Loadlin Install

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This is yet another version of "poorman's install", but it works. Try it and compare with other "poorman's" methods.

Note that this installation method works for most Knoppix-based Live-CD variants, as well as for Knoppix itself.

This procedure requires the following things

  • DSL cd, or dsl iso image file and a tool for extracting its contents.
The embedded zip file is recommended, due to easy extracting on prehistoric operating systems.
  • loadlin.exe, version 1.6c by Hans Lermen.Obtain it from this site: or other dos/linux utilities collection sites. Here is a mirror:
  • either MS-DOS (3.3 or later), FreeDOS, or Windows (95, 98, or 98SE). If the computer has Windows ME, 2000, or XP, and has a vfat (FAT32) partition, you will need a DOS boot floppy (otherwise, tough luck since Bill Gates owns you, body and soul!). A Windows rescue boot disk will work; that of Windows 98 or 98SE is preferred.

1) Try booting the CD

Try booting DSL off the CD first if you can. There is no point in doing the next steps if this did not work. You may need a DSL boot floppy if you cannot boot directly from the CD drive. Take note of all the boot options that you needed to use to get the computer to its best DSL state. Also note the device name of the FAT32 partition that you will use for the installation. Obtain this information by executing the command "less /etc/fstab".

2) Copy the compressed filesystem

From the DSL cd, embedded zip file or the dsl iso image file, copy the folder KNOPPIX onto the computer's drive (partition) that is in FAT32 format. This folder must be placed at the top directory of that drive (ie C:\KNOPPIX\).

3) Copy the boot files

In the DSL cd or the dsl iso image file, locate the folder "isolinux" inside the folder "boot". Copy the folder "isolinux" onto the top directory of the same drive as where KNOPPIX was copied to (ie C:\isolinux\).

4) Configure loadlin.exe

Extract the file loadlin.exe and place it inside the "isolinux" folder.

Inside the "isolinux" folder, create a text file "options.txt" containing the following lines (see notes below these for more information):


5) Configure config.sys

(optional) To configure config.sys to offer you a boot menu, for booting Windows or Linux, add these lines to the top of your config.sys file:

       shell=c:\isolinux\loadlin.exe @c:\isolinux\options.txt
       (everything that was in your config.sys should be after this line)


You need to edit these to include the boot options that you found necessary when you first tried booting off the CD. You will usually change the option "vga=normal" to something like "vga=788", "vga=791", "vga=794" or whatever matches your video setup, although "normal" works in most cases. Also, you may need to include the line "fromhd=/dev/hda1" or similar that points to the device name of the FAT32 partition where you placed the KNOPPIX folder. Most cases, this is not needed as the boot script automatically scans all available devices for the compressed image file "knoppix".

That's it for the installation. To boot to DSL, you have many options depending on how good you are with editing the files CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT.

The basic procedure is to first boot your computer to DOS prompt, with as little overhead as possible. With Windows (95, 98, 98SE), you press the F8 key while booting up to get a boot menu, then select the option that says "command prompt only". If the computer is too quick for you, then wait for the computer to finish loading Windows completely before shutting down to "MS-DOS mode". This may cause problems depending on what utilities and drivers are active when you reach the DOS prompt. Use the Windows rescue boot disk instead. Don't try to use the "command prompt window" inside Windows as loadlin does its job exactly the same way as common DOS viruses (overwrite DOS in memory, with the exception of trashing your computer or sending obscene messages by email to everyone you know and then trashing their computers).

Second, go inside the "isolinux" folder on the drive here you placed it in. Next, execute the command "loadlin @options.txt". Everything should boot up as if from the DSL CD, except that this one is faster. You may encounter something new: a series of setup dialog screens. Select the settings that match your machine. Afterwards you should see the DSL desktop. If all you see is a blank screen or other weird, blinking, or psychedelic images, the settings you selected are wrong. Press Ctrl-Alt-F1 to get to the prompt line, execute "sudo shutdown -r now" to restart the computer, and better luck next time. Note that you can do things from this prompt line as you would from an XTerminal window, the way Real Men used to.

You cannot use HIMEM.SYS (Linux won't mount root on /dev/ram).

What about the extensions?

This is simple. Just place all of them at the top directory of the drive where KNOPPIX is, or create a folder called "optional" and place the extensions there. As of DSL 1.0.1, the uci extensions must be at the top directory while the other types can be in either locations for them to be detected automatically during boot-up. You can also place them anywhere else you like (yes, even on NTFS partitions), as long as you can find them from inside DSL (e.g. using emelfm or from a console terminal). Mount that partition (e.g. /dev/hda1 onto /mnt/hda1) and execute "mydsl-load /mnt/hda1/wherever/whatever.dsl" to load it.

That is it for this howto. For more information, search the web for "loadlin howto".