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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.
The x86 architecture
You need at least 1 Gb of free disk space
If you do not use prebuilt packages, you need at least 300 Mb of memory (RAM +
You need a 486+ processor and at least 64 megabytes of memory
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. Yes, you have the
choice, no, they are not all equal, and yes, the result is always the same: a
Gentoo base system.
The installation media we will describe are:
- Gentoo's Minimal LiveCD
- Gentoo's Universal LiveCD
Every single media has its advantages and disadvantages. We will list
the pros and cons of every medium so you have all the information to
make a justified decision. But before we continue, let's explain our
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
||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
||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.
||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
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.
The Gentoo LiveCDs 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 LiveCDs allow you to boot, set up networking, initialize your
partitions and start installing Gentoo from the Internet. However, some
LiveCDs also contain all necessary source code so you are able to install
Gentoo without a working network configuration.
Now what do these LiveCDs contain?
Gentoo's Minimal LiveCD
This is a small, no-nonsense, bootable CD which sole purpose is to boot the
system, prepare the networking and continue with the Gentoo installation. It
does not contain any stages (or, in some cases, a single stage1 file),
source code or precompiled packages. For example the x86 variant of this
LiveCD can be found in the universal subdirectory and is called
||Pros and Cons
||Suitable for a complete architecture
You can do a stage1, stage2 or stage3 by getting the stage tarball off the
Contains no stages, no Portage snapshot, no GRP packages and therefore not
suitable for networkless installation
Gentoo's Universal LiveCD
Gentoo's Universal LiveCD is a bootable CD suitable to install Gentoo without
networking. It contains a stage1 and several stage3 tarballs (optimized for the
individual subarchitectures). For example the x86 variant of this CD is called
install-x86-universal-2004.2.iso and can be found in the
If you take a closer look into releases/x86/2004.2 you will see
that we also provide Gentoo Package CDs (in the packagecd/)
directory. This CD (which isn't bootable) only contains precompiled packages
and can be used to install software after a succesfull Gentoo Installation. To
install Gentoo, you only need the Universal LiveCD, but if you want
OpenOffice.org, Mozilla, KDE, GNOME etc. without having to compile every
single one of them, you need the Packages CD too. For example the i686
(a subarchitecture of x86) Packages CD is called packages-i686-2004.2.iso
and can be found in the appropriate subdirectory (i686).
You only need the Packages CD if you want to perform a stage3 with GRP
|Universal LiveCD with Packages CD
||Pros and Cons
||Packages CD is optimized to your subarchitecture
Packages CD provides precompiled packages for fast Gentoo installations
Contains everything you need. You can even install without a network
2.c. Download, Burn and Boot a Gentoo LiveCD
Downloading and Burning the LiveCDs
You have chosen to use a Gentoo LiveCD. We'll first start by downloading and
burning the chosen LiveCD. We previously discussed the several available
LiveCDs, but where can you find them?
You can download any of the LiveCDs (and, if you want to, a Packages CD as
well) from one of our mirrors. The
LiveCDs are located in the releases/x86/2004.2/livecd directory;
the Packages CDs are located in the releases/x86/2004.2/packagecd
Inside that directory you'll find so-called 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 MD5 checksum and compare it with the MD5 checksum we provide (such as
install-x86-minimal-2004.2.iso.md5). You can check the MD5 checksum
with the md5sum tool under Linux/Unix or md5sum for Windows.
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 key:
Code Listing 3.1: Obtaining the public key
$ gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys 17072058
Now verify the signature:
Code Listing 3.2: Verify the cryptographic signature
$ gpg --verify <signature file> <downloaded iso>
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/hdc (replace
/dev/hdc with your CD-RW drive's device path) followed
by the path to the ISO file :)
With K3B, select Tools > CD > Burn Image. Then
you can locate your ISO file within the 'Image to Burn' area. Finally click
Booting the LiveCD(s)
Read this whole subsection before continuing, as you will probably not have the
opportunity to read it before doing things later.
Once you have burned your installation CDs, it is time to boot them.
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 (duh) and reboot. You
should see a fancy boot screen with the Gentoo Linux logo on it. At this
screen, you can hit Enter to begin the boot process with the default
boot options, or boot the LiveCD with custom boot options by specifying a
kernel followed by boot options and then hitting Enter.
Specifying a kernel? Yes, we provide several kernels on our LiveCDs. The
default one is gentoo. Other kernels are smp, which activates
support for multi-cpu systems and the -nofb variants which disable
It is recommended that you select the gentoo or gentoo-nofb
kernels if you want to install Gentoo Linux with a 2.4 kernel or smp or
smp-nofb if you want to install Gentoo Linux with a 2.6 kernel. Otherwise
you might run into compatibility issues.
Below you'll find a short overview on the available kernels:
||Default 2.4 kernel with framebuffer support
||2.6 Kernel with support for multiple CPUs
||Same as gentoo but without framebuffer support
||Same as smp 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. The following list is the same as the one you receive
when you press F2 at the bootscreen.
Code Listing 3.3: Options available to pass to your kernel of choice
- agpgart loads agpgart (use if you have graphic problems,lockups)
- doscsi scan for scsi devices (breaks some ethernet cards)
- nodetect causes hwsetup/kudzu and hotplug not to run
- dofirewire modprobes firewire modules in initrd (for firewire cdroms,etc)
- nousb disables usb module load from initrd, disables hotplug
- nodhcp dhcp does not automatically start if nic detected
- doataraid loads ide raid modules from initrd
- dopcmcia starts pcmcia service
- noapm disables apm module load
- noraid disables loading of evms modules
- nohotplug disables loading hotplug service
- ide=nodma Force disabling of dma for malfunctioning ide devices
- docache Cache the entire runtime portion of cd in ram, allows you
to umount /mnt/cdrom to mount another cdrom.
- dokeymap enable keymap selection for non-us keyboard layouts
- noapic disable apic (try if having hardware problems ,nics,scsi,etc)
- hdx=stroke (smp/smp-nofb kernel only) Allows you to partition the whole
harddrive even if your BIOS can't handle large harddrive
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 a LiveCD
boot: gentoo dopcmcia
You will then be greeted with another boot screen and progress bar. 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.
If you are installing Gentoo on a system with a non-US keyboard, make sure you
boot the LiveCD with the dokeymap boot option.
Now continue with Extra Hardware Configuration.
Extra Hardware Configuration
When the Live 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 (the
SPARC LiveCDs don't even do autodetection), 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: Tweaking Hard Disk Performance
If you are an advanced user, you might want to tweak the IDE hard disk
performance using hdparm. With the -tT options you can
test the performance of your disk (execute it several times to get a
more precise impression):
Code Listing 3.6: Testing disk performance
# hdparm -tT /dev/hda
To tweak, you can use any of the following examples (or experiment
yourself) which use /dev/hda as disk (substitute with your
Code Listing 3.7: Tweaking hard disk performance
# hdparm -d 1 /dev/hda
# hdparm -d 1 -A 1 -m 16 -u 1 -a 64 /dev/hda
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 3.8: 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 3.9: 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 3.10: Changing user id
# su - john
Optional: Viewing Documentation while Installing
If you want to view the Gentoo Handbook (either from-CD or online) 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 and log in.
If you want to view the documentation on the CD you can immediately run
links2 to read it:
Code Listing 3.11: Viewing the on-CD documentation
# links2 /mnt/cdrom/docs/html/index.html
However, it is preferred that you use the online Gentoo Handbook as it will be
more recent than the one provided on the CD. You can view it using links2
as well, but only after having completed the Configuring your Network
chapter (otherwise you won't be able to go on the Internet to view the
Code Listing 3.12: Viewing the Online Documentation
# links2 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 3.13: Starting the SSH daemon
# /etc/init.d/sshd start
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.