Installing Linux on your PC


The easiest method is convert a PC having a single hard-drive into an exclusively Linux-based machine. This would necessitate losing everything on that hard-drive and installing Linux on it. Many people, however, own only one PC, and would like to continue using that PC as a Windows box. If you are of that type, you should consider setting up your (or a) PC as a "dual-boot" machine, capable of booting either into Windows or Linux.

There are two ways to do this, neither is very complicated. The simplest is if your PC has two hard-drives. Just move everything off the smaller-capacity drive onto the larger, then run the Linux installer, being careful to install Linux on the (now redundant) smaller-capacity drive. After the installation, you can use the PC's BIOS to select which drive to boot from.

The more complicated (but still easy) method is to provide a spare partition on a hard-drive onto which to install Linux. The main difficulty here is that most people, when installing Windows, do not provide multiple partitions; their hard-drive consists of a single, large partition, with Windows already installed on it. In that case, you'll have to create a new partition by shrinking the existing one. The trick is to do this without losing any of the data on the existing partition.

Partition Magic (and similar software) repartitions hard-drives without losing data (hopefully!) It rearranges the data on a partition so that it is clustered to "one side" of the partition, and then changes the partition definition table on the drive. The end result is that you have free space on your drive onto which you can install Linux.

Using Partition Magic

  1. Place the CD in your drive.
  2. Run the installer.
  3. You will be asked to create two "rescue" floppy diskettes. Make sure you do this, in case something goes wrong during the repartitioning.
  4. When asked, DO NOT register the software, as the serial numbers are already registered with EMU.
  5. Run Partition Magic.
  6. You want to use the "Resize/Move" operation to change the size of your existing DOS partition. The program shows a small graphic of your existing partitions, below which is a text menu of the partitions (there is probably just one, the DOS partition). Select it, then choose to resize it.
  7. Shrink the DOS partition so that you create at least 3GB of free space on your hard-drive (5 or 6 would be much better.) You do not want to define a new partition within the free space (the Linux installer will do that), just leave the space "free" (unoccupied).
  8. You have to click on the "apply" button. Eventually you'll get a dialog box telling you the system has to reboot into DOS mode, or some such. Say okay.
  9. The machine should reboot into Windows. If you look at the properties of your hard-drive icon (C:) you should that the disk space is smaller than it was.

Installing Linux:

The process is fairly straightforward.

  1. Use the BIOS to ensure that your machine always tries to boot from the CD-drive before looking to the hard-drive.
  2. Put Linux CD 1 in the CD-drive.
  3. Reboot your machine.
  4. You should see the Linux installer start up.
  5. Follow the directions for installing a "Workstation" version of Linux.
  6. When you get to the section concerning partitioning you will be asked "Remove all data on this drive?" Click NO. You want to select "keep all existing partitions and install Linux on existing free space". Also, here you will be offered the opportunity to have the installer automatically partition. Accept that, but also make sure you check the "review partitions" checkbox. The automatic scheme creates a single large "/" partition. On the next page you will be able to add other partitions (e.g., /home, /var, /usr, etc.).
  7. In "Network configuration", you will probably want to use DHCP if your PC is connected to an existing network (i.e., a cable modem, DSL, etc.) Otherwise you can manually set it to an address different from that of any other machines in your home.
  8. When you get to the section in which you specify a superuser password, you should also make sure to create a regular user account. It is good practice to never log directly into a linux box as the superuser (i.e., "root") Instead, log in as a regular user, then use the "su" command from a terminal window to temporarily switch to superuser mode. Alternatively, whenever you try, as a regular user, to run a tool or application that requires superuser capabilities, you will be prompted to enter the root password.
  9. In the "Firewall Configuration" section, you should enable SSH and HTTP.
  10. When you get to the section concerning selection of packages, choose to manually select them, because you will want to make sure that the installation includes Apache and MySQL. You do not need DNS server, Mail server, News server, etc., unless you really want to set up a server for those services--and I don't think you do.
  11. After all the packages are installed (which can take about an hour), you will be asked to provide a floppy that will be configured so that you can use it to boot into Linux mode explicitly.
  12. When you are all done, reboot the machine. After the BIOS finishes you should get a GRUB or LILO window allowing you to select which system you will boot to: DOS (Windows) or Linux.

Other Stuff

Here are some URL's for other issues related to Linux installation and dual-booting.

Linux can access other filesystem partitions:

Dual booting linux/NT:
also: , and: (though I think this last one is obsolete with newer versions of RedHat.)

Dual booting to many other OS's: