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by Dr. Raj Mehta
Linux FAQ
Installing Linux on Your Machine
Software For Linux
Configuring PPP connection for Linux for connect to Internet via dialup connection

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10 Questions About Linux -A Good Overview of Linux
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Alternatives to MS Windows Operating System
- A authoritative guide to other Operating Systems.
Unix vs. NT - Extremely detailed report!
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Linux a Viable Alternative to Windows 95/98/NT: Switch over to Linux Now!

How do I install Redhat 5.x Linux on my system which already has DOS/Windows 9x on it?

Warning: 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

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 Windows Partition

  • 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 )

  • Change to directory C:\Dosutils ( which we had earlier created ).

  • In 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 like this:


Space on old Partition

Space on new partition




Press up and down arrows to change. The exact format of the table above may be different. 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 condition.

Step 3: Starting the actual Linux Installation

Now, 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 asked to.

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 options provided.

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 Installing packages

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 the installation.

Step 6: Setting up the hardware.

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 follows:

  • atd ,crond: These daemons are schedulers, i.e. They are responsible for running various programs at specific times

  • Sendmail: This is THE MOST COMMON mail agent on the internet. It transforms your computer into a raring mailserver, just like that!

  • PostgreSQL: 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 Linux Installation.

This FAQ is written by Rajarshi Bandyopadhyay, 3rd Year Computer Science Student at IIT Bombay. For corrections/suggestions please send mail to bando@cse.iitb.ernet.in .

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 Dr. Raj Mehta. All rights reserved.