Booting Your Computer

Booting your computer is the process of powering it on and starting the operating system. This section will identify the steps in the boot process. Usually, you will not need to know too much about this process; you will power on your machine, and in a few minutes your computer will be ready to use. However, it is useful to know a little about the boot process in case your computer stops booting.

Powering Up Your Computer

To start your machine, you need to turn on the monitor and computer. I usually turn on the monitor first so that I don't forget. If you have a printer you can turn that on as well.

If all goes well, you will see an image on your monitor, and your computer will start the boot process. If you see no image, make sure the monitor cable is plugged in, and make sure that your computer and monitor are both plugged in and are turned on.

Usually your computer will beep once or twice on bootup. This is normal, and nothing to worry about. Repeated beeping combined with no display and/or error messages indicate that something might be wrong. Otherwise, your computer will proceed to perform a power-on self test.

POST: Power On Self Test

NOTE: these steps vary from computer to computer. Do not worry if your computer does not follow these steps exactly when it starts booting. So long as your computer boots into Linux, all is well.

When your computer first starts it will start counting its memory in the top left corner of the screen. [SCREENSHOT] You may see the keyboard lights flash, see the floppy and/or CDROM lights turn on, and hear the floppy and hard drives spin. Then your computer will beep (possibly a few times). This process is called the POST: power on self test.

On most machines, the POST is followed by one or two screens of information about your hardware: the sizes of your hard drives, the extra cards that are on your system, and so on. In a few seconds the GRUB menu should appear. [SCREENSHOT OF POST]

It is safe to power off your machine during this stage.

GRUB Screen

GRUB stands for "GRand Unified Bootloader". Its job is to start up the operating system on a computer. The GRUB screen looks something like this: [SCREENSHOT]

After the POST screens you should see the GRUB screen. If you had multiple operating systems on your computer, you would be able to choose which operating system to boot at this step. Probably you will want to leave the GRUB screen alone. In a few seconds it will start booting Linux. [WHICH ENTRY?]

Your GRUB screen may include a memtest86 entry. Usually you will not need this. It is used to test the integrity of your system memory.

It is safe to power off your computer at the GRUB screen.

The Linux Boot Process

After the GRUB screen completes Linux will load up. You will some messages like the following:

[SOMETHING SOMETHING SOMETHING] Uncompressing Linux...........

The "Uncompressing Linux......." line is your last opportunity to power down the computer safely. Once the Linux boot process starts, you should not power down the machine directly. Rather, you should wait for Linux to boot, and then shut down the computer from the desktop. [HOW? PROVIDE A REFERENCE]

After Linux has uncompressed itself a lot of mysterious text messages will scroll down your screen. These are called boot messages. You do not need to understand these messages, but they are very useful to have in diagnosing problems with your machine. For example, if someone's computer stops booting, that person will often be asked to copy down the last boot messages that appeared on screen.

In addition to boot messages, you may also see a picture of Tux, the cute Linux mascot, in the top left corner of your screen.

After Linux has finished booting, one of three things can happen:

  1. The computer might proceed to log in a user and bring up the IceWM desktop. (This is the default.)
  2. The computer might display a graphical login screen. [SCREENSHOT]
  3. The computer might display a textual login prompt. [SCREENSHOT]

What happens after Linux finishes booting depends on how your machine was configured. In most cases, your machine comes with one user account, which is started automatically, and you don't need to log in explicitly.

If you requested several user accounts to be created on your machine (for example, if several different people are using your computer) then you should have been provided with a list of user names and passwords for these accounts. In this case you will use the user name and password for your account to log in and start the IceWM desktop, as described in the next section.

If the IceWM desktop does not start up and you have never received a user name and password for your machine, then something is wrong. (Note that the root password is not a user account password.)

Logging in at a prompt

NOTE: If your computer starts the IceWM desktop for you automatically (which should be the case for most people) then this section does not apply to you.

If your computer has been configured to use several user accounts, each user needs to login to the machine. Along with your computer, you should have received a list of user accounts created on your machine.

Your login prompt might be graphical [SCREENSHOT] or text-based [SCREENSHOT]. In either case the login procedure is the same:

  1. At the login: prompt, type your user name. (If using a graphical login you may need to move your mouse to the "login" text entry window.) Then press Enter
  2. At the password: prompt, type your password. (You will not see your password on the screen -- this is a security feature.) Then press Enter

Note that user names and passwords in Linux are case sensitive. The password "MYPASSWORD" is different than the password "Mypassword", for instance.

At this point, the IceWM desktop should start. If your login prompt is text-based, then you might see a regular command prompt instead: [SCREENSHOT]

In this case you will have to enter one additional command to start the IceWM desktop. At the prompt, type:


After entering this command and pressing Enter, graphical mode should start up and you should see the IceWM desktop.

If you go through these steps and you do not see the IceWM desktop, then something may be wrong. Otherwise you are done, and you can start using your computer.