boot(7) — Linux manual page


BOOT(7)                   Linux Programmer's Manual                  BOOT(7)

NAME         top

       boot - System bootup process based on UNIX System V Release 4

DESCRIPTION         top

       The bootup process (or "boot sequence") varies in details among
       systems, but can be roughly divided into phases controlled by the
       following components:

       1.  hardware

       2.  operating system (OS) loader

       3.  kernel

       4.  root user-space process (init and inittab)

       5.  boot scripts

       Each of these is described below in more detail.

       After power-on or hard reset, control is given to a program stored in
       read-only memory (normally PROM); for historical reasons involving
       the personal computer, this program is often called "the BIOS".

       This program normally performs a basic self-test of the machine and
       accesses nonvolatile memory to read further parameters.  This memory
       in the PC is battery-backed CMOS memory, so most people refer to it
       as "the CMOS"; outside of the PC world, it is usually called "the
       NVRAM" (nonvolatile RAM).

       The parameters stored in the NVRAM vary among systems, but as a
       minimum, they should specify which device can supply an OS loader, or
       at least which devices may be probed for one; such a device is known
       as "the boot device".  The hardware boot stage loads the OS loader
       from a fixed position on the boot device, and then transfers control
       to it.

       Note:  The device from which the OS loader is read may be attached
              via a network, in which case the details of booting are
              further specified by protocols such as DHCP, TFTP, PXE,
              Etherboot, etc.

   OS loader
       The main job of the OS loader is to locate the kernel on some device,
       load it, and run it.  Most OS loaders allow interactive use, in order
       to enable specification of an alternative kernel (maybe a backup in
       case the one last compiled isn't functioning) and to pass optional
       parameters to the kernel.

       In a traditional PC, the OS loader is located in the initial 512-byte
       block of the boot device; this block is known as "the MBR" (Master
       Boot Record).

       In most systems, the OS loader is very limited due to various
       constraints.  Even on non-PC systems, there are some limitations on
       the size and complexity of this loader, but the size limitation of
       the PC MBR (512 bytes, including the partition table) makes it almost
       impossible to squeeze much functionality into it.

       Therefore, most systems split the role of loading the OS between a
       primary OS loader and a secondary OS loader; this secondary OS loader
       may be located within a larger portion of persistent storage, such as
       a disk partition.

       In Linux, the OS loader is often either lilo(8) or grub(8).

       When the kernel is loaded, it initializes various components of the
       computer and operating system; each portion of software responsible
       for such a task is usually consider "a driver" for the applicable
       component.  The kernel starts the virtual memory swapper (it is a
       kernel process, called "kswapd" in a modern Linux kernel), and mounts
       some filesystem at the root path, /.

       Some of the parameters that may be passed to the kernel relate to
       these activities (for example, the default root filesystem can be
       overridden); for further information on Linux kernel parameters, read

       Only then does the kernel create the initial userland process, which
       is given the number 1 as its PID (process ID).  Traditionally, this
       process executes the program /sbin/init, to which are passed the
       parameters that haven't already been handled by the kernel.

   Root user-space process
       Note:  The following description applies to an OS based on UNIX
              System V Release 4.  However, a number of widely used systems
              have adopted a related but fundamentally different approach
              known as systemd(1), for which the bootup process is detailed
              in its associated bootup(7).

       When /sbin/init starts, it reads /etc/inittab for further
       instructions.  This file defines what should be run when the
       /sbin/init program is instructed to enter a particular run-level,
       giving the administrator an easy way to establish an environment for
       some usage; each run-level is associated with a set of services (for
       example, run-level S is single-user mode, and run-level 2 entails
       running most network services).

       The administrator may change the current run-level via init(1), and
       query the current run-level via runlevel(8).

       However, since it is not convenient to manage individual services by
       editing this file, /etc/inittab only bootstraps a set of scripts that
       actually start/stop the individual services.

   Boot scripts
       Note:  The following description applies to an OS based on UNIX
              System V Release 4.  However, a number of widely used systems
              (Slackware Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD) have a somewhat different
              scheme for boot scripts.

       For each managed service (mail, nfs server, cron, etc.), there is a
       single startup script located in a specific directory (/etc/init.d in
       most versions of Linux).  Each of these scripts accepts as a single
       argument the word "start" (causing it to start the service) or the
       word "stop" (causing it to stop the service).  The script may
       optionally accept other "convenience" parameters (e.g., "restart" to
       stop and then start, "status" to display the service status, etc.).
       Running the script without parameters displays the possible

   Sequencing directories
       To make specific scripts start/stop at specific run-levels and in a
       specific order, there are sequencing directories, normally of the
       form  /etc/rc[0-6S].d.  In each of these directories, there are links
       (usually symbolic) to the scripts in the /etc/init.d directory.

       A primary script (usually /etc/rc) is called from inittab(5); this
       primary script calls each service's script via a link in the relevant
       sequencing directory.  Each link whose name begins with 'S' is called
       with the argument "start" (thereby starting the service).  Each link
       whose name begins with 'K' is called with the argument "stop"
       (thereby stopping the service).

       To define the starting or stopping order within the same run-level,
       the name of a link contains an order-number.  Also, for clarity, the
       name of a link usually ends with the name of the service to which it
       refers.  For example, the link /etc/rc2.d/S80sendmail starts the
       sendmail service on runlevel 2.  This happens after
       /etc/rc2.d/S12syslog is run but before /etc/rc2.d/S90xfs is run.

       To manage these links is to manage the boot order and run-levels;
       under many systems, there are tools to help with this task (e.g.,

   Boot configuration
       A program that provides a service is often called a "daemon".
       Usually, a daemon may receive various command-line options and
       parameters.  To allow a system administrator to change these inputs
       without editing an entire boot script, some separate configuration
       file is used, and is located in a specific directory where an
       associated boot script may find it (/etc/sysconfig on older Red Hat

       In older UNIX systems, such a file contained the actual command line
       options for a daemon, but in modern Linux systems (and also in HP-
       UX), it just contains shell variables.  A boot script in /etc/init.d
       reads and includes its configuration file (that is, it "sources" its
       configuration file) and then uses the variable values.

FILES         top

       /etc/init.d/, /etc/rc[S0-6].d/, /etc/sysconfig/

SEE ALSO         top

       init(1), systemd(1), inittab(5), bootparam(7), bootup(7),
       runlevel(8), shutdown(8)

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of release 5.08 of the Linux man-pages project.  A
       description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the
       latest version of this page, can be found at

Linux                            2015-03-11                          BOOT(7)

Pages that refer to this page: bootup(7)