[Solaris x86 FAQ] 4. Pre-installation (Solaris x86 FAQ)


(4.1) What information should I have before an install?

The size of your disk determines what cluster you are going to install on your system. I.e., an End User cluster, a Developers Cluster or the Complete Cluster. See references to how to size your OS when installing.

The Ethernet hardware address from your Ethernet card would be helpful if you're on a NIS net and your going to do net installs. You would like to have the Ethernet address in the /etc/ethers map file before you do an install. Usually the manufacturer of an Ethernet card will have some software that you can run under DOS to display this number or sometimes you can find the Ethernet number on a sticker right on the Ethernet card. If this is on a standalone network you probably don't need to know the Ethernet hardware address. Don't confuse this with the software IP address.

Bandwidth of your monitor and video card are important. During the install the install process is going to ask you for the size of your monitor and what vertical resolution you want to drive the monitor at. Note that in the update disk documentation they give a handy dandy monitor resolution bandwidth for monitors in the appendix. You may want to check this out. See other references on video cards and monitors throughout the FAQ.

The install process will ask you about your mouse type.

[From Bob Palowoda's Solaris 2.4 x86 FAQ]

(4.2) What hardware is supported by Solaris for Intel?

Solaris x86 is the version that runs on Intel-based PCs and servers. Requirements vary to release, but generally a Pentium-class processor or better from Intel or AMD, a PCI bus, 256 MB of memory, and 20 GB Disk. Solaris base and Java Desktop System takes about 5GB. Add Java Enterprise System (not needed except for servers), for a full install takes about 11GB. Add in swap and free space, so you should have, say, a 10 or 20 GB disk or larger. Many multi-processor boards and multi-processor cores are supported. You must have a CD-ROM drive or access to NFS or a boot server over the network to install. A DVD drive is better, as it's fewer disks to swap.

The Solaris x86 Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) lists the tested hardware. However, not all hardware combinations will work. Also, hardware not listed may work, but are not guaranteed or supported. The HCL is at: After installing Solaris, please submit your own configuration at the "Submit System" form to let others know that your hardware is compatible.

For troublesome devices and cards, I find System Administration Guide: Devices and File Systems at useful.

A downloadable Java JNLP application is available to detect what hardware support is available for your computer. This app is runs on Linux or Windows and is a great preview of support. I don't need to check my Athlon 64 desktop, as it has Solaris. My IBM Thinkpad has everything but WiFi support (it's coming) and the internal modem.

[Updated from Casper Dik's Solaris 2 FAQ]

(4.3) What size disks and partitions should I have?

Solaris base and Java Desktop System takes about 5GB. Add Java Enterprise System (not needed except for servers), for a full install takes about 11GB. Add in swap and free space, so you should have, say, a 10 or 20 GB disk or larger. This can be pared down, but with today's large disks, I usually install all of Solaris.

Solaris uses a tmpfs where both the swap area and /tmp share a common disk space. Configure about 512MB - 1GB of swap space on a single user system. Many programs use the tmpfs for speeding up applications. My swap file is usually 1.5 times my physical memory.

Solaris installation usually suggests several filesystems. However, for workstations, I recommend a simple layout with just two slices in the Solaris partition: root (/) and swap (/tmp). and everything else goes in the root (/) filesystem. If you're expecting a lot of overflow from /var (usually on servers), consider creating a separate /var filesystem (say 200 MB or more, depending on your needs).

During installation, you will be asked to select the boot disk to use. Next, you will be asked if you want to "Preserve Data?" Answer "yes" if you have unused disk space and want to keep your existing operating system (e.g., Linux or Windows). Answer "no" if you want remove all existing partitions on the disk and use the all or part of the disk for Solaris.

If you are installing Solaris 9 or earlier on a disk with Linux, be especially careful not to use the Linux swap partition for Solaris if installing Solaris or vice versa installing Linux. They both use the same partition ID, 0x82. For Solaris 10 this is no longer true--Solaris 10 uses ID 0xBF, which does not conflict with Linux Swap partitions (0x82). For more information, see the question later in this FAQ, Can I install Linux and Solaris on the same drive?

(4.4) What are SCSI IDs expected by Solaris x86?

These are the typical values for SCSI devices. For tape and CD-ROM, these are the defaults used in the /etc/vold.conf file for controlling the vold mounter. You can set them to other ID's but remember to adjust the vold.conf file to the new values.

Boot drive      	ID 0
Second drive    	ID 1
Third drive    		ID 2
Reserved by Solaris	ID 3
Tape            	ID 4
CDROM           	ID 6
SCSI controller 	ID 7

[From Bob Palowoda's Solaris 2.4 x86 FAQ]

(4.5) What video card/monitor combination works best?

Some questions will arise when trying to configure your video card and monitor size. The most critical area is when you do the install and answer the questions about the vertical HZ, screen size 14, 15, 17, 21-inch, etc. If you get it wrong you get the squiggles.

First, find your video card manual. Ha! I can hear the laughs from across the world. What manual? If this is the case just select the slowest vertical HZ. You can always change it later after the system is up with kdmconfig.

Resolution: be safe and just use 1024x768 or smaller the first time through the install. Latter, boost it up to 16 million colors and specify a bigger monitor size.

Screen size should be easy. Measure diagonally: [\] about that big.

If you don't know the video card type just select the standard vga8 to do the install. Hopefully when your system boots it displays what video card you have in it.

A good video card combination such as the ATI and Sony 17sei can allow you to drive it at 76Hz vertical 1280x1024 on a 17-inch screen.

Hint: Look in the update readme files and at the end in one of the appendices you'll find a chart of monitors and their scan rates. It's usually good to refer to before you buy the monitor and video card combination. You could have a very nice high bandwidth monitor and a lousy video card that can't drive it hard enough. Or visa versa, a good video card that can drive a high bandwidth but the monitor just can't handle it.

Another Hint: Even though there's no 14-inch monitor on the configuration menu you can select the 15-inch setting. If the 14-inch monitor has a good bandwidth it will sync up.

[Modified from Bob Palowoda's Solaris 2.4 x86 FAQ]

(4.6) Is Plug-and-Play (PNP) supported by Solaris/x86?

Yes, with Solaris 2.6 and latter. Sun FAQ 2234-02 at http://access1.Sun.COM/cgi-bin/rinfo2html?223402.faq has instructions for configuring Solaris to recognize specific PNP devices. See the System Administration Guide: Devices and File Systems at for details on each device (and see the Driver Update Guide when using updates).

Personally, I find it a lot easier to disable PNP on cards that have that option. Boot into DOS or Windows (with a diskette if you have to) and run your card manufacturer's utility or configuration or diagnostic program. I also disable the BIOS setting "OS supports PNP". PNP can be tricky with Solaris sometimes.

To display your current system configuration run "prtconf -pv"

The following is from Sun FAQ 2234-02, which has instructions for configuring Solaris to recognize specific PNP devices:

You have a device that is "Plug and Play" (PnP), but Solaris doesn't recognize it. Yet it seems that it is generic enough, like a modem, that it should be recognized or it is listed by name in the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL).

Devices are recognized by matching their device id with entries in the boot system's "master" file. This file is on both the boot diskette and on the root in /platform/i86pc/boot/solaris/devicedb of an existing Solaris 2.6 system.

First, be sure you are using the latest Driver Update (DU) for your version of Solaris. Your device may already have been added to that since the 2.6 CD was released. This can save you a lot of trouble. Be sure to read the documentation that comes with that DU to see if it describes your specific device.

To have the system recognize a device as an asy compatible device, of which a modem is a good example, the user needs to find out the ID of the particular device. This can be accomplished by looking at the output of a "prtconf -pv" on an existing Solaris 2! .6 system with the device installed. The node that is the one for the Plug and Play card will have a name property of the form "pnpXXX,DDDD", where the XXX is three letters and "DDDD" is four digits.

If one constructs a PnP ID by concatenating XXXDDDD, this will be the ID for the Plug and Play card. To have the system recognize this card as an asy device, the line in the above mentioned master file that contains the driver name "asy" as its second field should be edited to have the constructed ID as one of the IDs listed in the first field. As in the example below:

USR0006|USR0002|SUP1381 asy com pnpisa none "Serial port w/ built in modem"


XXXDDDD|USR0006|USR0002|SUP1381 asy com pnpisa none "Serial port w/built in modem"

NOTE: One should be very careful editing this file since if it is trashed, the system may no longer be able to boot. When changing the floppy, be sure to change a duplicate of the floppy—not the original! When changing the file on you Solaris boot drive, be sure to save the original as master.OLD or some such name.

After making this change to the master file on an existing system, the user should do a "touch /reconfigure; /usr/sbin/shutdown -i6" to reboot/reconfigure the system. If you are changing a copy of the floppy just boot from the changed floppy. The device will be recognized as the desired type and should automatically have the proper driver attached.

This procedure may work for other drivers that are compatible with various devices, but whose Plug and Play ids are not in the master file. For example, the sbpro driver can drive many PnP sound cards that look like a Soundblaster PnP 16.

Only add IDs to existing lines. Do not create new lines by yourself. If you truly have a new device then please submit a "Driver Request Form" to have it supported. If you look where you download the latest Driver Update you should find a link to it there.

(4.7) Is Advanced Power Management (APM) supported by Solaris/x86?

APM isn't really supported on x86. Solaris is "APM tolerant" which means that if APM can do everything transparently to Solaris, it will work. If it isn't transparent, Solaris gets confused.

So, SPARC has power management in the OS but x86 does not.

[Thanks to Doug McCallum]

(4.8) Are "floppy tape" devices supported by Solaris x86?

No. You have to use a SCSI tape backup device. Other options include purchasing a zip drive, which is supported (except on the parallel port), or backing-up your files to a MS-DOS/MS Windows partition and back it up from MS DOS/MS Windows or some other operating system.

(4.9) How can I get a "free" copy of Solaris?

A "free" copy of Solaris x86 (where "free" means the download and license is free. You pay media, shipping, and handling cost if you don't want to download.) is available from There are CPU and commercial use restrictions on this free license. The Solaris media kit (DVD and CDROMs) costs US $50 or free to download.

The download version includes everything but the Open Source "Software Companion" CD, and the Star Office CD (the latter is available for download separately or you can use Open Office).

If you download and have problems, make sure you download in "binary" mode (check that the file size matches exactly). Some CD burning software (especially for Windoze) requires the downloaded files be renamed to have a ".iso" extension. Please verify the CD or DVD you burned, if the software has that option. I recommend using "Easy CD Creator" software if you are using Windows machines (see ). Some people like Nero Burning ROM software, but I have no experience with it. In any case, make sure you burn as a "Disk Image" or "Existing Project", otherwise, the *.iso file will be burned as just a file on the CD/DVD, instead of burning the exact image of the *.iso file.

Keep in mind that the CD uses Solaris (long) filenames, not DOS 8.3 filenames. So if you do a DIR on the cd, don't be alarmed if you don't see everything. Also MS Windows does not recognize the industry-standard "Rock Ridge" format for long filenames (in characteristic fashion, MS Windows uses their proprietary "Joliet" format).

For Solaris and other flavors of UNIX, several CD burning utilities are available, such as cdrecord (CLI) at, BurnIt (Java GUI front end to cdrecord) at, or X-CD-Roast (Linux GUI) at

Educational users .EDU-affiliated individuals can obtain Solaris and a number of other software packages via the EduSoft program for free. See "Individuals" at

[Thanks to Sun Microsystems, Alan Coopersmith, John Groenveld, and Toby McLaughlin]

(4.10) What's missing from the "free" copy of Solaris that's in the commercial version?

The following CD is supplied with the commercial version but not with the free version: Software Supplement for Solaris 7. The latter contains SunVTS, ODBC Driver Manager, Solaris on Sun Hardware AnswerBook, PC file viewer, ShowMe, and SunFDDI. OpenGL is provided with Solaris only for the commercial Sparc version (Xi Graphics "Summit" software supports OpenGL 1.2.1 for Solaris x86; XFree86 has OpenGL but doesn't support it for Solaris).

[Thanks to Mike Mann and Alan Coopersmith]

(4.11) How do you create a Device Configuration Assistant (DCA) Diskette in DOS/Windows?

The DCA diskette is used for booting, in lieu of booting from CDROM or hard disk. The DCA diskette comes with the Solaris media, but you need to "roll your own" if you downloaded Solaris or if your DCA diskette becomes corrupted. To create the diskette, follow these steps:

  1. Download DOS program dd.exe, which is used to write the DCA image, from or (Example: dd S8_1001.3 a:) You can also use the DOS rawrite.exe utility provided with Linux distributions (usually under the boot diskette directory).
  2. Download the DCA diskette image for the Solaris x86 version that you want to install (for example, S8_0101.3) from A DCA boot floppy image is also on the "Software 2 of 2" CD, in the Solaris_9/Tools subdirectory.
  3. Run dd.exe to copy the image to the floppy diskette: dd.exe <filename> a:

You have now created a (bootable) Solaris DCA diskette.

[Thanks to Sean G.W. Graham]

(4.12) How can I get Solaris to see the third ATAPI controller?

Solaris 7 can be configured to support any ATAPI compliant controller which doesn't conflict with any existing device. The key factor is that its interfaces must be complaint with the ATAPI specs. In other words, you need two ranges of non-conflicting I/O ports, and an free IRQ, and hardware that's compliant with at least the ATA-2 and SFF-8020 specs. If it's a legacy-ISA ATA controller than you'll have to manually configure everything via the Device Configuration Assistant (DCA) menus because the DCA only automatically probes for ISA-IDE devices at the two standard address ranges. If you're adding a compliant PnP-ISA ATAPI controller or a compliant PCI-IDE controller then the DCA should automatically configure everything for you because all PnP-ISA-IDE and PCI-IDE devices are self-identifying devices.

The problem you're likely to encounter is there aren't many compliant add-in ATAPI controllers available. Most of them want to do revolting things like share ISA IRQs 14 or 15, or advertise the wrong range of I/O ports or don't specify the right PCI-IDE class bytes. In particular most SoundBlaster-IDE cards have a broken Alternate-Status register. The Solaris 7 ata driver assumes that the Alternate-Status register works as specified in the ATA-2 spec. Unlike the other non-compliant hardware problems, there's a trivial workaround for the SB-IDE hardware bug (i.e., don't use the Alt-Status register) but I've no idea whether anyone at Sun has spent the 15 minutes it would take to apply the fix to Solaris 8.

If you've got an add-in ATAPI controller card that doesn't come with specs that clearly spell out that it won't conflict with your existing controllers, or if it requires you to disable any built-in controllers, then that's almost certainly one of those bogus controllers that isn't fully compliant with the ATAPI specs. I haven't yet found a legacy-ISA ATAPI card that works correctly (they all want seem to want to share IRQ 14 or 15), but people persist in telling me they exist. If you do find a compliant one then the Solaris 7 ata driver will work with it just fine.

[Save yourself some trouble and use a SCSI controller and disks. - ed.]

[Thanks to Bruce Adler]

(4.13) Are Ultra DMA (UDMA) drives supported?

Solaris 7 or later recognizes UDMA drives in native mode. They are not supported in Solaris 2.6 or older, although they are recognized in its compatibility mode as regular ATAPI drives.

During installation, you may want to disable UDMA mode if your install hangs during recognition of hard drives (which occurs shortly after the Solaris copyright line is displayed).

For Solaris 8, DMA is disabled for ATAPI devices, as it caused installs to fail for several BIOSes. For Solaris 10, it is enabled, at least for me. It can be enabled with the "ata-dma-enabled" property from the GRUB menu (-B ata-dma-enabled=1) See the question on "How can I improve disk and graphic performance?" for details.

[Thanks to Christopher Arnold and Steve]

(4.14) Are Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices supported?

Solaris 8 supports USB, including Plug and Play. However, not all devices attached to USB are supported. The HCL lists supported devices (see the answer about the HCL, above).

Also, there are three different types of USB host controllers, and Solaris x86 (8 or 9) supports only one:

Run the command "prtconf -pv | grep 000c03". If there's no output from that command, your machine dosn't have USB :-(. If there's a "class-code: 000c0300" line, you have UHCI USB and it should be possible to use USB devices under Solaris x86. If there's a "class-code: 000c0310" line you have an OHCI USB controller, which is not supported with Solaris x86. And "class-code: 000c0320" is an EHCI (USB 2.0) controller.

So, if your USB controller is UHCI, your USB keyboard/mouse should be detected and should be usable as USB devices under Solaris x/9 x86. If your system has an OHCI USB controller, you cannot use USB under Solaris x86. Your only option is to enable "USB legacy support" for the keyboard and mouse in the system's BIOS, and the BIOS will emulate a PS/2 keyboard and PS/2 mouse from the USB peripherals. In this case, in kdmconfig, you have to tell the system to use the (emulated) PS/2 mouse; the USB mouse pointer entry won't work!

USB memory drives will appear as /dev/rdsk/c1t?d? If formatted as DOS, mount as type pcfs. For example, mount -F pcfs /dev/dsk/clt0d0 /mnt

Drivers for some USB devices are available from Philip Brown at For information on Solaris USB support, see Sun's USB FAQ and whitepaper at The FAQ has up-to-date information on USB 2 devices.

(4.15) Is the scroll wheel on the mouse supported?

Yes, with Solaris 9 or 10. It is autodetected and enabled by default.

If you use Xorg instead of Xsun graphics drivers, make sure you enable it when running xorgconfig. Or you can edit the Mouse section in file /etc/X11/xorg.conf Change "PS/2" to "IMPS/2" and add to it:
Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"

XSun, XFree86/Xorg, and Xi Graphics X Windows graphics card server software all support wheel mice. For earlier releases, use for PS/2 and for USB mice.

[Thanks to Jürgen Keil, Alan Orndorff, and Alan Coopersmith]

(4.16) What's difference between Solaris x86 Server and Solaris x86 Desktop?

There is absolutely no difference, other than what you are licensed to do with it. You get exactly the same software with the two products. (This is not the case with Sparc server, where the server product contains more CDs with some additional software. If you want something like Solstice AdminSuite, you have to order it separately.

The Solaris desktop license restricts you from using the system as "any type of server" (other than print or NIS). or supporting more than two continuous users. Read your license for details. A Server Upgrade License is available.

[Thanks to Andrew Gabriel]

[Thanks to EB]

(4.18) Is Solaris x86 64-bit aware?

Yes. Solaris 10 is 64-bit processor aware. You can run 32- or 64-bit binaries on a 64-bit kernel (but drivers must be 64-bit). Supported CPUs are AMDs Opteron and Athlon 64. Use the isainfo command to display the current kernel's 32-/64-bit capabilities. To compile 64-bit binaries with GNU gcc, use "gcc -m64" (or add "-m64" to CFLAGS and CXXFLAGS). To compile with Oracle Solaris Studio (Sun Studio) use "-m64" For older versions of Oracle Solaris Studio, use "-xtarget=generic64"

Solaris will also support the new 128-bit ZFS filesystem, which supports 16 million million times the storage of a 64-bit filesystem. Solaris 10 x86 supports EFI labels as well as the new UFS format that allows filesystems over 1 terrabyte. 128-bit ZFS files are still limited to 64-bit access until 128-bit processors and Solaris support are available.

However, if Solaris is installed on a 32-bit processor, these filesystem features are not available, due to the underlying Intel chip architecture. However, Solaris x86 on 32-bit processors still support large files up to 1 Terrabyte for 32-bit processors. In practice, the limit is 860 Gigabytes. For example:

$ ls -l /work/BackUp
total 13239792
-rw-r--r--   1 root     other    6775454208 Dec 11 00:47 csdb_nfs1.tar

[Thanks to Niklas Zackrisson, Alexander Zinkov, and Merle Ilgenfritz]

(4.19) What's the difference between partitions and slices?

In the UNIX world, partitions and slices are often used interchangeably. In the x86 world, partitions usually refer to fdisk partitions. To avoid confusion, it's preferable to refer to "partitions" as "fdisk partitions." (e.g., you can only have four primary fdisk partitions in a x86 fdisk table.) In the Solaris x86 world, the term "slice" should be used to refer to slices which are within the Solaris fdisk partition (e.g., "root" (/) and "swap" slices.)

[Thanks to John Groenveld]

(4.20) I already used the 4 primary fdisk partition table entries. Can I create a partition for Solaris within my extended partition?

You can't because Solaris requires a *primary* partition table entry in the fdisk table and doesn't support placing the Solaris Partition within a DOS Extended Partition.

[Thanks to Bruce Adler]

(4.21) What are the IRQ assignments?

IRQs, Interrupt Request Registers, numbered 0 to 15, handle interrupts from various internal and external hardware devices. Multiple ISA devices can't share a IRQ, but multiple PCI devices can share.

Here's a chart:

*IRQs 0, 1, 2, 8, and 13 are not on the bus connectors and are not available to I/O adapter cards.

[Thanks to Jorgen Moquist and other sources]

(4.22) Are Laptops supported for Solaris x86?

No, not anymore. There's just too many and they tend to have strange hardware. That being said, many happen to work. Also, old drivers or desktop drivers sometimes function for laptop hardware. For a list of known laptops compatible with Solaris x86, see Philip Brown's "Solaris x86 Laptop List" at

Experimental wireless networking support is available with drivers from

If you want more than VGA resolution, you can try installing XFree86. See section 8 of the faq on X Windows for more information.

Evan Rudderow points out that the simplest way to run Solaris x86 on laptops is to run it under VMWare.

If it's only Solaris you need on a laptop, and you don't mind coughing up $$$$, you can get SPARC laptops from and

(4.23) Is Serial ATA (SATA) supported for Solaris x86?

Yes. The following chipsets are supported: ICH (ICH5, ICH5R, ICH6, ICH6R), SiliconImage (Sil 3112, 3114, 3512), and nVIDIA (nForce4). Personally, I have a MCS Athlon 64 motherboard with a nForce4 chipset and it works fine. RAID support, if any, is handled by a Solaris driver (such as Solaris Volume Manager).



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