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This is an overview of the principles and the practice of installing Gentoo on a running system.

The installation of a Gentoo Linux system is very different to how many well-known, desktop-oriented operating systems usually work. Common OSs, such as Microsoft Windows, MacOS, and numerous Linux distributions come with graphical, guided, installer "wizards" with which most users will be familiar, but installing Gentoo is markedly different.

Gentoo is a versatile distribution geared towards advanced users. If starting out with Linux, or even with computers in general, Gentoo may not be the easiest way to get a foot in. For someone aiming to get the most out of the tools they use, developers, or just tinkerers, Gentoo will be a prime choice.

See the FAQ about what makes Gentoo different for an overview of Gentoo's architecture and capabilities.

See also
See the handbook for the official installation instructions - this is just a primer.
To ask for support, during or after a Gentoo installation, the Handbook and other relevant documentation must have been properly followed. If following unofficial guides, or deviating from the recommendations, expect to be asked to start from scratch, using the official documents, before any help will be provided.

Installation principles in Gentoo Linux

Gentoo is installed following a manual procedure. The user inputs and executes commands at the system prompt, to set up a bootable system, following the guidelines laid out in the Handbook. A Gentoo installation is thus slightly more involved than most others, though for someone used to installing and using Gentoo, it becomes a relatively simple and fast procedure, especially for habitual command line users.

If, for some, the installation may seem cumbersome at first - it provides the indispensable benefit of introducing new users to the principles and workings of Gentoo Linux. Installing Gentoo for the first time is akin to following a tutorial, and the Handbook is not just an introduction to installing and using Gentoo, it provides valuable insight into Linux, and Unix-like distributions in general.

Gentoo is a powerful, flexible, modern operating system - and as with any new tool, there is the need to learn how to use it. Learning to use such a rich, capable, stable tool as Gentoo will be rewarding to anyone who would benefit from such power, and the investment in this knowledge will pay dividends throughout a career.

The Gentoo Handbook - Gentoo's installer

The Gentoo Handbook is the official installation method, and provides choices for many installation options. Though it is possible to deviate from the Handbook, any departure from the guidelines is also a departure from what has been tested to work, and may cause issues, so it is not advised. If the handbook is not followed properly, the community will potentially not be prepared to help.

The Handbook may be compared to an installer in it's own right. When the Handbook specifically recommends against something, or explicitly prescribes an action, expect breakage if this is ignored. Asking for help in this case will surely not be appreciated. Think of the Handbook as an actual installation program - voluntarily going against it would be like modifying that installer's code - general user support channels could not be expected to help out in such cases.

The Handbook is edited and maintained by the Handbook Project, in close cooperation with the release engineering team, architecture teams and maintainers.

Overview of how Gentoo is installed

A Gentoo installation starts by booting a complete, working Linux environment, with shell access. This may be accomplished with the Minimal Installation CD or LiveGUI image, though other Linux Live CDs are a possibility, or even using a preexisting Linux installation.

From this environment, installation files will be downloaded (Internet access is mandatory when following the standard procedure), copied to a persistent drive, and with this new directory hierarchy, all the tools needed for a complete system will be installed and configured before rebooting to the newly installed Gentoo base.

Tips for installing Gentoo

  • Read through the handbook before starting to get an idea of what should be done, and what choices will need to be made
  • Consider using the binary distribution kernel to get up and running more easily - this may be changed later on
  • Ask for help on IRC if any issues are encountered (see also the support article)

See also

  • Bootable media — images available for download
  • Category:Installation — Articles pertaining to the installation of Gentoo Linux.
  • Installation alternatives — offers alternative installation techniques for systems or situations with special requirements, such as being unable to boot from a live environment due to lack of optical media hardware or USB port interfaces.
  • Install Gentoo on a bootable USB stick — describes how to install Gentoo onto a USB stick that can be booted on any computer.
  • LiveUSB — explains how to create a Gentoo LiveUSB or, in other words, how to emulate a x86 or amd64 Gentoo LiveCD using a USB drive.
  • Quick Installation Checklist — for experienced users who desire a quick, less detailed installation guide. It doubles as a checklist so essential installation steps are not forgotten.
  • Stage tarball — an archive of the basic files and packages used for the installation of Gentoo Linux.
  • Upgrading Gentoo — explains how to upgrade (update) Gentoo, as well as how to proceed for a well maintained system.

Unofficial instructions

Various community-driven installation instructions have emerged. A small set of these is listed below.

Be very wary if these are still being maintained, always look for official docs where possible.
  • Complete Handbook, a community-driven effort to create a fully documented approach on Gentoo Linux
  • Sakaki's EFI Install Guide, a detailed tutorial showing how to install a dual secure-boot Gentoo system on a Windows 10 (or 8) UEFI PC, including full instructions for LUKS, LVM, systemd and GNOME 3. Now extended to also cover the "GNOME 3 with OpenRC" use case.

Some instructions are made specifically for one hardware type (for instance a particular laptop):