. This program restores your system back as it was in
case something goes wrong with the installation. Then we type the
command 'fips'. Fips is a program which splits up your Dos/Windows
partition. So we continue as per directions provided by fips. First
fips will check the system FAT ( File Allocation Table: This is the
basic Dos/WIndows way to keep track of what file is where ) and
then look for free space. Then it will ask you to insert your new
boot floppy and copy a lot of important system data to it. This
data will be used by the resorrb program to restore your system if
you wan to. After that fips show you a table which looks something
Space on old Partition
Space on new partition
Press up and
down arrows to change. The exact format of the table above may be
extremely careful in this section!! In case something goes
wrong later, simply reboot from your boot disk and run 'restorrb'
from your floppy. That will restore your system to its pristine
Step 3: Starting the actual Linux Installation
in that very directory containing fips, you will see another file
named 'autoboot.bat. Just type 'autoboot' to start the actual
Linux installation. We soon start seeing a lot of dialog boxes.
Just keep anwering them according to your system. Generally , a PC
which has been assembled does not contain any SCSI
devices, but branded Pcs ( eg: Compaq, Hcl , Dell etc) may have
some. Check with your computer company beforehand and answer the
relevant dialog box accordingly. Insert the Redhat CD when you are
Step 4: Configuration of partitions
A few steps later, we will be asked to setup partitions. No, we
don't need to buy Partiton Magic for this. There are 2 tools
provided : A completely text-based tool called fdisk
(Linux version) , and a more friendly Disk
Druid. Take your pick. Select "Edit" among the
Though we will be sufficiently guided by the dialog boxes, what
we shall have to do is this.The partition tool will display all
your Windows Partitions + a new Partition, which you just created
using fips. Linux by default, needs not one, but at least 2
partitions. There have to be 1 or more Native
partitions, and 1 or more Swap
partitions. So we delete the new partition, and add two new
partitions. Typically, the swap partition should be somewhere
between 20 to 100 MB in size, depending on the total size of your
Native partition(s) --- 5% of the size of your Native partition
would be a good idea.
Note that Linux/UNIX does not address filesystems/partitions as
'drives' say D:,F: as in Dos/Win. Partitions are 'mounted'
as normal directories under the normal filesystem. Say you have a
Windows and a Linux Partition . Your Linux filesystem is a file
heirarchy starting from '/' at the top and so down as '/usr,
/usr/local, /home' etc. Your Win partition can be mounted as
another directory, say '/win'. You can read and write to your
Windows drive like any other directory on your disk (You may not
be able to execute the Windows Programs,though) . So , one of your
Linux partitions will be mounted as '/' (You decide which one) and
others will be mounted under directories of your choice. If you
have a multiuser system, I would suggest mounting other Linux
Native partitions (if any) under '/home'. Swap partitions are
never mounted, because they are just meant for scratch work and do
not contain data which you can directly use.
Step 5: Choosing and
After you finish configuring
your partitions, you will be asked to choose what to install. If
you are an absolute newbie to
Linux , then you can select the given defaults (about 300-400 Mb
reqd). If you have a lot of space for Linux, say more than a GB,
might as well choose the option 'Install Everything'. If you want
a computer, exclusively for personal use i.e. Not network (LAN)
connections, then just deselect all network/web/mail related
options. If you are short of space ( say u have only about 100-200
MB) then deselect everything (Except X-Windows) . This gives you a
basic system installation. You can always (un)install
what you want later. Now the actual installation takes place. DO
take a look at what is being installed in the dialog boxes that
appear. At this stage, pressing 'Alt-F2,Alt-F3 ...' shows some
other Terminals on your system and gives more technical info about
Step 6: Setting up the
After the installation is over
, it is time for setting up your hardware. This is one of the rare
places where you might find a problem if you are a
hardcore Windows user. The mouse COM port is detected
automatically, however you will have to supply you mouse type.
Check your mouse manual if you don't know what it is. Mostly '
Microsoft Compatible' works. Then it is the turn of your video
card. Although, your latest 3d-effects high-end graphics card
might not be detected, most 'normal' cards are ( AFAIK, there are
about 500 cards supported) and in such a case you might try to
supply the name of a compatible older card. Check your card
documentation. Else you might need some help. More on that later.
After the card , comes the turn of the monitor. Select your
monitor if you can find the required specs in your monitor's
manual. Otherwise, the 'Generic Monitor' option serves quite well
( that's what I always have used !). Next, we choose an
appropriate time zone. 'Asia/Calcutta' applies to us in India.
Step 7: Choosing
Daemons and configuring LILO
After that we face a list of
'daemons' or background processes
which have to be started at boot time. Some of them are as
,crond: These daemons are schedulers, i.e. They are
responsible for running various programs at specific times
This is THE MOST COMMON mail agent on the internet. It transforms your computer into a raring mailserver, just like that!
This is a free and extremely powerful object-relational database system supporting all modern database stuff such as ODBC, JDBC etc.
httpd: The Apache Web Server, the most popular web server on the Web!
Netd: You need to start this to use network functions like telnet, ftp etc
gpm : This allows you to cut and paste stuff from the ordinary Linux Console using the mouse. This is an extremely useful utility.
Choose the utility you
like according to your needs. The nxt thing you have to
install is LILO ( LInux LOader
) . This will allow us to have several OS s on the same
Machine. Those acquainted with WinNT might have seen the NT
bootloader. The Linux bootloader can load almost any OS on
earth. Choose to install LILO in the Master
Boot Record ( MBR ). That's it! You have completed
FAQ is written by Rajarshi
Bandyopadhyay, 3rd Year Computer
Science Student at IIT
Bombay. For corrections/suggestions please send mail to