This is a How-To of detailed instructions for MS Windows users who want to install Mandrake Linux(ML). It is most particularly aimed at those few who cannot use the typical CD install method but anybody can use it. Once you try this, you will probably decide to never burn another CD for the same task. It's a breeze to do and you save time and money. By the way, the install is faster too.
I hope that it is good enough for even the newest of the Linux users but it must assume that you have at least some computer skills. If you do not know how to create partitions and use MS Windows based GUI software, you are going to have trouble.
If you have trouble I will try to help as time permits... no charge. However, if you are employed and/or self-sufficient with available cash, please support MandrakeSoft S.A. FREE software is not made free very easily. You can support them by donation or by joining the Mandrake Club.

Let's summarize this for easy recall, the whizKiDz and the impatient.

( UPDATE 040316: New versions of ML(e.g., 10.*) have renamed the hd.img file as "hd_grub.img". The instructions that follow should work the same way as they are described. Just use the " hd_grub.img " file instead of "hd.img" if it is available to create a boot floppy.
Also, MandrakeSoft reports that you can create a CD using the " boot.iso " file, use that CD to boot your system and then perform hard drive install method as well as the others. If you cannot get a floppy boot to work, that might help. The "boot.iso" method is not considered or discussed here.
And, finally, ML now comes in many flavors. If you are so fortunate as to have obtained a version that contains more than three "RPMS" folders, then just extend the instructions to include those. As there are now as many as at least SEVEN(7) sets of RPMs(~4GB), the time to collate all of them may become prohibitive... your choice. )

Here are the basic 7 steps to freedom from burning CDs to install ML:
I.    Create a partition that is ~3GB in size and format it as FAT32.
II.  If you do not have these programs, you will need them. Get some ISO image manipulation software, John Newbigin's "rawwritewin" program from his site and software to check the ISO's MD5 sums.
III.   Get the MDK ISO images. Place the cd1...ISO into the partition(step I.); the other two(cd2...ISO and cd3...ISO) can go wherever. (Don't forget to verify the MD5sums.)
IV.   Using the ISO image manipulation software, copy the hd.img file from the "images" directory to a location where you can access it with the rawwritewin program.
V.    Get a good 1.44MB floppy and use the rawwritewin program to create a boot/install disk with it by utilizing the hd.img file.
VI.   Using the ISO image manipulation software,copy the "Mandrake" directory from the cd1...ISO into your new partition and then cut&paste the "rpms2" directory from the cd2...ISO and the "rpms3" directory from the cd3...ISO into the "Mandrake" directory.
VII.  Lucky number seven, :), reboot with the floppy in the floppy drive and just do what is asked by the installer.

When all is done you can delete the cd2...ISO and cd3...ISO since you should never need them again. After the system is up and running and you have a firewall in place, startup MCC and point the Installer Program to the partition with rpms, rpms2 and rpms3 directories. Then, go online and get all the security updates. Next, do updates, installs, uninstalls as you desire... and Have Fun!

If those simple 7 steps to freedom are a bit intimidating, here are the expanded explanations. There are many options to these instructions but I am including only what I tested and know worked here. If it does not work for you, one of us screwed-up. :) Contact me and, if possible, we'll figure what went wrong with getting the installer going.


First, forget the exercise in CD burning. It is not necessary; in fact, it is a waste* of time and money.
Next, you will need some ISO image manipulation software such as WinImage or IsoBuster. Get it (shareware/freeware) or something else like it. I suggest to purchase the one you like best if you intend to continue to use MS windows as it is a valuable resource that has no substitute when you need it. Hereinafter it will be just called "ISO-SW".
Obviously, you are going to need the ISOs. If you do not have them, I suggest going to your local store-Mart and buying the Mandrake Linux Operating System software distribution package. If so, you can stop reading now. :-)

:) Okay, prepare to get the ISOs from your fav download site(pick one) by creating a new partition on the hard drive. That can be done with the MS-DOS fdisk or similar DOS program. You can also use "Disk Manager" or some other graphical interface to fdisk to create the new partition. The partition needs to be sized as 2 to 3GB (3GB is better if you have the space.) and formatted as a FAT32 partition. When deciding where to put it, consider it as a permanent addition to your system.

Go online to get the cd1...iso and download it into the newly created partition. Also get the cd2...iso and cd3...iso but place them into another location(s) on the hard drive. They require ~ 1.2GB of space. If you are short on space, you can do this a piece at a time by deleting the ISO after you finish the copying and pasting of each one.
Also, don't forget, check the MD5 sums files for each ISO. If you have a bad download all of this will be for naught.
FYI: The cd3...iso is not required but is highly recommended.
I consider cd2...iso to be mandatory. In fact, the ML install does not work as good without it. You can do the install with just the one cd1...iso but you will have to choose rpms(programs) very carefully and you will need to verify in advance that all programs you intend to install are available in the Mandrake rpms folders. The installer does not like it when you fib to it and will tell you so over and over and over again. :-)
Since we are assuming that you are pretty new to Linux, you have no idea what program(rpm) is where. You need to just make it easy on yourself. Hence, get all three ISOs.

You also need some software to create a boot floppy using MandrakeSoft's hd.img file. The best for that is rawwrite or rawwritewin. There are several ways to get the software. One is, while in MS Windows, use the ISO-SW to copy the rawwritewin program from the "dosutils" directory in the cd1...ISO. Another is to get it from an Internet site (mirror) because it is available in the Mandrake-i586 tree under the directory "dosutils". The last and best is to get it from John Newbigin's site so that you can use the latest version. The newer version from his site worked better for me in MS Win2k. It was version 0.6 but (at least) 0.7 is currently available. His Explore2fs program will be a nice addition to your Linux-Windows tools if you want to get it while you are at his site.

If you do not have software to verify the ISO integrity by checking the MD5 sums you will need to obtain it also. winMD5sum (from Solid Blue Software) works fine here for the task and it is (currently) freeware. They have other cool stuff. [ UPDATE: BitTorrent auto-checks the ISO's md5sum so if you use BitTorrent(e.g., Azureus) to download the ISOs, you will not need to check the md5sum separately. ]

You will also need the hd.img file that is in the "images" dir in the Mandrake-i586 tree. It's also inside the ISO image but you will need ISO-SW to get it out. Whether you get it from the Internet or from the ISO, remember where you copy&paste the hd.img file because you are going to be using it very shortly.
Next, you are going to merge parts of cd2...iso and cd3...iso into the Mandrake folder that is inside the cd1...iso.
Use the ISO-SW for this next part. You will need about 1.2GB of additional space for the rpms2(699MB) and rpms3(452MB) folders. So, make sure you have room on the partition where the cd1...iso resides.( You should if you did the steps above and made a 3GB partition.)
First, copy or cut the Mandrake folder from the cd1...iso and paste it into the partition. Also copy the "VERSION" file into the partition. If you have the time and room, you can just copy everything from the cd1...iso and paste it into the partition. It might be easier for you but does take much longer to do.
Next, copy the rpms2 folder from the cd2...iso and paste it into the "Mandrake" directory. Then copy the rpms3 folder from the cd3...iso and paste it into the "Mandrake" directory. That will take quite a while as you are copying ~1.2GB of files.
The "Mandrake" folder/dir will now have the rpms, rpms2 and rpms3 folders in it (among the other items). Additionally, you should have the VERSION file in the partition. That is all the copying. The total space needed is less than 2GB.
If you want to double-check everything, open up the partition and look at the files and folders in it. It should have the VERSION file and the Mandrake directory. The Mandrake directory will have all the original files and the rpms folder, as well as the rpms2 and rpms3 folders and the files(rpms) inside them.
FYI: The installer will only read one partition/path/ISO and that is why the rpms2 and rpms3 must be in the "Mandrake" folder if you intend to install any programs that would be found on either of those two ISOs. The way rpms are arranged, it is nearly impossible to avoid needing at least one or more rpms that are in the second and third ISOs.

Use the rawwritewin program for this next part. Insert a good 1.44MB floppy into the drive(make sure the floppy is writeable). Run(double-click) the rawwritewin program. The "Write" tab should be displayed when the GUI opens. If not, click on the "Write" tab at the top to bring it to the front. In the "Write" tab tell the program where the hd.img file is located by either typing the path and name into the small text editor widget or use the browse widget("...") to locate and select the hd.img file. Now, select "write" and it will make a bootable floppy for you.

While it does that, write down the path and name of the partition that contained the install cd1...iso(e.g., mandrake90-cd1-inst.i586.iso) that you downloaded and modified by merging the rpms2 and rpms3 folders into the Mandrake directory. If you put all the files into the top level of the partition and named the partition MDK90, for example, that will be the name you will need for the install. If you put the Mandrake folder into a subdirectory, then you will need the path to it.
You should also obtain the size of the partition (in MB) that it is on because it will be easier to choose it from a list that will be displayed by the installer program. The names of the partitions listed by the installer program will be unfamiliar if you are not accustomed to using Linux and the size may help you choose the correct partition the first time. It does not have to be an exact size - just get close enough that you can distinguish it from other partitions that you currently use. One way to get it is to open up "My Computer" and read the size from the "Detailed" view with the "Size" option checked to be displayed.

When rawwrite is done and if you are ready to install ML, make sure the floppy you just made is inserted into the drive, close programs, shutdown everything and reboot.

The system will boot from the floppy, load the vmlinuz kernel image and installer program. Then you will have that old familar start-up of the install -just like it is booting from a CD. Well, for us that use ML, it's the old, familiar start-up. Maybe it will be for you soon, too. :)
After some of the basic drivers are loaded, the ML installer will ask you where the ISO/directory resides. Select the correct partition and, if necessary, type in the path and the name and your off and running! If you are wrong it will kindly provide more info and opportunities to get it right. However, it does not allow you to 'browse'.

Everything else is like a normal install except it is faster and easier.

Just follow MandrakeSoft directions carefully. In my experience, the only hard part has been making sure that the video is correct(be sure to test it!) and figuring out what to name my system as a FQDN. MandrakeSoft's great install program takes care of most everything for you. :-)

Good luck to you and happy Mandraking!

It was originally prompted by my own desire to have a good, simple way to install MandrakeSoft's distribution, provide an organized method to update the software, add additional RPMS and allow a smooth transition to the next release that I decided to install. I also hate CD coasters. :)
The guide was finally determined in my mind as necessary when I read email after email from people complaining about the last MandrakeSoft release that was too big for their CD writers to successfully burn. Knowing that this could continue to be a problem and that there was no good reason, imo, for people to get so upset with MandrakeSoft, I decided to formalize the ideas into this How-To and make it freely* available.

This How-To is not describing something that is a brand new technique. However, as far as I know, there is no other detailed How-To that describes the method as thourghly as it needs to be done. I hope this one does.

After reading all of that, it should be clear that the point is that there is no reason to spend the time and money to burn a CD. Making a boot floppy is faster and cheaper; plus, if the system fails to boot(not likely), you have a boot floppy. In addition you have a location for access to installing new rpms without having to find that CD that is always somewhere near the bottom of the stack in the back - unless you look for it there first. :) It also makes an upgrade and maintenance quite a bit more organized if you arrange your downloads into the same partition. Ah! Now you know why I said 3GB was a better choice for size - planning for the future!

In fact, it worked so good here that I'll never burn another CD for a ML install! But I will buy some - you should too or, if you can, join the Mandrake Club.

Good Luck &
Happy Holidays!

*freely = licensed under the GNU Free Documentaion license. Please refer to for specifics.
*waste = not completely a waste because a CD made from the cd1...iso is a bootable CD that can allow you to "rescue" your Linux OS in case of disaster if other means are unavailable or nonfunctional for a rescue.
Note: A second version of this will follow soon to include instructions for the people who already have Linux installed. It is easier and does not require externally obtained software.

Fold On! The Folding@home project may be the very best use of a home PC's spare CPU cycles. Find out for yourself why at and then join Team MandrakeLinux # 12501 or Team Mandrakesoft # 1859227220.