Installing and using Linux 1–9
To install Linux, you need the installation files. Depending on the installation type, this
set of files might comprise a set of DVD discs containing every possible application and
package supported by the distro. Or it might include just the minimal files needed to
boot your PC, connect to the Internet, and download the files required to run your distro.
The following table describes the primary installation types you must choose from.
Install type With this option
CD/DVD media You purchase or receive CD or DVD media and install in much the
same way you’d install any retail software application.
ISO file You download an “image” of a CD or DVD. Using disc burning
software, you create your own CD or DVD installation media and then
install using those discs. ISO files are large, typically 700 MB per CD
and multiple gigabytes for DVD images.
Installable live CD You download an ISO file, burn a disc, and then boot. Unlike the plain
ISO file install option, a live CD provides a fully working Linux
environment. You don’t actually have to install anything to run Linux,
provided you have an available hard drive on which to store your files
(the live CD is unwritable). Installable live CDs include programs that
you can use to truly install Linux onto your computer.
Netinst You download a small bootable file, which you store on a USB drive,
an optical disc, or even a floppy drive. You boot using that medium, at
which point the installation begins. All of the remaining files needed to
install Linux on your computer are downloaded from the Internet,
typically over an HTTP or FTP connection.
NFS The Network File System is a means of file sharing across the network
akin to Windows shares. With this installation method, you connect to a
network drive that contains your Linux installation files and load the
installer from there.
Most Linux distros are available for multiple hardware platforms. Additionally, many
are available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. In general, you should choose the
installation file set that most closely matches your hardware.
For most distros, all Intel-compatible platforms are supported through a single release.
This means that you use the same file whether you’re running an Intel Pentium or an
AMD clone system. You see such download files identified with abbreviations such as
x86, i386, i686, and so forth. 32-bit and 64-bit versions are typically be identified with a
suffix: for example, x86_32 or x86_64.
In some cases, a distro takes advantage of specific CPU optimizations; thus you see
processor-specific downloads. For example, you might see an AMD-specific version
identified by the abbreviation amd64.
In most cases, you can run a 32-bit version on a 64-bit CPU. The reverse isn’t true,
however. You get the best performance and optimized feature set by using the exact
version for your platform (in other words, use the 64-bit version on a 64-bit platform,