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HACK 40 Explore the Knoppix Installer - BrainDump

If you're interested in installing the Debian GNU/Linux distribution, you'll want to know that the Knoppix installer can save you a lot of trouble. This article walks you through the process. It is excerpted from the book Knoppix Hacks, Second Edition: Tips and Tools for Hacking, Repairing, and Enjoying Your PC, written by Kyle Rankin (O'Reilly, 2009; ASIN: B002QX441K). Copyright © 2009 O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the publisher. Available from booksellers or direct from O'Reilly Media

  1. Install Linux with Knoppix
  2. HACK 40 Explore the Knoppix Installer
  3. HACK 41 Install Knoppix as a Single-Boot System
  4. HACK 42 Install Knoppix on a Multiboot System
  5. HACK 43 Convert Knoppix to Debian Unstable
  6. HACK 44 Install Gentoo with Knoppix
  7. HACK 45 Update a Knoppix Install from the CD
By: O'Reilly Media
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May 13, 2010

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Learn the ins and outs of the Knoppix installer before installing.

Knoppix was originally intended to run just from the CD, but early on, users wanted to transfer the system to their hard drives once they discovered how well the CD recognized and worked with their computer. At first, this involved a complicated set of commands run from a shell to copy the CD to the hard drive and set up a boot loader. Eventually, this method was automated with a script that was created by Fabian Franz (http://www.fabian-franz.de) and was recently updated by Martin Oehler for the 5.0 release.

The latest version of the hard-drive installer is pretty sophisticated and does much more than just copy the CD to the hard drive. Start the installer from the terminal by using:

  knoppix@ttyp0[knoppix]$ sudo knoppix-installer

The knoppix-installer script works both in a pure console environment and in X. If you run it from the console, navigate through the options with your keyboard, and hit the spacebar to select options and Enter to confirm them. If you run the script from X, you have a GUI that you can navigate with either a keyboard or a mouse.

Before you even get to the main menu, the installer checks to see that some minimum requirements are met. The first check is for the presence of any Linux partitions (including partitions containing other distributions) that contain enough space to store all of the uncompressed files on the disk plus 18% for overhead. For the CD, this means around 2.4 Gb, and for the DVD, you need around 13 GB. For systems with less than 512 MB of RAM, it also checks for a swap partition of at least 128 MB. If either of these conditions is not met, the installer presents you with the following informational warning and the option to partition the hard disk or quit:

  The installer detected that the installation requirements are not
  fulfilled yet.

  Please make sure that you have a free partition with at least 2GB to
  install Knoppix on.

  Also we need a swap partition with at least 128MB if you don't have
  512MB or more.

  If you really really know what you are doing start with: IGNORE_CHECK=1 sudo 
  knoppix-installer to avoid the menu.

I’ve noticed a bug in the DVD version of the installer where it only checks that you have enough free space to accept all the files from the /KNOPPIX directory. However, the DVD also has a /KNOPPIX2 directory that it uses but does not add into the free space check. So if you do a DVD install, be sure that you have at least 13 GB of free space.

You intend to install Knoppix, so the only choice is to select the Partition option. In X, qtparted runs, a graphical partitioning program, somewhat similar to Partition Magic, which you can use to create, delete, and resize partitions on your system. If you run the installer from the console, cfdisk launches instead. In either case, the goal is to create partitions to satisfy the installer requirements. Once you finish and close qtparted or cfdisk, the installer checks again for partitions it can use; if it finds them, the main installer menu appears (see Figure 4-1).

Figure 4-1.  Knoppix installer main menu

The main menu presents you with six options:

Configure Installation

Opens a new window that asks you which style of Knoppix install to use and where to install it.

Start installation

Starts the installation process based on whichever configuration is currently loaded. If no configuration is loaded, it walks you through the configuration just as though you had selected Configure Installation.


Starts qtparted in X or cfdisk in a console so you can partition your hard drive and presents you with the option to partition the hard disk, resize drives, etc., without having to exit the installer.

Load config

Loads a configuration you have created beforehand from the home directory, floppies, USB drives, or any mountable storage device; this can be useful if you want to clone installations across multiple machines.

Save config

Saves the installation settings currently loaded (either from selecting Configure Installation or Load config) to a file on the home directory or any mountable storage device so you can load it later.


Exits the program without saving any settings.

If you are ready to install Knoppix and are familiar with the configuration options, or you have already configured the installer a previous time (if you configure and then exit the installer, Knoppix remembers the settings that you have chosen), skip right ahead and select Start Installation. If you are new to installing Knoppix on your hard drive, you should probably select Configure Installation so you can see what kind of questions the installer asks before you commit to an install. When you choose Configure Installation, you are presented with a window that asks you to choose from one of the three types of systems:


This is the default method for installing Knoppix to a hard drive. This choice offers a multiuser Debian install without any extra Knoppix hardware-detection scripts. This means that the only cheat codes that still work are those that are actually options passed to the kernel (such asnoapic,noscsi, etc.). Think of this as the beginner option without any of the hardware-detection scripts. Experienced Knoppix users may recognize this as being the same installation method provided by the old Knoppix installer scripts. Choose this option if you want to use Knoppix as an easy way to install a purer form of Debian.


With this option, Knoppix sets up a multiuser Debian system, but also leaves all of the Knoppix hardware-detection scripts behind. You can still use most of the cheat codes at boot time and still have Knoppix run some of its hardware-configuration scripts. This type of installation is a blend of the best features of the other two system types. The downside is that the hardware detection scripts can potentially overwrite any hardware settings you might have made manually the next time the system reboots.


This choice basically creates a copy of the live disk on your hard drive and allows you to boot from it. Just like the disk, this option installs only a single-user system with disabled passwords. Think of this option as running the Knoppix disk only without the disk restriction, so you can permanently install new software or updates, and permanently edit system files. Because passwords are disabled, this system type is potentially less secure than the other two.

Once you choose a system type, the installer shows you a list of potential partitions on which it can install. If you don’t want to install on any of these partitions, click Previous until you can choose the Partition option, and then create a new partition.

Once you select a partition, Knoppix asks for personal information, such as your name, your username, your user and root password, and where you want to install the boot loader. You won’t necessarily be asked all of these questions. It depends on the system type that you have chosen (for instance, the Knoppix system type uses the knoppix user just like the CD, so it won’t ask you for a username). Once you answer all the questions, the configuration is complete and Knoppix drops back to the main menu, and allows you to start the installation with the options you have just configured, or to save the options so you can use them later.

Once you are satisfied with your configuration, click “Start Installation.” A report appears and displays the different options that Knoppix can use for the install with a final prompt before proceeding. Once you click Next, Knoppix begins the install process, so be certain everything is configured how you want it.

Make sure that all of your hardware is working before proceeding with the install. If you need special cheat codes for your hardware to work properly, make sure that you use them for this boot, because these are the hardware settings Knoppix uses for the install. This is especially important if you choose the Debian system type, which does not install the Knoppix hardware-detection scripts, because any hardware that isn’t working when you install must be configured later without the benefit of Knoppix’s scripts. (It is technically possible to reuse Knoppix’s configuration scripts in this mode, but it requires a series of complicated steps.)

Now Knoppix formats the partition you chose and starts copying files to it. It does take some time to copy all of the files from the disk to the hard drive (especially with a DVD install), but unlike most other OS installers, you have a full set of applications you can use while the files are copying. Once all the files are copied, you have the option to create a boot floppy for rescue purposes in case the boot loader didn’t install properly (or you accidentally delete or break the boot loader later). After the installer is finished, continue to use Knoppix from the disk or reboot into your newly installed Knoppix system. Remember to remove the disk when you reboot, and if everything goes well, you should see a new boot logo.

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