CentOS 5.2 – Basic Server Setup

centosIn this article, i walk through a vanilla install of CentOS 5.2.  This article forms the foundation in an ongoing series of CentOS based tutorials. These tutorials are aimed at bringing  readers up to speed on linux server management techniques while helping them develop a useful set of linux administrator skills.

CentOS also know as “Community Enterprise Operating System” is an Enterprise-class Linux Distribution derived from sources freely provided to the public by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor. CentOS conforms fully with the upstream vendors redistribution policy and aims to be 100% binary compatible.

You might be wondering what this “Enterprise Class, Binary Compatible” jargon means and why it’s important. Basically it means the server and software packages have been well tested and are ready to be used in a business environment, data center, or other venue where stability is a major concern vs. cutting edge features. Binary compatible in this instance means binaries or programs that are compatible between CentOS and a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor, Red Hat Linux. Red Hat binaries should run nicely on CentOS. In essence, we”ll be working with a version of  Red Hat Enterprise Linux with logos and branding stripped away.

Some of the advantages are:

  • Stability of an Enteprise Level Operating System widely used in Datacenters and Web Hosting Operations
  • CentOS is free!
  • Third Party Packages created for Red Hat usually work nicely with CentOS  (Binary Compatibility)
  • Long Term Support and Security Updates
  • Good Documentation


Having said all that, CentOS isn’t right for everyone. If you plan on mainly listening to mp3’s, watching movies, browsing the web, or using it as more of a multimedia system, you might be disappointed with CentOS. Although CentOS can do all of those things, it takes some work getting it to that point.  CentOS is geared more towards being a robust and stable server system and that’s what it does best.


Basic computer knowledge about downloading software, burning dvd’s is required.

Downloading and Verifying CentOS

If you haven’t already downloaded CentOS, grab a copy from http://mirror.centos.org/centos/5/i386/ . In this tutorial i’ll be installing the 32bit version from dvd. There are also installation CD’s but there are 6 of them so i prefer to use dvd. To speed up the download and conserve bandwdith on the mirrors,  i’m using bittorrent to download the dvd installer file. The file is pretty big so depending on your internet connection speed, prepare to wait for a long download. In the same directory there should be a file named md5sum.txt. Open or save this file because we’ll use it in the next step.

Once the download is complete it’s a good idea to verify the integrity of the iso file using an md5 hash. In simple terms, an md5 hash can be thought of as the fingerprint of a file. Here is a more indepth explanation of md5.  To verify the CentOS iso you’ve just downloaded, you’ll need some type of md5 software. Windows users can download and install digestIT. Once you’ve installed digetsIT, locate CentOS-5.2-i386-bin-DVD.iso, right click on it and choose “digestIT 2004 -> Calculate MD5 Hash”.

Under linux, open a terminal window, change to the directory containing the iso file, and run the command “md5sum CentOS-5.2-i386-bin-DVD.iso“. Mac OS X is similar to linux, just change the command to “md5 CentOS-5.2-i386-bin-DVD.iso“. Locate the line for CentOS-5.2-i386-bin-DVD.iso in md5sum.txt and compare it with the output of digestIT or md5sum. The number should be the same. If it’s not, double check the readings and download CentOS from a different mirror. If all goes well, use your favorite dvd burning software and burn the CentOS iso to dvd.

Starting the Installation

In this tutorial i’m starting with a blank hard drive. It’s possible to install linux along side windows or another OS but to keep things simple i won’t go that route in this tutorial.

On to the next page…

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