Step 4: Boot the computer from the CD using Knoppix as an example


  • Since your computer's operating system will be running from the CD, any files that you save while using the live CD will be erased when you turn off the computer, unless you save to an external device, like a USB thumb drive or another CD.
  • These live CDs will not let you write to the computer's hard drive unless you specifically give the computer instructions to do so. I'm not going to explain how to do that here just yet. The warning I want to give is that if you do figure out how to write to the hard drive do not write to a Windows NTFS formatted hard drive. Linux can write to Windows FAT32 partitions with no risk, but cannot safely write to NTFS parititions. If you don't know what any of that means, you don't need to worry about it — the computer will prevent you from writing to the hard drive unless you give it specific instructions to do so.

As soon as your CD is ready you can start using it. Put the CD in the drive and reboot your computer. Most new computers will automatically boot from the CD. Depending on your distro, you should see a screen something like this example from Knoppix:

[Knoppix boot screenshot coming soon]

If you reboot your computer and end back up in Windows then it didn't work and you need to go into the BIOS and change the order of booting, so that the computer boots from the CD drive before the hard drive.

[instructions for changing boot order in the bios coming soon]

Unlike Windows or Mac, Linux has many different kinds of desktop environments — programs that manage the look and functioning of the basic desktop, windows, and menus. Knoppix by default uses a desktop environment called KDE which requires a lot of computer resources. If you are trying to run Knoppix on an older computer that doesn't have much memory, it may have trouble running KDE.

Changing the Knoppix desktop manager to run on an older computer

(NOTE: You don't have to worry about this with Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux since they already run lighter-weight desktop environments.)

To get Knoppix running on an old computer, or if you just want it to run faster, type the following at the boot prompt when Knoppix pauses just after booting: knoppix desktop=fluxbox.

Fluxbox is a very bare-bones window manager. But the purpose of using Linux while traveling is not to be fancy. You want to get online and surf the Internet securely and without any spyware. Fluxbox will get the job done. This is a screenshot of Knoppix running Fluxbox:

Knoppix running Fluxbox image

To find the menu on Fluxbox, just right-click on the desktop. If Fluxbox is to bare for you, there is also a desktop manager called ICEwm built into Knoppix. ICEwm will look more familiar to you, but still be able to run on older PCs. To use ICEwm, type knoppix desktop=icewm at the boot prompt instead. Here is a screenshot of Knoppix running ICEwm.

Knoppix running ICEwm