First of all, welcome to Gentoo! You are about to enter the world of choices and performance. Gentoo is all about choices. When installing Gentoo, this is made clear several times - users can choose how much they want to compile themselves, how to install Gentoo, what system logger to use, etc.
Gentoo is a fast, modern meta-distribution with a clean and flexible design. It is built on an ecosystem of free software and does not hide what is beneath the hood from its users. Portage, the package maintenance system which Gentoo uses, is written in Python, meaning the user can easily view and modify the source code. Gentoo's packaging system uses source code (although support for pre-compiled packages is included too) and configuring Gentoo happens through regular text files. In other words, openness everywhere.
It is very important that everyone understands that choices are what makes Gentoo run. We try not to force users into anything they do not like. If anyone believes otherwise, please file a bug report.
How the installation is structured
The Gentoo Installation can be seen as a 9-step procedure, corresponding to the next set of chapters. Each step results in a certain state:
|1||The user is in a working environment ready to install Gentoo.|
|2||The hard disks are initialized to host the Gentoo installation.|
|3||The installation environment is prepared and the user is ready to chroot into the new environment.|
|4||Core packages, which are the same on all Gentoo installations, are installed.|
|5||The Linux kernel is installed.|
|6||Most of the Gentoo system configuration files are created.|
|7||The necessary system tools are installed.|
|8||The proper boot loader has been installed and configured.|
|9||The freshly installed Gentoo Linux environment is ready to be explored.|
Whenever a certain choice is presented the handbook will try to explain the pros and cons of each choice. Although the text then continues with a default choice (identified by "Default: " in the title), the other possibilities will be documented as well (marked by "Alternative: " in the title). Do not think that the default is what Gentoo recommends. It is, however, the choice that Gentoo believes most users will make.
Sometimes an optional step can be followed. Such steps are marked as "Optional: " and are therefore not needed to install Gentoo. However, some optional steps are dependent on a previously made decision. The instructions will inform the reader when this happens, both when the decision is made, and right before the optional step is described.
Installation options for Gentoo
Gentoo can be installed in many different ways. It can be downloaded and installed from official Gentoo installation media such as our bootable ISO images. The installation media can be installed on a USB stick or accessed via a netbooted environment. Alternatively, Gentoo can be installed from non-official media such as an already installed distribution or a non-Gentoo bootable disk (such as Knoppix).
Sometimes however none of the aforementioned methods works, for example on systems that only support one storage medium at a time or for which no installation media whatsoever is available. Such situations are probably most often encountered in the sphere of embedded devices or bleeding edge architectures.
To that end, this document covers installing Gentoo directly to a storage device of choice (like a SD-Card, an eMMC, a USB stick, an external hard drive, etc.) from a working Linux command-line environment. This method also provides a shortcut in every case where no official Gentoo installation media is available.
Prerequisites are a working Linux command-line environment with network access and write access to the storage device of choice. Furthermore root privileges within that environment and knowledge of the name of the target system's architecture are required. The command-line environment does not need to run on a system of the same architecture as the target system, implying it does not need to run on the target system itself. But of course the target system must support the storage device and be able to boot from it.
For help on the standard installation approaches please read our Handbooks. For help on the other installation approaches, including using non-Gentoo bootable media, please read our Alternative installation guide.
We also provide a Gentoo installation tips and tricks document that might be useful.
If a problem is found in the installation (or in the installation documentation), please visit our bug tracking system and check if the bug is known. If not, please create a bug report for it so we can take care of it. Do not be afraid of the developers who are assigned to the bugs - they (generally) don't eat people.
Although this document is architecture-specific, it may contain references to other architectures as well, because large parts of the Gentoo Handbook use text that is identical for all architectures (to avoid duplication of effort). Such references have been kept to a minimum, to avoid confusion.
If there is some uncertainty whether or not the problem is a user-problem (some error made despite having read the documentation carefully) or a software-problem (some error we made despite having tested the installation/documentation carefully) everybody is welcome to join the #gentoo channel on irc.freenode.net. Of course, everyone is welcome otherwise too as our chat channel covers the broad Gentoo spectrum.