3.6. Tips and Tricks

3.6.1. Creating a Boot Disk in DOS

You need formatted 3.5'' HD floppy disks and a bootable 3.5'' floppy disk drive. The boot directory on CD 1 contains a number of disk images. With a suitable utility, these images can be copied to floppy disks. A floppy disk prepared in this way is referred to as a boot disk.

The disk images also include the loader SYSLINUX and the program linuxrc. SYSLINUX enables the selection of a kernel during the boot procedure and the specification of any parameters needed for the hardware used. The program linuxrc supports the loading of kernel modules for your hardware and subsequently starts the installation. Creating a Boot Disk with rawwritewin

In Windows, boot disks can be created with the graphical utility rawwritewin. Find this utility in the directory dosutils/rawwritewin on CD 1.

On start-up, specify the image file. The image files are located in the boot directory on CD 1. You need at least the images “bootdisk” and “modules1”. To list these images in the file browser, set the file type to “all files”. Then insert a floppy disk in your floppy disk drive and click “write”. To create several floppy disks, repeat the same procedure. Creating a Boot Disk with rawrite

The DOS utility rawrite.exe (CD 1, directory dosutils/rawrite) can be used to create SUSE boot and module disks. To use this utility, you need a computer with DOS (such as FreeDOS) or Windows.

In Windows XP, proceed as follows:

  1. Insert SUSE LINUX CD 1.

  2. Open a DOS window (in the start menu, select Accessories+Command Prompt).

  3. Run rawrite.exe with the correct path specification for the CD drive. The example assumes that you are in the directory Windows on the hard disk C: and your CD drive is D:.

  4. On start-up, the utility asks for the source and destination of the file to copy. The image of the boot disk is located in the directory boot on CD 1. The file name is bootdisk. Remember to specify the path for your CD drive.

    RaWrite 1.2 - Write disk file to raw floppy diskette
    Enter source file name: d:\boot\bootdisk
    Enter destination drive: a:

After you enter the destination drive a:, rawrite prompts you to insert a formatted floppy disk and press Enter. Subsequently, the progress of the copy action is displayed. The process can be terminated with Ctrl-C.

The other disk images (modules1, modules2, modules3, and modules4) can be created in the same way. These floppy disks are required if you have USB or SCSI devices or a network or PCMCIA card that you want to address during the installation. A module disk may also be needed if using a special file system during the installation.

3.6.2. Creating a Boot Disk in a UNIX-Type System

On a UNIX or Linux system, you need a CD-ROM drive and a formatted floppy disk. Proceed as follows to create boot disks:

  1. If you need to format the disks first, use:

    fdformat /dev/fd0u1440
  2. Mount CD 1 (for example, to /media/cdrom):

    mount -tiso9660 /dev/cdrom /media/cdrom
  3. Change to the boot directory on the CD:

    cd /media/cdrom/boot
  4. Create the boot disk with the following command:

    dd if=/media/cdrom/boot/bootdisk of=/dev/fd0 bs=8k

The README file in the boot directory provides details about the floppy disk images. Read these files with more or less.

The other disk images (modules1, modules2, modules3, and modules4) can be created in the same way. These floppy disks are required if you have USB or SCSI devices or a network or PCMCIA card that you want to address during the installation. A module disk may also be needed to use a special file system during the installation.

To use a custom kernel during the installation, the procedure is a bit more complex. In this case, write the default image bootdisk to the floppy disk then overwrite the kernel linux with your own kernel (see Section 9.6. “Compiling the Kernel”):

dd if=/media/cdrom/boot/bootdisk of=/dev/fd0 bs=8k
mount -t msdos /dev/fd0 /mnt
cp /usr/src/linux/arch/i386/boot/vmlinuz /mnt/linux
umount /mnt

3.6.3. Booting from a Floppy Disk (SYSLINUX)

The boot disk can be used for handling special installation requirements (for example, if the CD-ROM drive is not available). See Section 3.6.1. “Creating a Boot Disk in DOS” or Section 3.6.2. “Creating a Boot Disk in a UNIX-Type System” for more information about creating boot disks.

The boot procedure is initiated by the boot loader SYSLINUX (syslinux). When the system is booted, SYSLINUX runs a minimum hardware detection that mainly consists of the following steps:

  1. The program checks if the BIOS provides VESA 2.0–compliant framebuffer supports and boots the kernel accordingly.

  2. The monitor data (DDC info) is read.

  3. The first block of the first hard disk (MBR) is read to map BIOS IDs to Linux device names during the boot loader configuration. The program attempts to read the block by means of the the lba32 functions of the BIOS to determine if the BIOS supports these functions.


If you keep Shift pressed when SYSLINUX starts, all these steps are skipped. For troubleshooting purposes: insert the line

    verbose 1

in syslinux.cfg for the boot loader to display which action is currently being performed.

If the machine does not boot from the floppy disk, you may have to change the boot sequence in the BIOS to A,C,CDROM.

3.6.4. Using CD 2 for Booting

CD 2 is also bootable. In contrast to CD 1, which uses a bootable ISO image, CD 2 is booted by means of 2.88 MB disk image. Use CD 2 if you are sure you can boot from CD, but it does not work with CD 1 (fallback solution).

3.6.5. Supported CD-ROM Drives

Most CD-ROM drives are supported.

  • ATAPI drives should work smoothly.

  • The support of SCSI CD-ROM drives depends on whether the SCSI controller to which the CD-ROM drive is connected is supported. Supported SCSI controllers are listed in the Hardware Database at http://cdb.suse.de.

  • Many vendor-specific CD-ROM drives are supported in Linux. Nevertheless, problems may be encountered with this kind of drives. If your drive is not explicitly listed, try using a similar type from the same vendor.

  • USB CD-ROM drives are also supported. If the BIOS of your machine does not support booting from USB devices, start the installation by means of the boot disks. For details, refer to Section 3.6.3. “Booting from a Floppy Disk (SYSLINUX)”. Before booting from the floppy disk, make sure all needed USB devices are connected and powered on.