[hal91 logo]

hal91 download page

by Jason Spiro

Note: I do not maintain hal91. I simply maintain this webpage. Unfortunately, I cannot provide support for hal91. Try the comp.os.linux.* newsgroups or the ##linux channel on irc.freenode.net. Or better yet, drop by a meeting of your local city's Linux User Group or your local university's computer club. You can find out information about these clubs on Google.

Note: this page only offers version 0.2.0 of hal91, which is outdated. Get the latest version at
www.hal91.org or chris.silmor.de/hal91/, which currently both take you to http://chris.silmor.de/hal91/.


hal91 is an interesting distribution of Linux. It was made by Øyvind Kolås in Norway. However, Øyvind has stopped working on hal91, and his webpage, http://home.sol.no/~okolaas, has gone down permanently.

+ hal91 works on almost any PC with a 486DX or Pentium processor.
+ It fits on a single floppy disk.
+ You don't need to modify your hard drive in any way. You just make a hal91 floppy disk and boot from it.
+ hal91 runs off a RAM disk. It takes a few minutes to start, but runs quickly once it is started.


- It lacks a graphical interface. No X Window System, no KDE, no GNOME.
- It hasn't been updated since 1998.
- It is missing many other parts that most people expect to find in Linux.
- hal91 runs off a RAM disk. If you edit any files on the hal91 disk, or add any files to the disk, your changes will be lost when you shut your computer off. See
section 5.2 of the hal91 user's guide for a way to avoid this.
- You must use the "mount" command to get hal91 to access your hard disk. The "mount" command can be hard to use. The "mount" command does not work for Windows NT, 2000, or XP users. Sorry.
- It will not run on a 486SX or a 386, as it requires a math coprocessor.


Since hal91 has not been updated since 1998, I don't recommend it. See the
Alternatives section below to find some good alternatives. Or, download it anyway. Pick one: hal91.img.gz (for Linux users) or hal91.zip (for Windows users.) Follow the steps in the Installing section below. If you want, you can also read the hal91 user's guide.


Unlike Mandrake, Debian, and Red Hat, hal91 is text-only. hal91 does not provide icons, menus, or a mouse pointer. You'll need to know how to use the bash shell to use hal91. You only need to know the basics, and they're not too hard to learn.
A Beginner's Introduction to Command-line Linux can teach you to use bash. Start out by reading the "running commands" section. If you're familiar with DOS, be sure to print out this page. You can buy a Linux or Unix book, or find one at your local library. There are more ideas in the Documentation section below.

For Linux users:

  1. Download hal91.img.gz to the directory of your choice.

  2. Start xterm. Change to the directory where you downloaded hal91.img.gz. Type gunzip hal91.img.gz and press Enter to decompress the file.

  3. Type dd if=hal91.img of=/dev/fd0 and press Enter to write the image to disk.

  4. Reboot your computer and enjoy!


For Windows users:

  1. Download and open hal91.zip. Unzip all three files to a folder of your choice, such as the desktop. If hal91.zip does not open, first download and install ICEOWS. hal91.zip contains the hal91 disk image. It also includes rawwritewin, a program that can write the disk image onto a floppy disk. You cannot use Windows Explorer to write the image. If you do, hal91 will not start.

  2. After you've unzipped hal91.zip, open the folder you unzipped it to. Double-click on the rawwritewin icon. Put a 3.5 inch floppy disk in the a: drive. Everything on the floppy disk will be erased! In rawwritewin, click the small button with three tiny dots on it. Find hal91.img. Click on it once, then click Open. Click the Write button, then just wait as rawwritewin writes the hal91 disk image onto the disk. If you want, you can delete hal91.img, rawwritewin, and diskio.dll now.

  3. With the hal91 floppy disk in the drive, restart your computer. Click Start, click Shut Down, and choose Restart from the list. Soon, you'll be running Linux. From there, you're on your own in command-line Linux - no graphics, just plain old text mode. You can read the hal91 user's guide if you want. A Beginner's Introduction to Command-line Linux is more useful if you don't know how to use Linux. Or see the Documentation section below. Enjoy!


Better Alternatives to hal91

If you do not have a broadband (high-speed) Internet connection, also see How to Get Linux.

I currently recommend Kanotix for all new Linux users. It supports apt-get for easy software installation, and has excellent 3-D acceleration support for most 3-D graphics cards. If Kanotix does not support all your hardware, try SimplyMEPIS. If you are patient and persistent, and have used the Linux command line before, try Debian or Slackware. DamnSmallLinux is a smaller (60MB) and faster bootable Linux distribution. You can find ISO images of any of these distributions via Google or perhaps from LinuxISO.org. If you do not know how to burn an ISO image file to CD, ask a computer expert for help, or try Google or your CD burning software's documentation. If you want to save time and you already have a BitTorrent client installed, try www.tlm-project.org or linux.mybookmarkmanager.com for torrents.

Details on the distributions mentioned above:

Red Hat Linux (650MB to 2GB)
Red Hat Linux is the most popular distribution available. All sorts of big companies use it. Red Hat 8.0 cannot play MP3 files unless you download and install additional software. I have never tried Red Hat.

Debian (650MB to 4.5GB)
Debian comes with the best "package tool" available, apt-get. However, Debian is hard to install: it can't automatically detect your hardware and configure itself, so it must ask you all sorts of difficult questions. There's an version called "unstable" that comes with the latest software, and a version called "stable" that comes with older software. I have used "stable" for quite a while, and I have never had it crash. Don't bother trying to figure out Debian's complicated "jigdo" downloading tool. There's a detailed walkthrough of the install process available.

A distribution with a loopback filesystem (50MB to 300MB)
Another good alternative to hal91 is installing a Linux distribution that uses a loopback filesystem. This means that it installs on a DOS/Windows-formatted disk, in a folder of your choice such as C:\LINUX, without any disk partitioning or formatting at all. I have used DragonLinux. DragonLinux starts up faster from a hard disk than hal91starts up from a floppy. DragonLinux also includes far more software. Only the "Full" version includes the X Window graphical interface. If you're willing to leave your computer on overnight to download it, or if you have high-speed Internet access, you can get DragonLinux at http://dragonlinux.sourceforge.net/about.php.

A tiny distribution (1.5MB or so)
I've never tried it, but MuLinux appears to be the most useful of the tiny distributions. It can boot from a floppy or from a hard disk. It supports add-on floppies with software like X Window, GCC, Samba, and Netscape. If you don't want MuLinux, there are links to other tiny distributions at LinuxLinks.com and dmoz.org.



Linux Documentation Project

The Linux Documentation Project provides good, free documentation for Linux. There are the book-length Guides, the medium-length HOWTOs, and the short mini-HOWTOs. Everything is also available in PDF, PS, text, and PalmPilot-compatible versions on the Linux Documentation Project website. A lot of their work has been translated into dozens of different languages.

[Linux: The Complete Reference cover] Books

Linux books range from well-written to fairly bad. However, since it costs a lot to publish a book, publishers don't publish books they find useless. I've found that books published by O'Reilly & Associates tend to be quite well-written. Their introductory Linux book is called Running Linux. I make a commission if you buy any books through my hyperlink to Amazon.com. An introductory Linux book will often include a full Linux distribution on CD-ROM attached to the back cover, although Running Linux does not.

As for bookstores, Abebooks and Alibris sell cheap books, both new and used, although they do not provide detailed descriptions of each book for sale. They allow booksellers to add their new and books to a database. You can search the database and order the books online. It's a good way to save money on books. Used books may be missing CD-ROMs that were originally included. Be sure to e-mail the bookseller and ask.

Page last updated: June 2005.

In association with Amazon.com. I make a commission if you buy any books through my hyperlink to Amazon.com.