Back to home page        Back to Linux Index

Upgrading Red Hat Linux 7.x to Version 8.0

a) Obtaining Red Hat Linux version 8.0
b) Verifying the distribution
c) Making the CD's
d) Making the boot floppy
e) Booting for an upgrade
f) Verifying the CD's
g) Performing the upgrade

Notes, useful links and general comments can be found here.

This page is intended as a fairly detailed "HOWTO" upgrade an existing, working Red Hat Linux 7.3 system to version 8.0 or later. The information can also be used as a guide as to how to perform a new install on any PC but does not specifically address this function.

The target system in my case was an old PII 166MHz machine with a 2.5GByte hard drive, cdrom drive, floppy drive and 128MByte of RAM. The Intel motherboard has three PCI and three legacy long ISA AT slots. The video is a Mach 64 with 2MByte of RAM, an old ISA Soundblaster sound card is installed in one of the ISA slots. The 7.3 version of Red Hat could never quite get the sound working, see later if version 8.0 fares any better. The CDROM/BIOS combination on this system cannot boot, only the floppy or hard drive can be used. If you can boot from your CDROM, you will not need the floppy stage described in here. Most BIOS systems produced in the last 3 to 4 years will allow booting from CD. Look at your bios setup to make this active. The original hard drive partitioning scheme was into three partitions of 50MB, 2200MB (1800MB used) and 250MBytes of swap.

The original 7.3 installation had been updated using up2date and included:
The KDE desktop, office utilities, Konqueror browser, Kmail and tools for multimedia
The Apache web server
Sendmail smtp server
Samba smb server and client allowing Windows sharing
IPchains firewall
FTP server
All the development environments

a) Obtaining Red Hat Linux version 8.0
The latest release can be downloaded from the official Red Hat site at or one of its mirror sites. I found the main site rather slow from the UK and gave up after waiting two days for less than one CD to arrive on my cable (512k) link. Changing to the Sun site produced better results with all three of the required Cd's arriving within three days by ftp. It is only necessary to download the iso images of the first three cd's to get an installable system. When downloading, remember to also get the current checksum file called md5sum, this can be used to verify the download. If you buy the CD's you will probably get some instructions as to how to proceed. They can be purchased as a boxed set from several sources including Red Hat, Amazon and similar sites. Buying at auction sites can be risky, it is unlikely that the CD's will have been carefully checked. Owing to disc space restrictions and the lack of a CD writer on the target machine, I downloaded to another PC that uses Windows NT4 and has a very fast (40x) CD writer. If you have enough disc space and a known working CD writer installation on your Linux box, by all means use that. The image files needed are:
psyche-i386-disc3.iso and
Md5sum (see later)

b) Verifying the distribution
If you have performed a download, it is adviseable to ensure that the files are error free before burning the images to CD. To this end you should use an md5 checksum utility in conjunction with the checksum file provided. A suitable Windows utility can be downloaded from and comes with clear instructions.

Windows 95/98/Me: Download md5sum.exe to c:\windows\command
Windows NT/2000: Download md5sum.exe to your c:\winnt\system32

In order to use the utility, bring up a command (DOS) prompt, change to the directory containing the downloaded files (including the md5sum file) and run the command:
md5sum -c md5sum
With any luck, you will receive messages that your files are ok. Note that the checksum file contains entries for the remaining CD's that I did not download, these give errors.

For dedicated Linux only users, suitable equivalent utilities can be obtained from:

Assuming that all is well, proceed to the next stage.

c) Making the CD's
I burned the CD's using Nero 5.5 on the WinNT platform. Note that it is important that you use the "make CD image" command rather than making a new compilation. My system set all the correct default settings and burned the CD's with no problem. The three images that you need to burn are, as before:

d) Making the boot floppy

Start by formatting a floppy, this is most easily accomplished by using one of the utilities such as the KDE floppy formatter. I formatted in DOS format. Note that the KDE utility will refuse to work if the floppy is mounted, make sure that it is not mounted using the following shell command:
umount /dev/floppy
then use the format utility of your choice. A floppy formatted on a Microsoft DOS system should work equally well.
Next, put CD number 1 into the CDROM drive and go to a shell prompt again. Mount the CDROM drive, floppy drive and copy the required files as follows:
mount /mnt/floppy
mount /mnt/cdrom
cd /dev/cdrom/images
dd if=boot.img of=dev/fd0 bs=1440k 

Check that the files have appeared on the floppy, there should be about  a dozen or so including:
10/09/2002 16:31 7,112 LDLINUX.SYS
10/09/2002 16:31 722 SYSLINUX.CFG
10/09/2002 16:31 7,164 SYSLINUX.PNG
10/09/2002 16:31 518,862 INITRD.IMG
10/09/2002 16:31 852,324 VMLINUZ
10/09/2002 16:31 12,070 SPLASH.LSS
10/09/2002 16:31 342 BOOT.MSG
10/09/2002 16:31 957 GENERAL.MSG
10/09/2002 16:31 730 OPTIONS.MSG
10/09/2002 16:31 869 PARAM.MSG
10/09/2002 16:31 508 RESCUE.MSG
10/09/2002 16:31 549 SNAKE.MSG

If your system needs any special drivers necessary to make your CDROM drive function, you will need to add these drivers as well. Help is available on CD number 1 of the distribution to help you with this. Most modern (<5 years) CDROM drives will not require any special treatment.

e) Booting for an upgrade
Insert the floppy and start or restart your PC. Note that you should make sure that drive a: is the first boot device if you have an existing OS. This can be set up in the BIOS. With luck, the system will boot and you will be presented with the first install screen. This asks you what you want to do, upgrade or install or another similar task. Select upgrade or another task as appropriate. I was upgrading and pressed the upgrade or install button. After a short while, you will be asked if you want to verify your CD's.

f) Verifying the CD's
This task is well worth the effort. I have had recent experience of waiting nearly two hours for an install to complete only to find that CD number three was corrupt. The install failed and stopped. Use the tab and enter keys and follow the instructions to verify that your CD's are useable. If you are impatient, just do the first two, but it is best if all of them are checked. At the end of the process, tab to continue and press enter.

g) Performing the upgrade
After verification of the CD's, you will have to wait whilst the Xwindows system starts and loads the Red Hat Welcome screen. From this point on you could be writing data to your hard drive, it is the point of no return. By now, your mouse should be working as well. The first couple of screens ask some simple questions about you mouse, mouse port, keyboard type and language selections. Answer appropriately.

The next screen asks you exactly what you want to do. Make sure that you make the right choice. In my case it was an upgrade but you may wish to perform a new install for some reason. If "upgrade" is selected, the system will search for an existing Red Hat Linux system to upgrade. In my case it was found on /dev/hda which was exactly right. Clicking on "next" will step to a screen that asks whether to update the boot loader, in my case this was the grub package. I accepted the update suggested. Accepting the recommendation is probably best whatever you are using. Be careful if you have any special boot setups or are using a multi-boot system. Note also that if you try and click on the "back" button at this point, you cannot actually go back a step as the file system is now mounted despite the appearance that the "back" button is available.

The upgrade process will then read the data relating to your currently installed packages, in those eternal words "this could take some time". Things go very quiet at this point, do not be impatient. As long as the mouse pointer (clock) can be moved, things are probably ok. The system appears equally "dead" whilst checking the inter-package dependencies, this also can take a while depending on how much you had installed on your original system. In my case, these two steps took over 20 minutes.

When the installer has finally decided what it has to do, it will warn you that this is your last chance to abort. Make your mind up now, from this point on your hard drive will be filling with new files. I selected "next" and went away to make a cup of coffee. Note that if any errors occur form here on in,, you can look at the log in /......../install.log to see if you can diagnose the problem.

Installing the first CD took approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes. Note that my system is old and slow, indeed it is about as old and slow as will give a just about useable system with recent Red Hat distributions. Yours could be much faster. Approximately 1.9GBytes were copied to the hard drive, there did not seem to be any problem with lack of disc space despite the somewhat cramped quarters before the upgrade started.

After all that time, the system decided that it did need CD's 2 and 3. The last just for 200Mbytes of whatever. Then it decided it was time to re-boot. All seemed to have gone well.


The Result
After the beginning of what appeared to be a normal re-boot, suddenly KUDZU kicked in. It had decided (quite rightly) that since the original installation many moons ago, I had installed an HP Laserjet 5L printer. Ok, hands up, I had, but I thought that it was taken care of and part of the system. No problem, I let things proceed. After the beginnings of what seemed like a normal boot, it stopped totally. It appears that in order for the boot to complete successfully, the printer has to be taken out of power save mode, just to prove that it is there.    

Notes, Links and Comments

Red Hat find the link to version 8.x and select your nearest mirror site.
MD5SUM.EXE the instructions are also given on this page.