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Beginners Guides: Linux Part 2: Installing a PC

Beginners Guides: Linux Part 2: Installing a PC - PCSTATS
Abstract: We'll look at SUSE Personal 9.1 and explore the process of installing Linux onto your hard drive as a full operating system.
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCSTATS Apr 18 2008   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > PCSTATS Beginners

Booting and Partitioning

SUSE 9.1, like most modern operating systems, can be installed by booting from the operating system CD. Place the SUSE CD in your drive and start your computer to begin the process. After a brief loading procedure, you will be greeted with a language selection screen. Choose American English (or whatever works for you) then hit the 'accept' button in the bottom right corner.

The SUSE installation package will now analyze your computer's hardware and display a list, along with some recommendations for how your hard drive should be partitioned to accept the SUSE 9.1 operating system.

Now it's time for an important question: Are you installing Linux on a system with a blank hard drive and no other drives with operating systems and essential data on them? If the answer to this question is yes, you can safely skip ahead to the next section of the article (though you should read on if you'd like to learn a bit about how the Linux disk partitioning system works).

If you are installing SUSE on a blank portion of your current Windows hard disk, or on a secondary blank disk in your Windows system, or even on a non-blank disk or partition, please read on as we take you through the ins and outs of partitioning your drives with SUSE Linux.

The Linux swap partition and file system

Linux, like all other operating systems, needs access to 'virtual memory' meaning hard drive space that it can use to fit excess information that is either not needed quickly or is too large for the available physical memory of the computer. In all recent incarnations of Windows, this virtual memory takes the shape of a 'page file', a percentage of one of your partitions (c: by default) that is reserved for use as virtual memory. In Linux, instead of placing a swap file in a partition, a whole 'swap partition' must be created, which the operating system uses exclusively as virtual memory.

This means that all Linux installations need at least a pair of partitions, one for the 'swap' and one for everything else. As a rule of thumb, the swap partition should be at least the size of your system memory x2, but not too much bigger, or it's wasted space.

As far as 'everything else' is concerned, we went over the basics of the Linux Virtual files system in our first Linux article but here's a brief recap:

 In Linux, there is one central ROOT directory and every device and file in the computer can be located somewhere branching off it. This is the Virtual File System, in which all devices and data (even drives using different file systems) are assembled together into one large branching directory.

Think of it like this. In windows, each drive is its own tree, with its branches being the files and folders contained within it. In Linux VFS, there is only one, much larger tree and everything (including hardware, drivers etc.) is contained somewhere within its branches.

When hard drives or removable media devices are added to a Windows system, a new drive letter is created (d:,e: etc.), and that drive letter is used to access and store data on that device.

When you add a new hard drive or removable media device to a Linux system, a directory is created (or activated) through which the data on that device can be accessed. This process is known as mounting the drive or device. Essentially, you tell the operating system that all the files on the device can be accessed by going to x directory. Like recent versions of Windows, most modern Linux variants (including the version of SUSE Linux we are using now) will perform this mounting operation automatically on removable media like CDs and flash drives.

Various Linux distributions have different ways of allocating the necessary system and user files among various partitions (reserving one partition solely for the '/home' directory and its various user subdirectories is one common example). Since the actual partition location of these elements is fairly irrelevant to the virtual file system, and to us for the purposes of this article, we won't explore the concept further. Suffice to say that SUSE 9.1 keeps it nice and simple, tossing all files onto a single partition. We like simple.

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Contents of Article: PCSTATS Beginners
 Pg 1.  Beginners Guides: Linux Part 2: Installing a PC
 Pg 2.  — Booting and Partitioning
 Pg 3.  Viewing and modifying partition information
 Pg 4.  Customizing software packages
 Pg 5.  Network Configuration
 Pg 6.  Downloading and Patching
 Pg 7.  Creating User Accounts
 Pg 8.  Part 2: Getting your Linux 'legs'
 Pg 9.  System administration with root password
 Pg 10.  Configuring the Desktop and Internet
 Pg 11.  Shared files and folders over a network
 Pg 12.  Customizing SUSE: Locating your options
 Pg 13.  Open Office and other Applications

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