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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. This of course depends on your architecture.

The MIPS Architecture

Check the following requirements before you continue with the Gentoo installation:

  • You need at least 1 Gb of free disk space
  • For the MIPS architecture, you should check with the MIPS Hardware Requirements document

2.b. Make your Choice


Still interested in trying out Gentoo? Well, then it is now time to choose the installation medium you want to use.

The installation media we will describe are:

  • Net Booting

But first let us take a look at our "stage installation method".

The Three Stages

Gentoo Linux can be installed using one of three stage tarball files. The one you choose depends on how much of the system you want to compile yourself. The stage1 tarball is used when you want to bootstrap and build the entire system from scratch. The stage2 tarball is used for building the entire system from a bootstrapped "semi-compiled" state. The stage3 tarball already contains a basic Gentoo Linux system that has been built for you. As we will explain later, you can also install Gentoo without compiling anything (except your kernel and some optional packages). If you want this, you have to use a stage3 tarball.

Now what stage do you have to choose?

Starting from a stage1 allows you to have total control over the optimization settings and optional build-time functionality that is initially enabled on your system. This makes stage1 installs good for power users who know what they are doing. It is also a great installation method for those who would like to know more about the inner workings of Gentoo Linux.

A stage1 installation can only be performed when you have a working Internet connection.

Stage1 Pros and Cons
+ Allows you to have total control over the optimization settings and optional build-time functionality that is initially enabled on your system
+ Suitable for powerusers that know what they are doing
+ Allows you to learn more about the inner workings of Gentoo
- Takes a long time to finish the installation
- If you don't intend to tweak the settings, it is probably a waste of time
- Not suitable for networkless installations

Stage2 installs allow you to skip the bootstrap process and doing this is fine if you are happy with the optimization settings that we chose for your particular stage2 tarball.

A stage2 installation can only be performed when you have a working Internet connection.

Stage2 Pros and Cons
+ You don't need to bootstrap
+ Faster than starting with stage1
+ You can still tweak your settings
- You cannot tweak as much as with a stage1
- It's not the fastest way to install Gentoo
- You have to accept the optimizations we chose for the bootstrap
- Not suitable for networkless installations

Choosing to go with a stage3 allows for the fastest install of Gentoo Linux, but also means that your base system will have the optimization settings that we chose for you (which to be honest, are good settings and were carefully chosen to enhance performance while maintaining stability). stage3 is also required if you want to install Gentoo using prebuilt packages or without a network connection.

Stage3 Pros and Cons
+ Fastest way to get a Gentoo base system
+ Suitable for networkless installations
- You cannot tweak the base system - it's built already
- You cannot brag about having used stage1 or stage2

Write down (or remember) what stage you want to use. You need this later when you decide what LiveCD (or other installation medium) you want to use. You might be interested to know that, if you decide to use different optimization settings after having installed Gentoo, you will be able to recompile your entire system with the new optimization settings.

Now take a look at the available installation media.

Net Booting

In some cases you do not have the possibility to boot from a CD or use an existing installation to install Gentoo from. In case your system has a network interface and BIOS/ROM capable of performing a netboot (PXE) you can have it download a small system at boot time and install from that system onwards.

In case you want to use the net boot method you should already have a working DHCP and TFTP server. Information on setting up a DHCP server and TFTP server are available in the Diskless-HOWTO.

Depending on your setup, you might need to create or download a kernel image for your system.

2.c. Net Booting your MIPS System

To be able to install Gentoo, the image you download from the TFTP server should provide the necessary tools to create filesystems, create and mount partitions, extract a tarball and chroot. You can download existing net boot images which have all tools in them...

First download one of the available net boot images from

Now configure your DHCP server to send this file to the booting client. SGI machines however need some minor tweaks to the host system in order for TFTP to work properly:

Code ListingĀ 3.1: Some fixes to SGI machines to have TFTP work properly

(Disable "Path Maximum Transfer Unit", otherwise SGI Prom won't find the kernel)
# echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_no_pmtu_disc
(Set the port range usable by the SGI Prom)
# echo "2048 32767" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_local_port_range

Now power on your machine, get into the PROM monitor and issue the command to boot the kernel over the network:

Code ListingĀ 3.2: Net booting a MIPS

        Running power-on diagnostics

System Maintenance Menu

1) Start System
2) Install System Software
3) Run Diagnostics
4) Recover System
5) Enter Command Monitor

Option? 5
Command Monitor. Type "exit" to return to the menu.
>> bootp(): root=/dev/ram0

Note: You may have to press the Esc key to get into the menu above, otherwise, the system will attempt to boot the system directly.

Sometimes netbooting is a tricky endeavour. The following PROM commands below may help, but this is not guaranteed. If your machine refuses to netboot, double check things on the host TFTP machine to make sure that:

  • dhcpd is giving the SGI Machine an IP Address
  • Permissions are set properly in your tftp folder (typically /tftpboot)
  • Check system logs to see what the tftp server is reporting (errors perhaps)
  • Pray to a Tux plushie (this may or may not work, and is not an officially supported troubleshooting technique)

Code ListingĀ 3.3: Net booting tricks

>> resetenv
>> unsetenv netaddr
>> unsetenv dlserver
>> init
>> bootp(): root=/dev/ram0

If all things go well, you are now dropped off at busybox' ash shell. You can then continue with Configuring your Network.

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Page updated November 09, 2004

Summary: You can install Gentoo in many ways. In this chapter we explain how to install Gentoo using the MIPS Netboot images.

Sven Vermeulen

Daniel Robbins

Chris Houser

Jerry Alexandratos

Seemant Kulleen
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Tavis Ormandy
Gentoo Alpha Developer

Jason Huebel
Gentoo AMD64 Developer

Guy Martin
Gentoo HPPA developer

Pieter Van den Abeele
Gentoo PPC developer

Joe Kallar
Gentoo SPARC developer

John P. Davis

Pierre-Henri Jondot

Eric Stockbridge

Rajiv Manglani

Jungmin Seo

Stoyan Zhekov

Jared Hudson

Colin Morey

Jorge Paulo

Carl Anderson

Jon Portnoy

Zack Gilburd

Jack Morgan

Benny Chuang


Joshua Kinard

Tobias Scherbaum

Grant Goodyear

Gerald J. Normandin Jr.

Donnie Berkholz

Ken Nowack

Lars Weiler

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