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The Linux Boot Process

What happens before the login prompt

Presented by Kim Oldfield to the Linux Users of Victoria on 7 November 2001.

This talk is based on an earlier talk presented to LUV.

Note: many links on this page point to files on your local file system. If you are not running Linux then they probably will not work. There are also links to man pages. These work in konqueror, and may or may not work with other browsers. If the link does not work just use the man command from a Linux command line.

Boot sequence summary


Load boot sector from one of:

The boot order can be changed from within the BIOS. BIOS setup can be entered by pressing a key during bootup. The exact key depends varies, but is often one of Del, F1, F2, or F10.

(DOS) Master Boot Record (MBR)

DOS in the context includes MS-DOS, Win95, and Win98.


Loading sequence

Reconfiguring LILO

One minute guide to installing a new kernel




Allows setup to be performed before root FS is mounted

Details in /usr/src/linux/Documentation/initrd.txt (part of the kernel source).


Run Levels

Run Level programs

Boot Summary