Networking / Beginners

Planning a Linux Server Installation

Before you begin the installation program, you need to make a number of preliminary decisions. The following sections describe the decisions that you need to make before you install Linux.

Checking system requirements

Before you install Linux, you should make sure that the computer meets the minimum requirements. Although the minimum requirements for Linux are considerably less than those for the latest version of Windows Server, you can't run Linux on an abacus. The following paragraphs summarize the minimum capabilities you need:

  • A Pentium-based computer. Even a slow 100 MHz system will run some builds of Linux, although performance will be slow. The minimum recommended for Fedora Core is a 200 MHz Pentium.
  • 256MB of RAM or more. Of course, the more the better. But Linux can make do with much less RAM than Windows.
  • A hard drive with enough free space to hold the packages that you need to install. The kernel itself needs about 1GB. If you choose not to install a graphical user interface, you can install a full-featured server in about 1.5GB. If you install everything, you need about 5GB.
  • A CD-ROM drive from which to install the operating system.
  • Just about any video card and monitor combination. You don't need anything fancy for a server. In fact, fancy video cards often lead to hardware compatibility issues. Stick to a basic video card.
  • A mouse is very helpful. If you're converting an old junker computer to a Linux server and you've lost the mouse (that seems to happen a lot), pick one up at your local office supply store. A cheap one costs only about $15.
  • A network interface.

Choosing a distribution

Because the kernel (that is, the core operating functions) of the Linux operating system is free, several companies have created their own distributions of Linux, which include the Linux operating system along with a bundle of packages, such as administration tools, Web servers, and other useful utilities, as well as printed documentation. These distributions are inexpensive - ranging from $30 to $150 - and are well worth the small cost.

The following are some of the more popular Linux distributions:

  • Fedora is one of the popular Linux distributions. At one time, Fedora was an inexpensive distribution offered by Red Hat. But Red Hat recently changed its distribution strategy by announcing that its inexpensive distribution would become a community project known as Fedora, so that it could focus on its more expensive Enterprise editions. As a result, you can't purchase Fedora, but you can download it free from
  • Mandriva Linux is another popular Linux distribution, one that is often recommended as the easiest for first-time Linux users to install. This distribution was formerly known as Mandrake Linux. Go to for more information.
  • Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that has gained popularity in recent years. It focuses on ease of use. For more information, go to
  • SUSE (pronounced SOO-zuh, like the name of the famous composer of marches) is a popular Linux distribution sponsored by Novell. You can find more information at
  • Slackware, one of the oldest Linux distributions, is still popular - especially among Linux old-timers. A full installation of Slackware gives you all the tools that you need to set up a network or Internet server. See for more information.

There are, of course, many other distributions of Linux available, including Knoppix (, Debian (, and Xandros Desktop ( If you want, you can search a comprehensive database of Linux distributions at

All distributions of Linux include the same core components - the Linux kernel, an X Server, popular windows managers such as GNOME and KDE, compilers, Internet programs such as Apache, Sendmail, and so on. However, not all Linux distributions are created equal. In particular, the manufacturer of each distribution creates its own installation and configuration programs to install and configure Linux.

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