How I set up new computers with Slackware LinuxCreated: 2023-02-25
Creating install media (USB stick)
You’ll want to grab the "DVD ISO" from the Slackware mirrors:
Write it directly to a USB drive. Here’s how I do it:
$ lsblk # make note of the device for your USB drive $ sudo cp slackware64-15.0-install-dvd.iso /dev/sdx # change to YOUR device!
You’ll note that I use a simple
cp rather than some arcane
incantation. When I was writing this epic survey of coreutils,
I discovered that there is absolutely no need to use dd to
copy an ISO to a block device like a USB "thumb" drive.
This USB installer will be valid as long as Slackware 15.0 is current.
Package (and kernel) updates are done online via
I’ve learned to dedicate a USB stick for the Slackware installer
and not re-use it for anything else. It comes in suprisingly handy
for rescuing systems, etc.
EFI vs MBR
If you can, do an EFI install. The spec is one of those hideously complicated big committee industry things. But, the simple parts are really, really simple and they make kernel upgrades pretty logical and painless.
However, I have an Acer brand laptop that just absolutely will not allow me to install Linux the EFI route. I’ve tried every UEFI "bios" combination on multiple occasions. As near as I can tell, it’s been locked down on purpose or by accident to only boot Windows from the EFI boot menu.
On systems like that, setting the UEFI "bios" to do a "legacy boot" (which should be enough of a keyword search to find out what it’s called on your system) and installing Slackware with LILO (the Linux Loader!) as a bootloader and writing it to the Master Boot Record is no problem. It works fine and probably will for many, many years to come.
Now you’ll need to boot from the USB drive. Obviously, I can’t help
you much with this, but most motherboard firmware these days seem
to be converging on
DEL for the main menu and
F11 for a boot menu.
I have one computer that needs me to plug my USB keyboard in at just the right time and then press the correct key for some stupid reason.
If given a choice, you’ll probably want to pick the "(UEFI)" boot option, even for the installer. I believe Slackware will need this in order to write the EFI boot option to firmware. But I barely know how any of that works, so I invite someone to send me any additional details others should know!
When asked, you’ll probably just want to go with the "Huge Kernel". It’s very reliable. Follow the keymap and root login instructions.
Now Slackware dumps you at a command line. Feel free to read any messages and explore. It’s just regular Linux, with a limited but complete set of tools.
EFI partition scheme
Before you run the install script, you’ll need to prepare your disk for installation.
With the price of SSDs so astoundingly low these days, I often install to a completely fresh drive and keep my old one around as a just-in-case backup of whatever I was previously running.
I like the
cfdisk tool for a menu-driven partitioning experience.
If you run
cfdisk with no options, it usually picks the drive you want.
If you’ve got a lot of drives, you may want to use something like
fdisk to list them and then provide that device as a parameter
Here’s the partitions I like to make:
100Mb EFI System
16Gb Linux swap
60Gb Linux filesystem
___Gb Linux filesystem (the rest of the drive)
The Slackware installer will format all of these for you (with your permission).
The EFI partition is where the Slackware bootloader and kernel are going to be written. The Slackware installer will detect this partition by its type and write the bootloader here (again, with your permission).
Feel free to make the swap partition bigger or smaller. There’s lots of "advice" on the Internet about this, enjoy!
The 60Gb partition is where I’ll have Slackware mount the root (
of the filesystem. The "rest of the drive" partition is where
I’ll have it mount
Feel free to change the size of these last two partitions (or add more) to suit your application.
(I used to just install the OS and everything
else to one big partition, but I’ve since learned to regret that.
Separating the OS from user data is much more flexible. You can
fix a messed up OS by just doing a fresh install without having to
worry about your data. Just skip the
cfdisk step next time!)
To accomplish this,
Delete any existing partitions as needed (CAREFUL!!!)
and then create the new ones with
New followed by
Type. When you’re happy
with it, choose
Write followed by
Thoughts on full disk encryption (why I don’t)
I’ve been asked why I don’t mention full disk encryption. Slackware does have a guide for doing this, but it’s not a simple button press:
The above link comes from a mirror. You can see the whole Slackware file tree, with the above file at the root here:
Here’s why I’ve never bothered (yet):
I mostly use desktop computers in the comfort of my own home.
I also use laptops, but as a way to compute on the couch or porch, not for coffee shops or travel.
My "real home" isn’t actually on these computers, it’s on a headless box in the basement via SSH.
Most of the things on my computer are for public sharing anyway (open source projects, this website, etc.)
Truly sensitive things go into my encrypted password store.
I remember when hard drives weren’t as reliable as they are now.
I used to take laptops on trips and vacations. But I’ve since learned to not do that. I leave computing behind now when I travel. I concentrate on my family and/or the place I’m visiting.
If I did need to travel with sensitive information, I would put it in my password store. For this, I use
a program called
It’s really a lightweight front-end for GPG (GNU Privacy Guard) OpenPGP cryptography. The store is a directory of encrypted files. The files can be document-sized or just a couple lines for a username and password. The program cares not.
I’ve intentionally limited how much sensitive stuff I actually keep on any of my computers anyway, but I understand that others will will have different needs. Someone hacking this website, for example, will only have access to…this website.
I’m reminded of this tangentially related quote:
"Backups are for wimps. Real men upload their data to an FTP site and have everyone else mirror it." --Linus Torvalds
I guess this next one shows my age: I’ve had plenty of experience with failed storage media. Floppy discs were the absolute worst, but I’ve had tons of spinning platter hard drives go bad as well. Of course, the real solution to this is to always make backups, but things happen. I’ve been able to recover lots of data from otherwise messed-up unencrypted drives.
Finally, I just like to keep things simple. The vast majority of the data my computer shuffles around does not need to be encrypted, so I don’t. I’m well aware that this may someday bite me in a surprising way. But everything is a trade-off between complexity/convenience/security.
I’m always open to ideas. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find myself using full disk encryption some day in the future.
Okay, now on with the install…
Once your disk is partitioned, you’re ready to start the Slackware
installer. This is a simple menu-based script based on
the TUI display. Hope you like blue and teal! Start it with:
Then I let it guide me through the installation steps starting with setting up the swap space.
The rest of this is in no particular order:
As mentioned, the installer will detect your partitions and offer to format
them for you. The
ext4 filesystem (default) is the "no regrets" option.
btrfs option will give you all sorts of cool features, but then people
on the Internet will yell at you and make you sad.
As mentioned, I have it mount root
/home to separate partitions,
but this is totally optional. And of course you can have more partitions
The network setup is really simple for hard-wired machines. You can setup WiFi after installation with NetworkManager. In fact, these days, I choose the NetworkManager, even if the machine doesn’t have WiFi.
Slackware should also detect your EFI partition and offer to format it.
Later, it will ask if you would like to use ELILO and add Slackware as an EFI boot option. I go with these. People on the Internet will yell at you for not using Grub, but ELILO works just fine like LILO did before it, so I’ll wait until it doesn’t. Running Slackware means you are in charge.
(By the way, if you have brief instructions for installing Slackware with Grub as the bootloader, I’d love to include or link to them here!)
Always do a full install of the packages (this is the default). Slackware is a complete system and it assumes that you have installed everything. The package-making scripts at https://slackbuilds.org/ and all forum help, etc. will assume you have installed everything. Slackware is a true general-purpose desktop operating system.
(Of course, you can, and I have, made minimal installs of Slackware for constrained storage setups. But know that you may have some challenges.)
On the window manager/desktop environment selection, I always pick "xfce". I’m
a big fan of xfce and related tools. (While I’m giving out accolades, I’m also
a huge fan of the KDE "k"-prefixed software like kstars and ktuberling (the
potato editor!) and especially Krita!) I always switch over to
tiling window manager, once everything’s working. But xfce gives me a great
initial X11 test.
At the end of the installation, you can remove the USB installer drive (when instructed) and reboot.
If the installation went well, you’ll now boot into the fresh install.
The first thing I do is run the
adduser script to create my regular
When prompted, I add the "wheel" group to my account (much easier than
remembering this incantation to add it later:
usermod -a -G wheel dave).
Then I edit the sudoers file to allow users in the "wheel" group to have sudo rights. I like the NOPASSWD option on my personal computers. That’s one of the commented options, so I just need to uncomment one of the lines.
Hope you know the
Now I restart (I could just logout, but I like to have a new install start up a couple times) and log into my new "dave" account.
I immediately start X Windows (yes, yes, the "X Windows System") with:
That lets me know if the video drivers are working. I’ll also pop open Firefox (ESR version already installed with Slackware, of course) and make sure the network looks good. Now’s also the time I’ll try connecting to WiFi if I’m on a laptop or other wireless machine.
Now it’s time to finish updating Slackware. There will have been many upgraded packages since the installer was made.
I’ll typically open up a terminal in xfce to do this. The
-i option for sudo
starts a "login shell" for root, which I find to be nearly identical to actually
logging in as root.
First, we need to update slackpkg’s list of packages.
$ sudo -i # slackpkg update
At this point, slackpkg will complain that we haven’t uncommented a mirror and will list the path of the file where we should do this. I always uncomment the main mirror redirector URL rather than trying to find one from the big list at the bottom (which is subject to change).
# vim /etc/slackpkg/mirrors # I uncomment this: https://mirrors.slackware.com/slackware/slackware64-15.0/
Now I can do the update followed by install-new.
# slackpkg update # slackpkg install-new
WARNING: The next step is controversial! Feel free to look this up. No matter how you go about this, someone on the Internet will yell at you. With that in mind I do the easiest thing: I let slackpkg upgrade my kernel!
(In brief, if you don’t want to live dangerously like me, take a look at
/etc/slackpkg/blacklist for some comments about keeping slackpkg from
updating the kernel.)
So here goes (this may take a while):
# slackpkg upgrade-all # did you read the warning above?
It’ll download and perform an upgrade on all packages with upgrades (including the kernel!!!)
(Hey, did you hear the one about how Slackware has no package management? If not, just wait about an hour. Slackware absolutely has package management tools. The difference is that they respect you and believe in you.)
If you’ve followed along, you have definitely just upgraded your kernel. If you just reboot now, it’s not gonna work.
(If you’ve done an MBR install with lilo, slackpkg will see that the kernel has been updated and re-run lilo(8) for you to update the MBR bootloader. You should be good-to-go.)
Before you restart, all you’ve got to do is copy the new kernel and bootloader files to the EFI partition.
On your still-running system, that’s as simple as:
# cp -L /boot/vmlinuz /boot/efi/EFI/Slackware/vmlinuz # cp /boot/elilo-x86_64.efi /boot/efi/EFI/Slackware/elilo.efi
A couple notes: The
-L option tells cp to copy the linked file, not
the symlink. Don’t just copy my commands without double-checking
these filenames are correct for your system!
By default, you’ll continue to run the "huge" kernel (see where your
symlinks point in
/boot)! This does not require an initrd ramdisk image,
so just the kernel and bootloader are needed, as shown above.
Continuing to use "huge" just works, so I stick with it. But be advised that doing this will cause people on the Internet to yell at you.
There are perfectly good reasons to use "generic" with the initrd. This looks like a great place to start learning why and how to do that: http://docs.slackware.com/slackbook:booting
Reboot and make sure everything works.
I log into my "dave" account now and do a
startx to load up
xfce again and make sure I can still surf the Web and that sort
of thing before I invest any more time on customizing my setup.
Oops, the kernel won’t boot now
Dang, maybe you shouldn’t have followed me like a lemming right off this slackpkg kernel upgrade cliff. Sorry. At least it’s still just a new install, right?
Don’t despair yet! Put that USB stick back in to get back to a usable command line.
You can mount your new Slackware root and your EFI partition and examine them for any mistakes:
# mkdir /myroot # mkdir /efi # lsblk # mount /dev/sda3 /myroot # mount /dev/sda1 /efi # ls /efi/EFI/Slackware
You can compare kernel and bootloader files with md5sum:
# md5sum /myroot/boot/vmlinuz-huge-5.15.80 /efi/EFI/Slackware/vmlinuz
If everything else looks good, you might have to downgrade the kernel.
You can probably do it by getting the old packages from the USB stick
and manually doing
upgradepkg to downgrade them (
does downgrades because it trusts you and loves you).
But unless you know the exact combo of packages to get and how to
chroot or other equally arcane things, it’s probably
faster just to reinstall. And then try other people’s instructions
for properly upgrading the kernel safely!
Once you know what you’re doing, you can fly through the Slackware setup process (just walk away when it starts installing packages) in minutes.
Sbopkg (a helpful installer for slackbuilds.org!)
Okay, everything went great with the kernel upgrade and all of our packages are up to date.
Now I trust that I can invest the time in doing the rest of my personal setup.
I use https://sbopkg.org/ to build and install packages for Slackware from the https://slackbuilds.org/ repository.
I download the pre-built package (Update this URL for the current version):
$ wget https://github.com/sbopkg/sbopkg/releases/download/0.38.2/sbopkg-0.38....tgz
Then I go superuser and copy this from my user home to root’s home and install the package.
$ sudo -i # mv /home/dave/sbopkg-0.38...tgz . # installpkg sbopkg-0.38...tgz
Update sbopkg and install some tools I can’t live without:
# sbopkg -r # sbopkg -p the_silver_searcher # sbopkg -p stow # sbopkg -p dmenu
GNU Stow is used below. dmenu is used by dwm (both are Suckless tools), which is installed further below.
It’s not needed for any of these packages, but some slackbuilds
have other slackbuilds as dependencies. sbopkg comes with a utility to
create "queue file" for a package so that dependencies are recursively
installed in the correct order for a package. Run
Dotfiles and ~/bin
Note that I installed
stow in the step above.
At this point, I’m performing the rest of my "dotfiles" install procedure from my Git/Stow setup as outlined more thoroughly in Personal Linux Setup with Git Repos and Stow. Here’s the quick version:
$ git clone phobos:repos/dotfiles.git $ cd dotfiles $ stow bash $ stow git $ stow vim $ stow xinit $ stow ssh
That last one, ssh, needs an additional fix for permissions. I made myself a silly little script in the directory to fix 'em:
$ cd ~/.ssh $ ./fix_perms.sh
All of my home-grown scripts and utilities are in another repo. When installed in my home dir, they’re immediately available via $PATH:
$ git clone phobos:repos/bin.git
Vim also needs plugins installed (from 3rd party repositories).
I put a note in
~.vimrc to remind myself how to do that.
By the way, all of this stuff is also documented in README files I’ve plastered all over my most important directories and personal repos. I find these READMEs (as well as my own website) to be invaluable resources when I’ve forgotten how to do things.
dwm (window manager) install and setup
I’m a big fan of this tiling window manager:
There is an entry for dwm on Slackbuilds, but I don’t use it because you customize dwm by editing the source and recompiling it!
So I’ve got my own repo. To put this on a new computer, I just do the same thing to get it from Phobos as I did for my dotfiles above:
git clone phobos:repos/dwm.git
Then I compile and "install" it and make a link from xfce’s excellent
st. (The terminal command is hard-coded into dwm’s source.
I could change that, of course, but symlinks let me swap out terminals
at a whim or change them per-machine without changing my dwm settings.)
$ cd dwm $ make $ sudo cp dwm /usr/bin/ $ sudo ln -s /usr/bin/xfce4-terminal /usr/bin/st
(Note that in addition to
st, dwm also expects to use
launch applications. I installed
dmenu using sbopkg above.)
Then I reboot again (gotta shake out the bugs!), log in as "dave",
and do a
startx (the .xinitrc from my dotfiles starts dwm).
All is well and I’m happily slacking!
Browser 1: Firefox
Slackware ships with the ESR (Extended Support Release) version of Firefox but I, alas, am a Web developer. So I kinda need to be able to test with the latest version.
I use Ruario’s
latest-firefox.sh script to create a new Firefox
Slackware package from the latest binary release from mozilla.org.
(From the github gist, click the Raw button and save the script.)
# chmod +x latest-firefox.sh # ./latest-firefox.sh ... Slackware package <path> has been created. # installpkg <path>
And just now reading the source, I see that there’s an auto-install option as well:
# ./latest-firefox.sh --install
This package will install Firefox to
/usr/lib64/firefox-latest and a symlink
the executable at
To allow auto-updates, I set the group ownership to
wheel (above, I
put my regular user account in the
wheel group) and give all of
the files group write permission like so:
$ sudo chgrp -R /usr/lib64/firefox-latest $ sudo chmod -R g+w /usr/lib64/firefox-latest
(Note that the
-R option on both of the commands makes them recursively apply
to files in the directory and any sub-directories.)
If you choose not to allow auto-updates, you’ll need to make a new Firefox
package with the script and upgrade it with
upgradepkg each time there’s
an update. And Firefox will hound you about it until you do!
Browser 2: chrome
As for google chrome, I have to use it at work for testing. Slackware has an "official" package-maker in the extra/ directory:
The README there has instructions.
.deb package from the chrome website. Then put the
file, slackbuild script, and description file in the same directory
and run the script:
# ls google-chrome-stable_current_amd64.deb google-chrome.SlackBuild slack-desc # chmod +x google-chrome.SlackBuild # ./google-chrome.SlackBuild ... Slackware package /tmp/google-chrome-<version>.txz created.
Install the package:
# installpkg /tmp/google-chrome-<version>.txz
If I’m on a non-work computer, I skip the chrome install and just use Firefox.
Slackware isn’t for everyone. But it’s right for me and if you have enough Yeti blood (subgenius.com - the "slack" in "Slackware" - an essential ingredient of the Internet of the 1990s, folks!), it might be right for you.
I made this page because I’ve recently installed Slackware 15.0 on a whole bunch of computers and I have the whole process pretty fresh in my mind. These computers are going to quietly perform their duties without any problems for years and I am likely to start forgetting how some of this install stuff works (especially the EFI-related things).