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SDB:Installation with little memory

tagline: From openSUSE

This article covers techniques and troubleshooting for systems with little memory. These are just work a rounds.

The X in sdX is in place of a or b or what ever letter. You should replace X with the actual letter of your device.

Systems with very little memory

Less than 100 MBytes

The installer will run out of memory with a kernel panic just after the message 'moving into tmpfs'. To get around this, add the option '_tmpfs=0' to the boot line. You will probably want to use the 'safe settings' installation anyway, just put this bit on the end of the line leaving a space ' ' before it. In addition you will certainly need swap, see the next section.

By the way, a system with such tiny RAM will be extremely slow, assuming that you can complete the installation (which will also be grindingly sluggish). Use a light-weight window manager like IceWM in place of KDE or Gnome as these latter will make it slower still. Better still, stick to text mode!

Alternatively, consider a specialist distribution for such hardware, for example :

Only use '_tmpfs=0' if really necessary (i.e. kernel panic as described)

Between 100 and 256 MBytes

The installation will need swap space, this may be asked for automatically but if not add 'addswap=-1' to the command line. Can be combined with e.g. '_tmpfs=0', separate with another space.

This assumes the disk already contains a usable swap partition, if not:

  • get to a command prompt (Alt-F2 or maybe Alt-F9 etc.)
  • use fdisk to delete existing partition(s) and create one of 100 - 500 M Bytes depending on space available, note the partition number
  • while still in fdisk, set partition type to 'linux swap' (82)
  • save and exit fdisk
  • format the new partition with 'mkswap /dev/hda1' (or whatever the new partition is)
  • return to YaST installer with Alt-F1 (text mode) or Alt-F7 (GUI)

Systems with > 128M RAM and a > 100MHz Pentium processor are surprisingly usable if you stick to lightweight window managers such as IceWM or maybe AfterStep. The more RAM you can find, the better...

Reduce amount of used memory

Text mode

Using the text mode for the installation (ncurses) saves about 10 MB compared to the graphical mode (qt). Select it at boot time using the F3 key or the Linuxrc boot parameter


Installation root image on disk

YaST, the installer, and its helpers are stored in a compressed filesystem (found in /boot/ARCH/root) that is about 70MB large.

If using HTTP or FTP for the installation, this filesystem must be copied to RAM before it is used.

Install from DVD/CD or use NFS to avoid this.

Less logging

Especially the package dependency resolver can generate huge logs when you click around a lot. To limit the amount of RAM disk taken up by the YaST logs, set the parameters Y2MAXLOGSIZE (in KB) and Y2MAXLOGNUM.


Of course only do this if you are sure that you will not encounter any bugs ;-) To be on the safe side, redirect the logging to the network or redirect the logging to an USB stick.

Add swap space

Normally YaST will use the swap space that you define for the installation, but only after the "point of no return", when the actual disk formatting starts. To add swap space earlier, specify an existing swap partition by adding the following parameter to the boot line when starting the installer


Alternatively, to request interactive swap set-up try


Swap on removable device

Unfortunately the parameter addswap doesn't seem to work with USB sticks or other removable devices but solution how to use them still exists.

First, use a Linuxrc parameter start_shell=1 to boot to the shell before YaST is started


Alternatively, switch to a shell during installation with Alt-F2 or maybe Alt-F9.

Then, when you get a shell, create a swap partition on that device and tell installation system to use that partition

 mkswap /dev/sdX1
 swapon /dev/sdX1

To check whether the installation system uses a swap then try this command

 free -m

To continue with the installation - if you used 'start_shell=1', type exit and press [Enter] or press Ctrl+d. If using the shell on console 2 or 9 (via Alt-F2 etc.) switch back with Alt-F1 to text mode or Alt-F7 to the GUI.

Problems with older hardware

Hard disk and / or CD not found during installation

Some older systems (typically Pentium-I 75-150 MHz) need the 'ide-generic' module loaded before the Hard disk and / or CD can be detected by the installer. If you encounter such behaviour, try re-starting the installation with the following added to the boot line:


See also