Installing Linux for the first time (& dual boot)

By svtcobra ยท 340 replies
Feb 20, 2002
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  1. Okay, I am a complete ***** wihen it comes to Linux but...

    I need to try it.. I got it successfully installed awhile back on my PII 400 but my nic wasn't compatible so I never got on the web.

    What I want to do is install, Mandrake 8.2 on my Gateway laptop. I have a 10GB partition that is pretty much empty on it so I would like to install it there. I want to dual boot with WinXP Pro. I have a million questions but for the most part I am most interested in how to do the install and keep my WinXP in perfect working order. Also, is Mandrake the best for me? It seems so. Well, let me know what I have to do. I am going to dload 8.2 and then wait for instructions. I am also going to do a search around the web. There must be a starter guide out there that can lend me a hand.

    Thanks in Advance..
  2. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    "And so it begins...." - Kosh, Babylon 5.

    Okay, what I am going to do, is reinstall Linux on a spare partition later (today probably) and am going to write a step by step guide on installing in alongside Windows XP.

    There are several things I want to know first.

    1)What version of Linux do you have? Red Hat and Mandrake are the best in my opinion.

    2)What is your hard drive configuration (i.e. what's on all of your IDE controllers, primary, master, etc? What partitions do you have on hard drives there? FAT32, NTFS... I want to know all of this please...)

    3)What's your system specs, in case I notice something potentially problematic?

    4)What's your LAN settings or internet connection settings? Do you have cable with DHCP IP address allocation? Or dial up via modem?

    Tell me as much about your system as possible.... Particularly things like whether you have certain partition for certain purposes because if possible we want all of that accessible on your Linux partition as well.

    I can write a good guide for either Red Hat or Mandrake. If you have Mandrake, then thats fine, but if you have Red Hat that would be cooler because its my favourate distro and I can tell you a LOT more about it.

    If you have a fast internet connection, why not download Red Hat from an ftp mirror site and burn the ISO files to CDs???

    Once I hear from you, I am going to rename your post to something like "Installing Linux" or something, so that it serves as a comprehensive guide for others in the future to install this operating system alongside Windows.
  3. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    If you only knew the power of the dark side...

    Soon all this mad stuff can be yours:

  4. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    Thanks for the help Phantasm..Here is what you asked for:

    1. I just downloaded Linux-Madrake 8.2 and I am creating CD's while I type this.

    2. It is a Toshiba 20GB laptop drive. It is partitioned into 2 10GB drives with WinXP occupying the C: partion using a FAT32 File System.

    3. The Laptop is a Gateway 9550. It is a PIII-M 1.06, 32mb Geforce2Go, 256mb Ram, Intel Chipset mobo, DVD (this doesnt have to work), Intel ethernet.

    4. I have a cable internet connection. It is obtained through a 4 port Linksys cable router.

    Phantasm, If you think it is better (and easier) to go with Red Hat instead, I will. From everything I read it seemed that Mandrake was the best.
    If you need more system info, let me know.
  5. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    Phantasm..I have downloaded Red Hat 7.2 as well so the choice is yours.
  6. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Hmm.... OK let's go with Red Hat since we already have a thread about the new Mandrake 8.2....

    Instructions comming VERY soon!!
  7. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    OK I hope all this works and helps because it took me hours!

    Okay, here as promised is a short HOW TO on making your machine dual boot with Linux and

    Window XP.

    If you are going to try this, it might be a good idea to make a printout of what I have

    written here, so that you can refer to it as you do the install.

    Ok, you say that your Windows XP partition takes up 10 GB of the 20 GB disk space, and that

    its formatted as FAT32. That's cool. Make sure, before you do anything, that the rest of

    the hard drive's space (which you want for Linux) is UNPARTITIONED disk space. Its OK if

    its an extended partition filling there, or something, just don't create any partitions.

    We are going to use Linux's installation program to do that.

    TOP PHANTASM TIP: If you are using an operating systems' native file system for use

    with that operating system, particularly to install the OS on that partition, always use

    that Operating system's native tools and installation program if possible. (i.e. don't go

    mucking around with Windows 2000 disk administrator snap-in to create partitions for linux,

    etc, let linux's installation program or linux's fdisk do that.)

    OK, hopefully your system can boot from CD. If so, pop CD1 in there, and go into your BIOS

    and set the machine to boot from CD. If not, post back here for instructions on how to

    create a linux installation boot disk.

    As you boot from CD, you will see a screen appear of various choices. There's text install

    mode, rescue, etc. Don't bother with any of that, and just hit ENTER.

    OK, after a short pause, a big blue screen will appear, and linux will tell you that its

    running anaconda. Just wait.

    Now the graphical installation program begins (hopefully ;) )

    Choose your language (english for most, I guess) for the installation process. Then hit

    NEXT, on the following screen, choose your keyboard type, model and layout. Test this

    first in the little text box provided, so as to ensure that everything is working. Ensure

    that the proper characters are displayed when you, for example, hit shift and one of the

    numeric keys, and that you get the right " @ ~ # \ ? / and so forth. Otherwise, it might

    be a pain. Click NEXT.

    Now select mouse type. Try to find something that matches yours. Things marked "GENERIC"

    and so forth are always a good bet for some mice that don't seem to fit any categories. If

    your mouse has a wheel, then a recommend giving "Microsoft Intellimouse" a go, even if yours

    isn't because the chances are that it will work. You might also want to click the "emulate

    three buttons" tick box as well. A lot of functions in the XWindows interface expect a

    three button mouse. Clicking both buttons together under 3 button mouse emulation kids

    Linux on that you have pressed the third, middle button.

    A screen will now say "WELCOME TO RED HAT LINUX" blah blah.... Just click NEXT.

    Now, the next screen asks for an installation method. The thinking behind this is that

    some people might have a virgin machine with no operating system on it at all, and also

    might not understand concepts like partitioning, setting up mount points, etc.

    However, we are all clever enough to understand that, so click CUSTOM.

    If you are dual or multi booting with some other operating systems, ALWAYS choose a

    custom install!!!!

    Click NEXT, and then choose to "Manually partition with Disk Druid."

    Highlight your existing Windows XP partition (which you said was FAT32) and click EDIT.

    Give it a mount point like /mnt/winxp or something. You could have any mount point that

    you like, but putting it in /mnt is proper UNIX convention.

    Linux is reasonably FAT and FAT32 friendly, but not really NTFS friendly. It comes with

    NTFS read-only support and experimental write support, but I don't recommend that. If you

    are sharing any data partitions with Windows XP and Linux (like partitions containing media

    like mp3s, games, etc) then use FAT32 please if possible. Or think up something else....

    MAKE SURE That when you are editing the properties for your Windows XP FAT32

    partition, that it has "Leave Unchanged" on file system preparation. Otherwise, it will

    format your partition. :eek: Click OK.

    Now click NEW. Select a file system type of SWAP, and select the hard drive (in your case

    probably just hda) you want the swap partition to be on.

    Attention The writers of the 2.4 kernel recommend 2 X your physical RAM as swap

    partition space for that kernel.

    So if you have 256 MB, make a 512 MB partition. Click OK.

    Now click NEW again. Make the mount point / (i.e. just "/" on its own!) and give it a

    file system type of ext2 or ext3. ext3 is the new system with some better integrity, but

    Drive Image software hasn't caught up to it yet, so I use ext2. If you don't use drive

    image then there's no reason not to go with ext3. Tick the box that says "Fill to maximum

    allowable size" so that disk druid shall automatically use the remainder of your HDD space

    for the / partition, which is where you want everything to do.

    When you get more experienced with Linux, you will actually consider spreading your Linux

    installation over multiple partitions, but that's for the advanced class :)
  8. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Click OK when you are sure that everything is cool.

    Now, if you have any other FAT32 partitions that you want to have linux automatically mount

    on boot, and make available under /mnt/ then give then mount points as well by highlighting

    them and hitting EDIT, again making sure to select "Leave Unchanged" so that disk druid does

    not format these.

    For example, if you have a partition filled with mp3s you have downloaded, what about

    /mnt/mp3 as the mount point?? Or /mnt/games ?? You get the picture....

    Now, nothing is actually done until you bypass this screen, so you can take your time

    making sure that absolutely everything is set up correctly. And I mean, SURE!!! Make

    sure that there is not a single mistake, because disk druid will quite happily follow your

    incorrect instructions and format over valid data if you let it!

    When totally sure, click NEXT.

    The next screen asks you about the boot loader. Select these options:

    -Use LILO as the boot loader.
    -Install boot loader on first sector of boot partition.

    ONLY Install Linux to the MBR if you ONLY have linux installed on the machine, or are

    planning on dual booting with Windows 9x, and don't want to use a boot disk.

    Click NEXT.

    Now, in network settings.... If you:

    a) have a static IP address, then untick "Configure using DHCP" and enter all of your

    network details there and then click NEXT.

    b) have a dynamically assigned address, then untick "Configure using DHCP" for a moment, and

    enter a computer name for your machine under "HOST NAME" and then tick "Configure using

    DHCP" once again.

    Make sure that "Activate on Boot" is ticked, unless you don't want that (which I imagine you

    all will want....)

    The next screen is firewall configuration. Unless you are TOTALLY paranoid, or are

    installing a top secret server, then the defaults are fine. NEXT.

    Next screen is "Additional Language Support" Add others if you want, but make sure that

    yours is the default. NEXT.

    Time Zone config... again, pretty self explanatory.... Just select yours.

    Now in account config, enter a root password.

    Also create another account, a non-root account. This is because what you should do in

    Linux is log in using a normal user account, and then "su" to root when you have to install

    software or change configuration settings, or so forth. Logging in a root and running

    Xwindows as root is not very cool.

    The next screen is authentication config. Unless you are on a network with a linux server,

    then just click next because the defaults are fine.

    OK, now is the package selection bit. There are MANY programs, utilities, etc, installed

    with Linux, but this section puts them into groupings. There is even an "individual

    package selection" option, but that is more for advanced users.

    Assuming that you have at least 3 GB or so of space for linux, then I usually take

    EVERYTHING except for some of the server type things, such as:

    News server, NFS Server, SQL Database, Router / Firewall, DNS Name Server....

    ...So pick EVERYTHING else apart from these (no need for laptop support if not installing to

    one, though) INCLUDING the last option which is "EVERYTHING."

    Just omit the particular services that I listed above, as I have explained.

    In total, you should be looking at about 2,800 MB or so. This is fine.

    Click NEXT.

    Now in graphical interface section. Select your graphics card, and Video RAM amount. If

    its not listed, again start looking at options like generic and so forth.

    Don't stress TOO much about settings like graphics, mouse, etc RIGHT now, just make sure

    that you can get through the installation process, because all of this can be changed


    Click NEXT, NEXT, and now the file copying will begin. Go away and make a cup of tea or

    something, because this is probably going to take about half an hour...

    You should be asked at one point to insert disk 2, do so.

    ....Still there??.....

    OK, once this is finished, you will be asked to create a boot disk. You should ALWAYS do

    this! ALWAYS!!! The boot disk is tailored for your system. Insert a floppy in drive a:

    and allow the installation to create the disk.

    Now, in monitor config, try to find yours, or something like yours. There are again a

    number of generic types that should work with your system. Don't stress TOO much if this

    doesn't work, as I said earlier this can later be fixed in the command prompt with some

    pretty nifty tools.

    Click NEXT, and then select the resolution, colour depth, etc that you want. Test this as

    well, and ensure that the selected mode can be displayed. If it doesn't work, post back

    here for advice. But it should do. If you are asked do you want to start X on booting, say no. Then click EXIT.

    As your machine reboots, go into the BIOS and set the machine to boot now from floppy. As

    you reboot, you will be presented with a prompt that looks like this:


    Just hit return. It will take a moment or too to boot from the floppy, but in a moment,

    when we make it boot from the hard drive, it will boot faster.

    As it boots up, you will see a series of messages from the kernel and then a series of tasks

    will start. If the task starts OK, then you will get a little green OK on the right hand

    side of the screen. If there are any problems, take a note of the task that failed, and

    post back here.

    If during the boot up process the hardware detection finds any additional devices (such as

    sound card) then choose configure. For the most part there should be very little user

    intervention involved, and the hardware will be configured automatically.

    Finally, you shall be presented with a login prompt.

    Log on as root (just this once!) and try :


    to start XWindows... Does it work??? If not, post back here.

    As a final step, we want to add linux to Window XP's boot menu.

    If you chose to mount your XP partition as /mnt/winxp and you installed linux to hda6 then

    this is what you do:


    -----should say that it has added linux sucessfully...., then:

    dd if=/dev/hda6 of=/mnt/winxp/bootsect.lin bs=512 count=1

    adapt the dd command for any changes to mount point or device name if applicable.

    Then reboot, go into XP, and add this

    c:\bootsect.lin="Red Hat Linux"

    to the bottom of boot.ini which is located in c:\ (hidden and read only by default.)

    If you now reboot again, you will be able to boot linux without the boot disk.

    Start X and muck around with your new system....

    ....You want more??? Then try my XIMIAN GNOME installation instructions :

    Or maybe try your hand at installing the XINE media player :

    Good luck. Post back with any problems.
  9. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    I'll attach a copy of the text file I typed this message into initially...

    Here is it:

    Attached Files:

    shakirah likes this.
  10. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Still with me??

    Did it work?? Yes! Well, that's great.

    But if not, don't be too down hearted. Just start again from the beginning.

    The truth is, the first time I installed Linux, it took me about 8 tries. And I accidentally wiped out some important data in the process, which is why I recommend caution.

    You should be fine. Linux has come a long way in recent years from the nasty text based installer mess that it used to be. Its getting pretty easy these days.

    Like everything else in this life, experience breeds familiarity, which breeds confidence. After you have done all of this a few times, you will be wondering what all of the fuss was.

    But you MIGHT make a mess of it the first time. Don't stress. Just start again, and take it slowly.

    EXTRA SPECIAL PHANTASM TOP TIP: If you want to get into all of this Linux stuff, and I mean REALLY get into it, then get a book out on UNIX commands. Read it, and practice it and experiment on the command line. Learn about pipes, environment variables, shell scripts. Try these things out! The BEST way to gain knowledge is to read a book.
  11. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    Phantasm, Great guide!! When I get to "manually partition with disk druid" I run into an issue. When I go to create the swap file I get an error that says "Could not allocate requested partitions" Partitioning failed: Could not allocate partitions as primary partitions. I click okay and it just leaves me at that screen.

    I currently have a 20gb hard drives fdisked into 2 10gb partitions. I formated the second partiton before I did the install so it would be clean.

    What am I doing wrong?
  12. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Have your destination as unpartitioned space before installation

    You should have NOTHING after the first partiton, as I said. When you reach the disk druid stage, the only partition that should exist on your drive is the WinXP partition.

    The error can also be caused if, for example, you had WinXP as a primary partition and then an extended partition (with no logical drives, and filling the rest of the hard drive space) and the option to "Force partition to be primary" was ticked in the create partition options in disk druid.

    So to reiterate, before beginning the install there should be only 1 partition on your disk, the winxp one. everyone else on the disk should be completely unpartitioned space. Only 1 10 GB partition (FAT32) should exist on your drive before beginning. Everything else should be deleted.

    Good luck. Post back if you reach other issues.
  13. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    Alright..So in fdisk can I just kill the extended partition or do I need to re partition the whole hard drive?
  14. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    No, you don't need to repartition the whole drive. You just need to make sure that the partition containing windows xp is the only partition on the drive before you begin setup.

    Right click my computer in XP, manage. Go into disk administrator. Ignore your XP partition, and delete anything else.
  15. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    cool, I'll post back my next issue...
  16. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    alright the install is going..Seems like it is going to take a bit of time so I let you know how I make out after its done..

    Thanks alot for the help.
  17. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    Good Guide Phantasm

    Well it seems good, I read and dled it. Maybe if I get some time this weekend I'll give Linux another shot. I'll get Red Hat just so things will be similar until I feel things out well enough to try a different distro.
  18. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    alright, my next issue is the display setting. Under Generic, I selected a Laptop Display 1024x768. When I got to the customize graphics configuration I select 24bit color and 1024x768 and the screen goes crazy. At 16bit the colors are diffrerent but the screen is still screwed up. If i knock the resolution down to 800x600 I can see the screen fine but I cant see my mouse at all. If I move the mouse around, the Yes and No buttons highlight but I cant see the pointer. Your instructions say not to worry to much because there are some fixes for this but I am wondering if I should leave it at 800x600 for now?
  19. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    okay, I booted into Linux and I got OK's for everything. There were no issues. When it leaves that screen and goes into the OS all I get is a teal screen that is pulsating and there is nothing there. It is definately screwed up somehow. Let me know what you think I should do next...
  20. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TS Evangelist Posts: 4,345   +11

    May I suggest something? Go to Nvidia Linux drivers, download NVIDIA_GLX-1.0-2313.i386.rpm and NVIDIA_kernel-1.0-2313.rh72up.i686.rpm. Install them from command line (it's recommended to shut down X server before this):
    Go to the directory where the files are, and then:
    rpm -iv NVIDIA_kernel-1.0-2313.rh72up.i686.rpm
    rpm -iv NVIDIA_GLX-1.0-2313.rh72up.i686.rpm
    Go to /etc/X11. Edit XF86Config-4:

    In section "Module", comment out (with "#")
    Load "GLcore"
    Load "dri"
    In section "Device", comment out
    Driver "nv" (in case your card was detected as such)
    Driver "nvidia"
    Now you could try if X works. If not, you can kill it (usually) with CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE.
    Check /var/log/XFree86.0.log for errors (lines that begin with (EE)).
  21. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    Thanks for the info Mictlantecuhtli. I went to dload'ed the two files you linked. My question is how do I boot into the command line instead of the graphical interface. I guess I am just a bit confused right now. Let me tell you what I am getting thus far. When I boot up, it says to hit enter or it will automatically go into red hat in 10 seconds. At this point there is a command prompt. Do I need to do something here?

    Thanks for the help.
  22. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    aliright, so I figured out that when my "pulsating" teal screen pops up I can hit Ctrl-Alt-F2 and I get the login screen. At this point I log on as root and then I try to run startx. Here is the error I get.

    Fatal Server Error
    Server is already active for display 0
    If the server is no longer running, remove /tmp/.X0-lock and start again.

    When reporting a problem related to a server crash, please send the full server output, not just the last messages.

    Xlib: connection to ":0.0" refused by server
    Xlib: Invalid MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE-1 key giving up.
    xinit: unable to connect to X server
    xinit: No such process (errno 3): Server error.

    Okay, so whats my next step?
  23. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    OK, slight amendment to my instructions here, which I have corrected but forgot to put in.

    When you configure X at the end, and it says "Do you wish to start X on booting" say NO. This means that you will boot to the command prompt on starting and will startx manually, as opposed to starting X automatically.

    If its just to the command prompt, then you can run this command:


    and reconfigure X using a text based program that will give you a chance to fix this.

    Its the middle of the night right now, but when it isn't I'll post instructions on editing the /etc/inittab file if that's possible in the GUI to fix these things.

    If not, you might as well reinstall again. Its good practice, and you've got no data on that partition yet, and haven't added anything important yet in terms of configuration.

    The mouse is also configured with the


    command from the command prompt.

    More later..... P66.
  24. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    OK, if one has mistakenly (which you didn't, because I missed it from the original draft of my instructions) forgot to tell the x configuration not to start Xwindows on boot, and allow you to boot to the command prompt and not startx automatically, then to change this, we edit this file as root:


    the top bit looks like this:

    # inittab This file describes how the INIT process should set up
    # the system in a certain run-level.
    # Author: Miquel van Smoorenburg, <>
    # Modified for RHS Linux by Marc Ewing and Donnie Barnes

    # Default runlevel. The runlevels used by RHS are:
    # 0 - halt (Do NOT set initdefault to this)
    # 1 - Single user mode
    # 2 - Multiuser, without NFS (The same as 3, if you do not have networking)
    # 3 - Full multiuser mode
    # 4 - unused
    # 5 - X11
    # 6 - reboot (Do NOT set initdefault to this)

    # System initialization.



    bit is the bit that tells linux to startx on booting up.

    if we just want the command prompt, we edit this to read:


    and then save and reboot.

    don't change it to level 6 or it will reboot as soon as it boots, LOL!

    pico is a good text editor if you are used to things like edit.exe under DOS, but here is also vi and emacs as well.

    If its possible to use the keys to run this

    pico /etc/inittab

    in your xwindows then do this and edit the file, save and reboot.

    on the reboot, you can now run




    as root from the command prompt to try and figure out how your configs are wrong.

    Otherwise, you might as well reinstall again. As I said, you've no software installed or no data there yet.... and its good practice... You will probably make better choices next time because of more familiarity.....

    Its up to you.
  25. svtcobra

    svtcobra TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 761

    no prob...I'll get the reinstall started. It should be pretty straight forward.

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