Installing Knoppix to a hard disk

Created: Wed Jun 11 15:00:42 EST 2003
Last Updated: Tue Jun 17 14:19:55 EST 2003

Doing a Google on installing Knoppix to a hard disk pointed me to the Knoppix Hard Disk Installation HOWTO by David McNab. It is not clear what version of Knoppix he used, but for the purpose of this, Knoppix 3.2 was used. The reason this exists is because there were some stark differences between that document, and this one here.

By the end of this, your system will be a Debian based install, following the testing/unstable branch of the tree. You'll get a fully configured GNU/Linux system, with a 2.4 kernel, and working X, all out of the box (something that could take some pain to do, manually, on a Debian install itself); you get a whole slew of useful software like office & productivity software ( 1.0.3), games, software development tools (KDevelop) and multimedia applications all from this one install. In short, you get a most user-friendly GNU/Linux system.

The system used for this was a Digital Celebris GL 6200, beaming with a Pentium Pro 200MHz, 64MB of RAM, and an empty 20GB hard disk. X has always been a pain to configure, taking that it runs a Matrox mga2064w 2MB video card. Networking comes out of a 3Com card, and that's always well supported. Generally, the minimum requirements required to run Knoppix would be a 300MHz processor, with 64MB of RAM and about 3GB of disk space. This install completed in about 2.9GB of space.


  1. Boot the Knoppix CD. If you have problems booting from CDROM, use a utility like the Smart Boot Manager.
  2. When the boot prompt comes up, you can choose your language. Hitting the F2 key will show you more options.

              boot: knoppix lang=us 2

    and hit ENTER. The 2 option is passed so that X will not load, and you will have more memory for the installation. However, this assumes that you've tried to boot Knoppix at least once and you were satisfied with the entire "package" off the CD.

  3. You will now be at a root console. The application you want to run is knx-hdinstall (which is located in /usr/local/bin, and already in your PATH).

  4. Now, follow the guided installation:
    • You will be faced with cfdisk to create Linux partitions. Suggest one of at least 2.5GB to be mounted as / (type 83 - this is the "linux" filesystem)
    • You will need a swap partition, of at least 256MB (type 82 - this is the "linux swap" filesystem)

      Creating other partitions are at free will, if needed, but if you have no experience with Linux, it might be best to not create any more partitions and just stick to the above.

    • When it comes to choose what you're going to use for your / filesystem, you're given the option of ext2, ext3, ReiserFS or even XFS. Personally, I went with ext3 as a filesystem.

      ext3 is well supported with Linux, and is based on ext2, just that the ext3 filesystem is journalled. SGI's XFS is a somewhat popular choice, as is ReiserFS with some. Each filesystem seems to have its own range of advantages, and here again is the great choice we have with GNU/Linux.

    • It is now meant to take up to 10-40 minutes to copy files automatically - it took me a good 1/2 an hour.
    • Now, come the networking questions:
      • smail - mail server of choice (I selected No)

        smail is a Mail Transfer Agent (MTA). To do normal POP/IMAP mail, a MTA isn't required. If you check your mail via webmail, again you only require a browser and not an MTA. If the need to install an MTA does arise, the usage of the apt-get tool will come in handy (this applies to installing all that I select No for actually).

      • SSH - provides secure remote access (I selected Yes)
      • samba - provides file sharing with Windows machines (I selected Yes)
      • cups - provides printing support (I selected No)
      • kdm - starts a graphical KDE login by default (I selected No)

        Points to note are that cups and kdm might be something an average user would like to start, so that there's always a graphical feel to the Linux usage and that printing works!

      • Give your machine a hostname (I typed dobby)
      • Use DHCP to get an IP and Internet access? (I selected Yes)
    • Set up the passwords; one for root and one for the user knoppix
    • Set up the bootloader, LILO on the MBR. If you have a dual-boot setup, suggest that GRUB is used, and you read further documentation on how this is done.
    • Is a boot floppy necessary? You decide (I selected No).
    • Reboot

  5. Once Knoppix is rebooted, you'll see the standard login prompt, showing that its a "Debian GNU/Linux testing/unstable" branch with a Knoppix (kernel 2.4.20-xfs) kernel. If you installed kdm, a graphical login screen will show.

  6. You may now login as the root user. And for security reasons, remove the knoppix user account and create another one for yourself (by doing a adduser and following the on-screen instructions). Why delete a the knoppix user? If your system is wide-open on the Internet, an attacked already knowing a user would make it easier to try and crack into the machine; besides, would you rather run as your own username or as knoppix?
    • deluser knoppix - deletes the knoppix user from /etc/passwd
    • delgroup knoppix - deletes the knoppix group from /etc/group

    WAIT! - It has been mentioned that newbies may not want to follow point 6.

  7. Now with your new user account, login to the system and KDE will be brought up. Well, a customisation screen at least (what I recommend is stated, you're welcome to change it if your locale settings differ):
    • Bitte wahlen Sie ein Land aus: You can change this to Amerika, Nordiiches -> USA
    • Bitte wahlen Sie eine Sprache aus: And this to Sonstige -> Englisch(US)
    • Click Nachster

    When it comes to changing the settings to Amerika, Nordiiches -> USA there is also an option that you can use to change it to an Australian setting. That really seems to be a "regional" setting. The next option however is very much the "language" setting and Australian English isn't within the available locales. Asien & Ozeanien -> Australien is what you will do.

  8. The entire customisation is now in English. It starts KDE with a Knoppix 3.2 logo instead of the regular KDE one (think of RedHat and how they've made Bluecurve a part of it).

  9. Your keyboard will need a bit of remapping, or else the ":" or the "/" keys will not work. Click the KDE Control Center icon (big one at the bottom that looks like a colour monitor with a card in front of it) or get there via the Menu. There, go to Regional & Accessibility -> Keyboard Layout and change it to US English (from the default of German).

    Note: The changes you make here are only for the said user, and do not apply globally. If you create another user, the above steps of "localisation" will need to be repeated.

  10. You now have a fully installed, English GNU/Linux desktop system, with Mozilla,, KDE, and many other interesting utilities.

If this is your first Debian system, go to the website and read some documents. Google as always is your best friend, and your LUGs will be willing to help you. But let's get started on a few important things first:

  • apt-get update will get the list of the latest available packages for you that are available (assuming you have an Internet connection) in your sources list.
  • You may want to edit the /etc/apt/sources.list file and implement some local sources, instead of one's in Germany (notice the ".de" stuff?). If you're within Australia, Stewart Smith has provided a list of useful sources (for the unstable branch):

    deb unstable main non-free contrib
    deb-src unstable main non-free contrib
    deb unstable main non-free contrib
    deb-src unstable main non-free contrib

    If you're within America, Rick Moen's sources.list for the testing/unstable branch will be of more help.

  • Installing packages are easy as! Just do an apt-cache search <packagename> and then once you've found what you want, perform a apt-get install <packagename>.
  • If you got your hands on the 7 Debian 3.0 CDs (Woody), you can apt-cdrom add each and every one of them into your sources.list file. This would save you downloads from the Internet, unless a package has been updated.


Following submitted by John Coombes, <>


I do agree with you completely about removing the user "knoppix" and creating a new user for yourself (I also created one for myself).


Lucky for me I did not remove the user knoppix right away because there is a problem with permissions and group's when one makes a new user. I found that I (as user = john) could not do lots of things that the user knoppix could do, because I was not in the right groups.

Simple things like connect to the internet using Kppp would not work. Almost all non-Linux Geeks will not be able to know what to do now if they have already deleted the Knoppix user !! Which groups did he have ? Can you remember ? Did you look ? (I did not look intially)


Make (as root) a new user - but - do not delete the knoppix user. (yet)

As one still has the user Knoppix - one should boot up and log-in as " root " and go into the KDE GUI . Here you will be able to open and use the Kmenu -> System -> KUser (User Manager) and examen the Knoppix user, TAKE NOTE of all of the Groups that Knoppix has. Then go to the "new user" and ADD all the groups that knoppix had. Close the "new user" setup and do remember to SAVE the settings.

After this log-out as "root" and log-in as the "new user" and test that you can do everything that the knoppix user could. Once one has done the above (ie. give a "new user" all the same groups that the "knoppix user" had) then and only then will it be safe for a non-geek (or Newbie) to remove the Knoppix user as per your Section 6.

Return to where you came from


  • - grab your Knoppix 3.2 ISO from here, and also use it as your apt's source list. If you're within a university or certain cable/dsl providers, stuff from mirror.aarnet doesn't count towards your quota.
  • - English site, has got news, a forum, and all around great stuff about Knoppix.
  • Knoppix Cheatcodes - Nice document with clever boot options that may come in handy with quirky video cards or laptops, during the testing stage to see a beautiful Knoppix. (local copy)
  • Rick Moen's mirror of David McNab's instructions. He has a list of .us sources for the Debian tree.


  1. 17/06/2003 - Made some changes for the folk at LinMagAU. Editorial bits and pieces really.
  2. 23/06/2003 - Added Debian "integration"; RM's sources.list file
  3. 01/07/2003 - Made a note about point 6, submitted by John Coombes.

Colin Charles <>, © 1996-2004