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2. Choosing the Right Installation Medium
2.a. Hardware Requirements
Before we start, we first list what hardware requirements you need to
successfully install Gentoo on your box.
||i486 or later
i686 or later
||2.5 GB (excluding swap space)
||At least 256 MB
2.b. The Gentoo Installation CDs
The Gentoo Installation CDs are bootable CDs which contain a
self-sustained Gentoo environment. They allow you to boot Linux from the CD.
During the boot process your hardware is detected and the appropriate drivers
are loaded. They are maintained by Gentoo developers.
All Installation CDs allow you to boot, set up networking, initialize your
partitions and start installing Gentoo from the Internet.
Gentoo Minimal Installation CD
The Minimal Installation CD is called install-x86-minimal-<release>.iso and
takes up around 140 MB of diskspace. You can use this
Installation CD to install Gentoo, but only with a working Internet
Gentoo Linux LiveDVDs
Every 6 months (give or take), a special DVD is crafted by the Gentoo Ten
project which can be used to install Gentoo with too. The instructions further
down this chapter target the Minimal Installation CDs so might be a bit
different. However, the LiveDVD (or any other bootable
Linux environment) supports getting a root prompt by just invoking sudo
su - or sudo -i on a terminal.
The Stage3 Tarball
A stage3 tarball is an archive containing a minimal Gentoo environment,
suitable to continue the Gentoo installation using the instructions in this
manual. Previously, the Gentoo Handbook described the installation using one of
three stage tarballs. While Gentoo still offers stage1 and stage2 tarballs, the
official installation method uses the stage3 tarball. If you are interested in
performing a Gentoo installation using a stage1 or stage2 tarball, please read
the Gentoo FAQ on How do I Install Gentoo
Using a Stage1 or Stage2 Tarball?
Stage3 tarballs can be downloaded from releases/x86/autobuilds/current-stage3/ on any of the Official Gentoo Mirrors and are not provided
on the LiveCD.
2.c. Download, Burn and Boot a Gentoo Installation CD
Downloading and Burning the Installation CDs
You have chosen to use a Gentoo Installation CD. We'll first start by
downloading and burning the chosen Installation CD. We previously discussed
the several available Installation CDs, but where can you find them?
You can download any of the Installation CDs from one of our mirrors. The Installation CDs are located in
the releases/x86/autobuilds/current-iso/ directory.
Inside that directory you'll find ISO files. Those are full CD images which you
can write on a CD-R.
In case you wonder if your downloaded file is corrupted or not, you can check
its SHA-2 checksum and compare it with the SHA-2 checksum we provide (such as
install-x86-minimal-<release>.iso.DIGESTS). You can check the SHA-2
checksum with the sha512sum tool under Linux/Unix or Checksums calculator for Windows.
Code Listing 3.1: Verifying the SHA-2 checksum
$ sha512sum -c <downloaded iso.DIGESTS>
If you get the message that no properly formatted SHA checksum was found, take a
look at the DIGESTS file yourself to see what the supported checksums are.
Another way to check the validity of the downloaded file is to use GnuPG to
verify the cryptographic signature that we provide (the file ending with
.asc). Download the signature file and obtain the public keys whose
key ids can be found on the release
engineering project site.
Code Listing 3.2: Obtaining the public key
$ gpg --keyserver subkeys.pgp.net --recv-keys 96D8BF6D 2D182910 17072058
Now verify the signature:
Code Listing 3.3: Verify the files
$ gpg --verify <downloaded iso.DIGESTS.asc>
$ sha512sum -c <downloaded iso.DIGESTS.asc>
To burn the downloaded ISO(s), you have to select raw-burning. How you
do this is highly program-dependent. We will discuss cdrecord and
K3B here; more information can be found in our Gentoo FAQ.
With cdrecord, you simply type cdrecord dev=/dev/sr0 <downloaded iso
file> (replace /dev/sr0 with your CD-RW drive's
With K3B, select Tools > Burn CD Image. Then you can locate
your ISO file within the 'Image to Burn' area. Finally click Start.
Booting the Installation CD
Once you have burnt your installation CD, it is time to boot it.
Remove all CDs from your CD drives, reboot your system and enter the BIOS.
This is usually done by hitting DEL, F1 or ESC, depending on your BIOS. Inside
the BIOS, change the boot order so that the CD-ROM is tried before the hard
disk. This is often found under "CMOS Setup". If you don't do this, your system
will just reboot from the hard disk, ignoring the CD-ROM.
Now place the installation CD in the CD-ROM drive and reboot. You should see a
boot prompt. At this screen, you can hit Enter to begin the boot process with
the default boot options, or boot the Installation CD with custom boot options
by specifying a kernel followed by boot options and then hitting Enter.
When the boot prompt is shown, you get the option of displaying the available
kernels (F1) and boot options (F2). If you make no selection
within 15 seconds (either displaying information or using a kernel) then the
LiveCD will fall back to booting from disk. This allows installations to reboot
and try out their installed environment without the need to remove the CD from
the tray (something well appreciated for remote installations).
Now we mentioned specifying a kernel. On our Installation CDs, we provide
several kernels. The default one is gentoo. Other kernels are for
specific hardware needs and the -nofb variants which disable
Below you'll find a short overview on the available kernels:
||Default 2.6 kernel with support for multiple CPUs
||Same as gentoo but without framebuffer support
||Test your local RAM for errors
You can also provide kernel options. They represent optional settings you can
(de)activate at will.
This loads support for ACPI and also causes the acpid daemon to be started by
the CD on boot. This is only needed if your system requires ACPI to function
properly. This is not required for Hyperthreading support.
Completely disables ACPI. This is useful on some older systems and is also a
requirement for using APM. This will disable any Hyperthreading support of
This sets up serial console access for the CD. The first option is the
device, usually ttyS0 on x86, followed by any connection options, which are
comma separated. The default options are 9600,8,n,1.
This allows for passing options to the device-mapper RAID subsystem. Options
should be encapsulated in quotes.
This loads APM driver support. This requires you to also use acpi=off.
This loads support for PCMCIA and Cardbus hardware and also causes the pcmcia
cardmgr to be started by the CD on boot. This is only required when booting
from PCMCIA/Cardbus devices.
This loads support for most SCSI controllers. This is also a requirement for
booting most USB devices, as they use the SCSI subsystem of the kernel.
This allows you to partition the whole hard disk even when your BIOS is unable
to handle large disks. This option is only used on machines with an older BIOS.
Replace sda with the device that requires this option.
This forces the disabling of DMA in the kernel and is required by some IDE
chipsets and also by some CDROM drives. If your system is having trouble
reading from your IDE CDROM, try this option. This also disables the default
hdparm settings from being executed.
This disables the Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controller that is present
on newer motherboards. It has been known to cause some problems on older
This disables all of the autodetection done by the CD, including device
autodetection and DHCP probing. This is useful for doing debugging of a
failing CD or driver.
This disables DHCP probing on detected network cards. This is useful on
networks with only static addresses.
Disables support for device-mapper RAID, such as that used for on-board
IDE/SATA RAID controllers.
This disables the loading of Firewire modules. This should only be necessary
if your Firewire hardware is causing a problem with booting the CD.
This disables gpm console mouse support.
This disables the loading of the hotplug and coldplug init scripts at boot.
This is useful for doing debugging of a failing CD or driver.
This disables the keymap selection used to select non-US keyboard layouts.
This disables the local APIC on Uniprocessor kernels.
This disables the loading of Serial ATA modules. This is used if your system
is having problems with the SATA subsystem.
This disables SMP, or Symmetric Multiprocessing, on SMP-enabled kernels. This
is useful for debugging SMP-related issues with certain drivers and
This disables sound support and volume setting. This is useful for systems
where sound support causes problems.
This disables the autoloading of USB modules. This is useful for debugging
This adds some extra pauses into the boot process for slow USB CDROMs, like
in the IBM BladeCenter.
This enables support for Linux's Logical Volume Management.
Enables debugging code. This might get messy, as it displays a lot of data to
This caches the entire runtime portion of the CD into RAM, which allows you
to umount /mnt/cdrom and mount another CDROM. This option requires that you
at least twice as much available RAM as the size of the CD.
This causes the initial ramdisk to load any module listed, as well as
dependencies. Replace X with the module name.
Multiple modules can be specified by a comma-separated list.
Starts sshd on boot, which is useful for unattended installs.
Sets whatever follows the equals as the root password, which is required for
dosshd since we scramble the root password.
This causes the initial ramdisk to skip the loading of a specific module that
may be causing a problem. Syntax matches that of doload.
Disables the starting of portmap/nfsmount on boot.
This causes an X-enabled LiveCD to not automatically start X, but rather, to
drop to the command line instead.
This causes the CD to pause for 10 seconds during certain portions the boot
process to allow for devices that are slow to initialize to be ready for use.
This allows you to specify a given delay, in seconds, to be added to certain
portions of the boot process to allow for devices that are slow to initialize
to be ready for use. Replace X with the number of seconds to pause.
The CD will check for "no*" options before "do*" options, so that you can
override any option in the exact order you specify.
Now boot your CD, select a kernel (if you are not happy with the default
gentoo kernel) and boot options. As an example, we show you how
to boot the gentoo kernel, with dopcmcia as kernel
Code Listing 3.4: Booting an Installation CD
boot: gentoo dopcmcia
You will then be greeted with a boot screen and progress bar. If you are
installing Gentoo on a system with a non-US keyboard, make sure you immediately
press Alt-F1 to switch to verbose mode and follow the prompt. If no selection
is made in 10 seconds the default (US keyboard) will be accepted and the boot
process will continue. Once the boot process completes, you will be
automatically logged in to the "Live" Gentoo Linux as "root", the super user.
You should have a root ("#") prompt on the current console and can also switch
to other consoles by pressing Alt-F2, Alt-F3 and Alt-F4. Get back to the one
you started on by pressing Alt-F1.
Now continue with Extra Hardware Configuration.
Extra Hardware Configuration
When the Installation CD boots, it tries to detect all your hardware devices and
loads the appropriate kernel modules to support your hardware. In the
vast majority of cases, it does a very good job. However, in some cases it may
not auto-load the kernel
modules you need. If the PCI auto-detection missed some of your system's
hardware, you will have to load the appropriate kernel modules manually.
In the next example we try to load the 8139too module (support for
certain kinds of network interfaces):
Code Listing 3.5: Loading kernel modules
# modprobe 8139too
Optional: User Accounts
If you plan on giving other people access to your installation
environment or you want to chat using irssi without root privileges (for
security reasons), you need to create the necessary user accounts and change
the root password.
To change the root password, use the passwd utility:
Code Listing 3.6: Changing the root password
To create a user account, we first enter their credentials, followed by
its password. We use useradd and passwd for these tasks.
In the next example, we create a user called "john".
Code Listing 3.7: Creating a user account
# useradd -m -G users john
# passwd john
You can change your user id from root to the newly created user by using
Code Listing 3.8: Changing user id
# su - john
Optional: Viewing Documentation while Installing
If you want to view the Gentoo Handbook during the installation, make sure you
have created a user account (see Optional: User
Accounts). Then press Alt-F2 to go to a new terminal.
You can view the handbook using links, once you have completed the
Configuring your Network chapter (otherwise you won't be able to go on
the Internet to view the document):
Code Listing 3.9: Viewing the Online Documentation
# links http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/handbook/handbook-x86.xml
You can go back to your original terminal by pressing Alt-F1.
Optional: Starting the SSH Daemon
If you want to allow other users to access your computer during the
Gentoo installation (perhaps because those users are going to help you
install Gentoo, or even do it for you), you need to create a user
account for them and perhaps even provide them with your root password
(only do that if you fully trust that user).
To fire up the SSH daemon, execute the following command:
Code Listing 3.10: Starting the SSH daemon
# /etc/init.d/sshd start
If you (or other users) log on to the system, they will get a message that the
host key for this system needs to be confirmed (through what is called a
fingerprint). This is to be expected as it is the first time people log on
to the system.
However, later when your system is set up and you log on to the newly created
system, your SSH client will warn you that the host key has been changed. This
is because you now log on to - for SSH - a different server (namely your freshly
installed Gentoo system rather than the live environment you are on right now).
When you hit that warning, follow the instructions given on the screen then
to replace the host key on the client system.
To be able to use sshd, you first need to set up your networking. Continue with
the chapter on Configuring your Network.
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The contents of this document, unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under the CC-BY-SA-2.5 license. The Gentoo Name and Logo Usage Guidelines apply.