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Installing IRIX 6.5

Last Change: 12/Oct/2004

This document explains how to install IRIX 6.5 in a manner which should be applicable to most IRIX systems. I have installed IRIX 6.5 on Indy, Indigo2, O2, Octane, Challenge, Onyx, Onyx2 and Origin systems.

The procedure for installing IRIX 6.5 is not quite the same as installing IRIX 6.2. SGI improved the way the installation is handled, aswell as how updates are dealt with. If you're someone who has to deal with installing IRIX 6.5, this page should help alleviate some of the more common concerns. Installing 6.5 is, in my opinion, actually very easy. I've done it literally hundreds of times now. However, I do not cover advanced post-installation topics such as configuring the Unified Name Service Daemon, and I do not yet have any experience of installing 6.5 on certain systems such as Personal IRIS, Crimson, SkyWriter, POWER Series, Onyx300/Origin300, Onyx3000/Origin3000 and the new Fuel system. Don't rely on my advice alone if you're dealing with systems that I have not used; read any instruction booklets provided too.

The instructions given here assume a typical setup: an IRIX system with the root disk on SCSI controller 0, ID 1, and a locally attached CDROM on SCSI controller 1, ID 4. This would be typical of an O2 or Indigo2 installation, for example. An Indigo2 with an internal CDROM, or an Indy with an external CDROM, would have the CDROM on SCSI controller 0.

My philosophy for installing 6.5 is, when possible, to install the original June 1998 base CD set first, get the system up and running, login, run swmgr and then start installing all the extra items. Some poeple prefer to install as many CDs as possible in the first instance, but I don't like doing it that way. Using swmgr to install the numerous other CDs later is definitely easier in my opinion.

NOTE: depending on the type of system you have, you may need to use a later 6.5.x installation tools CD in order to boot the system and perform the installation. This is because certain hardware was not supported until a later release, eg. CPUs like R12000, etc. If this is the case, then read in the update CDs aswell as the base CDs referred to below, eg. for a 6.5.16m installation, the base CD set to read into swmgr would be the 6.5.16 inst tools 1 of 4 May 2002, Foundation 1 June 1998, Foundation 2 June 1998, Applications June 1998, 6.5.16 Overlays 3 of 4 May 2002, IRIX 6.5.16 Overlays 4 of 4 and 6.5 Applications May 2002 (for the feature stream, the boot CD is called Overlays 2 of 4). Full details on supported hardware is in the guide that accompanies the 6.5.x update, or see support.sgi.com.

If necessary, make a complete backup of the system disk, just in case anything goes wrong. This isn't relevant of course if the disk is empty, eg. a new disk. Details on how to backup the system disk can be found on my Disk and Filesystem Administration page. If possible, I normally use a spare disk to make a disk clone.

If you are upgrading from an older OS such as 6.2, 6.3 or 6.4, I recommend reading through the release notes before installing 6.5. There are various changes which you may need to be aware of. Note that IRIX 6.5 cannot be used with Crimson systems!

The OS installation is done by a program called inst, which is on the CD entitled, "IRIX 6.5 Installation Tools, June 1998". This must be loaded and read first from miniroot. Normally, one uses the fx and mkfs programs to prepare the disk ready for installation.

Clearing Old Data Prior to Installation

One can use another IRIX system to do this, but do not use a non-6.5 system. This is because the volume header information is not quite the same in 6.2 compared to 6.5. Also, if you use a much later version of 6.5, eg. 6.5.15, then the older 6.5 boot kernel on the CD will not be able to mount a disk which has been fx'd using the fx program from the running IRIX system. This is because slight changes were made to the XFS file system structure in 6.5.6. It doesn't matter if you intend to boot from the corresponding later Installation Tools and Overlays CDs for the main installation, but it does matter if you intend to boot using the original June 1998 Installation Tools CD. Thus, it's better to use the boot version of fx from the CD you're going to use to repartition the disk, unless you happen to have a running IRIX system that has just 6.5 with no updates. Plus, I've been told that the changes made in 6.5.6 were to aid with improved NFS performance with XFS filesystems; if this is important to you, then you may wish to do the installation using a 6.5.6-or-later CD set anyway. Even so, the information given here is still generally applicable.

Thus, the normal way to clear any old data and begin the installation is as follows:

Boot up the system, press ESC to obtain the Command Monitor. At this point, an extract from the IRIX online manual, "System Configuration and Operation", is useful to explain what is happening here:

The command monitor has been designed to keep it independent of operating systems and as small as possible. Therefore, the command monitor cannot directly boot files residing in IRIX or other operating system file trees. However, the command monitor provides a two-level boot mechanism that lets it load an intermediary program that understands filesystems; this program can then find and load the desired boot file. The program is called the standalone shell, and is referred to as sash. sash is a reconfigured and expanded version of the command monitor program, and includes the modules needed to handle operating system file structures. It also has enhanced knowledge about devices. After the system software is installed, a copy of sash is located in the volume header of the first disk. The header contains a very simple file structure that the command monitor understands. You can also boot sash from tape or across the network.

Thus, the idea is to boot into sash on the CDROM and from there into fx, the main IRIX disk utility program.

Enter hinv if necessary to confirm the SCSI controller number and SCSI ID number of the CDROM. Enter the following command to boot from the CD (make sure the 'Installation Tools' CD is in the CDROM drive):

    boot -f dksc(X,Y,8)sashARCS dksc(X,Y,7)stand/fx.ARCS --x

where X is the SCSI controller number, and Y is the SCSI ID of the CDROM drive. According to the fx man page, the above command applies to systems with the 32bit ARCS PROM, namely Indigo, R4K Indigo2, Indy, Onyx, Challenge and O2.

For systems with the 64bit ARCS PROM - POWER Challenge, POWER Onyx, POWER Indigo2, Indigo2 10000, Origin, Onyx2, Octane, and all newer systems - use this command:

boot -f dksc(X,Y,8)sash64 dksc(X,Y,7)stand/fx.64 --x

although note that some systems may show the device as cdrom(x,y,z) rather than dksc(x,y,z). I found this to be the case on my Origin200 and so the command I used was as follows (the CDROM was on SCSI controller 1, ID 6):

boot -f cdrom(1,6,8)sash64 cdrom(1,6,7)stand/fx.64 --x

In some cases, often R4K IRIS Indigo for unknown reasons, one may have to boot in two stages, first into the sash and then into fx. I suspect this may happen because the CDROM doesn't quite respond as expected on older hardware. Either way, just split the boot command sequence into two steps if required, eg. the typical sequence might be:

    boot -f dksc(X,Y,8)sashARCS
    boot -f dksc(X,Y,7)stand/fx.ARCS --x

You will now be in the fx program. Press enter until you see the main menu (I'm assuming that controller 0, ID 1 will indeed be your root disk). Enter 'r' for repartition, 'ro' for root drive option, press Enter to confirm XFS, enter 'yes' to confirm the request, '..' to change menus up one level, 'l' to create a new disk label, 'sy' to sync the disk (write out the new label), and finally '/exit' to quit fx.

The system will return to the System Maintenance menu. Select Install System Software (or press 2) and choose the appropriate icon for the attached CDROM. After reading in the installation tools, which will take between 20 second to 1 or 2 minutes depending on your CPU/CDROM speed, some IRIX copyright information will be shown.

At this point, if the disk is completely new, or if an older type file system was on the disk (eg. an old 6.2 installation), then the system will automatically detect that there is no valid file system. A message will appear, asking whether you would like to create a new file system. Answer yes and follow the instructions, choosing a block size of 4096 if your disk is 4GB or larger - otherwise choose a block size of 512. A new file system will be created.

A README file will be displayed (press Q to stop it paging if necessary) and then a question appears, asking whether you would like to run the available 6.5 install script. Answer in the negative by entering '2' for 'Ignore'. The rest of the README will be displayed and then the inst prompt appears. If the system has already created a new file system as described above, then you can skip the next section on manually erasing the disk within the inst program; go to Reading the CDs.

Erasing the Disk Within the Inst Program

There are two ways of doing this, either using the Admin menu, or by going into a shell. If your disk is 4GB or larger, then use the Admin menu as follows:

  1. Enter 13 at the Inst prompt to select the Admin menu,

  2. Enter 11 to select mkfs,

  3. Enter y and confirm the action of making a new file system on the disk. This will use a 4096 block size.

  4. Enter '..' to return to the Inst menu.

If the disk is smaller than 4GB, then using the Admin menu to mkfs the disk will result in an inefficient block size being used (it will still work, but 4096 is rather large for a disk as small as 2GB). Thus, for disks smaller than 4GB, follow this procedure:

  1. Enter 'sh' at the Inst prompt to go into a shell.

  2. Unmount the system disk from the miniroot file system by entering:

        umount /root/hw
        umount /root

    An older installation on the disk may have attempted to mount other file systems. If so, unmount them before unmounting /root (enter 'mount' on its own to see the current mounted file systems).

  3. Use mkfs to make a new file system (this assumes the normal system disk location as controller 0, ID 1):

        mkfs -b size=512 /dev/dsk/dks0d1s0

  4. Now remount the system disk and go back to the Inst prompt (CTRL+D here means hold down the CTRL key and then press D):

        mount /dev/dsk/dks0d1s0 /root

You can of course use the shell method no matter what size disk is being used, eg. some people like to use mkfs manually in order to know more about what is going on. For a 4GB disk or larger, just leave out the '-b size=512' part; mkfs will use a 4096 block size automatically.

There are minor variations on the above procedures. If you have any queries, please email me.

You should now be at the inst prompt once again, with a clean disk ready to install onto.

Reading the CDs

It is at this point that one can commence the installation process, which begins with reading in the base set of four IRIX CDs. Enter 1 and then enter the following to read in the installation tools CD:

Unlike IRIX 6.2, the 6.5 version of inst pre-reads all the CDs that you intend to install before beginning the installation process. At the very least, a minimum set of four CDs must be scanned. This is a better way of preventing installation conflicts from multiple CDs compared to the older method of having a 'delay_conflicts' flag which had to be configured manually, a step which was easy to forget.

A description of the 6.5 installation script will appear (this is not needed for a fresh installation). Quit the script by pressing Q and select option '2' to ignore it. The CD is read and then a prompt appears. Remember to use a later 6.5.x at this stage if your hardware requires it.

Eject the CD, insert the IRIX 6.5 Foundation 1, June 1998 CD and press Enter once the CDROM drive has settled itself. When the CD has been read, a further prompt will appear; eject the CD, insert the Foundation 2 CD, press Enter, then do the same for the IRIX 6.5 Applications CD (June 1998) and so on until all the CDs you want to initially install have been read (including any corresponding 6.5.x update CDs if you used a 6.5.x boot CD). Then enter 'done'. Full details are in the installation instructions booklet, but it's pretty simple to follow. At a minimum, you must let inst read the following CDs (the first of these will already be in the CDROM drive):

  1. Installation Tools
  2. Foundation 1
  3. Foundation 2
  4. Applications

Load any additional CDs you want after the above minimum four, eg. the NFS CD. Personally, I prefer to install this minimum 4-CD set, plus the NFS CD (and any required 6.5.x for later hardware), restart the system to get IRIX up and running, and then carry out further installations from swmgr, often across a network using NFS for convenience.

Once the distribution details on the CDs have been scanned, you are ready to begin the installation. According to the booklet, a simple way to ensure a clean initial installation is to enter these commands at the inst prompt:

   keep *
   install standard
   install prereqs

Now enter 'go' and the installation will begin (follow any instructions concerning conflicts that are given). Note the new keywords, 'standard' and 'prereqs' - read the installation notes to learn more about what these keywords mean. Also note that the 'install prereqs' command will probably give an error saying, 'No matches for "prereqs" were found' - this message is perfectly normal and can be ignored.

For the purposes of this discussion, I will refer to the above minimum four-CD installation as the 'Basic Set'. I found the default installation to take up 761MB of disk space on O2, a little less for Indigo2, decreasing to 704MB on Indy.

During the installation procedure, you will be asked to insert particular CDs. When the prompt message appears, just press the CDROM eject button, replace the current CD with the requested CD and then push the tray back in. There is no need to press the Enter key - the system automatically detects the presence of the requested CD and proceeds with the installation. You will be asked to insert the following CDs during the install procedure, in this order:

  1. Foundation 1
  2. Applications
  3. Foundation 2
  4. Installation Tools

The part of the installation procedure which took the longest period of time to 'process' before the percentage indicator actually changed was when the procedure had reached 94%. Thus, don't worry about there being anything wrong if the system seems to be taking a long time at that point. It's perfectly normal (systems with older CPUs could spend several minutes with the indicator staying at 94%). Also, unlike older versions of inst, there is just a single 0% to 100% numerical indicator for the entire initial installation procedure, eg. the checking-disk-usage-requirements stage ends when the percentage indicator reaches approximately 15%, the software installation ends at around 95%, then the exit commands begin, etc.

At 95% complete, some 'UX:make: INFO: ' messages are shown. Ignore these.

Usually, two errors concerning the Netscape system will be displayed at some point, two messages for each error. According to the system documentation, this is normal and can be ignored.

When the installation ends, the inst prompt will return. Enter 'quit' to begin the process of 'requickstart'ing the ELF files (see the man page for rqsall if you want to know more about this). My timing for the tests in the appendix includes this rqsall step because it does take a while; in fact, this step can easily constitute one third to one half of the total installation time, especially on systems with older CPUs.

When the rqsall procedure has finished, a question will appear asking if you would like to restart the system. Enter 'y' and the system will create a new kernel and then reboot.

Handy tip: after the Foundation and Applications CDs have been processed, one inserts the Installation Tools CD. It is after this CD has been processed that the inst prompt will return; one normally enters 'quit', after which the rqsall procedure begins. However, the system will remember any keyboard presses that are made after the processing of the Installation Tools CD begins, so instead of waiting around for the later questions to be asked, just enter 'quit' and then 'y' now so that, when the questions appear, the answers will already be in the keybpard buffer and thus accepted immediately. This means you can just leave the installation alone, and come back later to find the system fully rebooted and ready for you to login at the login menu. Note that the installation will have created the usual default setup where the host name is IRIS. It's surprising how useful this is sometimes, eg. start an installation, buzz off to lunch, come back to find the system ready to use and carry on.

And that's basically it! After the main reboot, login as root and begin any further required installations. I normally remove some unwanted items first, then I install various extra items from the Basic Set, followed by all the other usual CDs (Development Libraries, Development Foundation, etc.) I will add some information about dealing with these other CDs later, including some example product selections files which will make life much easier for most installations.

Historical: Using IRIX 6.5 Installation Times as a Benchmark

When I first wrote this page, I used the results of installing IRIX 6.5 on different systems as a simple benchmark, and to show how a faster CDROM is not as important as a faster CPU. At the time, I ran a network of 19 Indys and a ChallengeS at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in Preston. My results were initially based on installing onto those systems, and onto Indigo2s/O2s at home. Since I don't work at UCLAN anymore, I decided to rewrite this benchmark section and just list the results with much less introduction, etc. See my SGI General Performance Comparisons page for a complete discussion on these results.

The installation test times given here do not include the 'human' element of the installation procedure, eg. switching CDROMs, typing in commands, etc. When using my stopwatch to time the installations, I halted the stopwatch whenever a prompt appeared and restarted the stopwatch once the required input was entered and the procedure again underway.

Here is a complete table of installation times which includes results from other system configurations, plus details of intermediate stages (you may need to widen your browser window to see all of this table at once):

Key: Read Inst Tools = From the moment the progress bar appears to when the screen changes (eg. goes black) after the data has been fully read.
                               ******** Sub-Task Completion Times ********
                               (16%) (51%)  (86%)  (91%)  (94%)   (100%)
                   CD   Read   Pre-                       Inst    End of  End of
                   ROM  Inst   inst  F 1    Apps   F 2    Tools    Exit   rqsall
                        Tools  Ends  Ends   Ends   Ends   Ends     Coms   ELF libs

O2 R5000SC/200:    32   0:42   0:54  06:31  15:07  16:46  17:45   22:52   0:34:06
O2 R5000SC/200:    12   0:46   0:54  06:58  16:04  18:05  19:20   24:08   0:35:28
I2 R4400SC/250:    32   0:47   1:11  06:45  15:17  16:57  17:55   23:12   0:36:05
I2 R4400SC/250:     2   1:16   1:11  09:18  21:06  23:28  24:38   29:57   0:42:31
Indy R4400SC/200:  32   0:42   1:26  08:32  19:42  21:40  22:50   29:41   0:45:24
Indy R4400SC/200:   2   1:16   1:26  11:11  25:49  28:29  29:58   36:53   0:52:35
Indy R4600PC/133:  32   0:44   1:45  11:48  28:26  31:28  33:07   46:11   1:08:45
Indy R4600PC/133:   2   1:16   1:45  14:10  33:37  37:12  39:00   52:05   1:14:39
Indy R4600PC/100:  32   0:35   2:04  12:36  30:18  33:36  35:20   48:28   1:12:11
Indy R4600PC/100:   2   1:16   2:04  15:01  35:33  39:32  41:28   54:54   1:18:36

The Indigo2 result is very interesting. It shows that a faster main CPU definitely helps during software installations, by quite a significant margin, but not during the reading of the installation tools when one is using a slow CDROM. The Indigo2 had a much slower CDROM compared to the O2, yet it only took 22% longer to install the 'Basic Set' of CDs. If the process was solely or mainly limited by CDROM speed, one would expect to see the Indigo2 take at least 100% longer. The times are certainly in stark contrast to the R4600PC/133 Indy results. Note that the post-installation requickstart procedure does not involve the CDROM, so again the 250MHz R4400SC with its 2MB L2 cache is much faster.

When I do software installations, whenever I can I always swap in a faster CPU, assuming I have a compatible CPU available, eg. for installing onto an R4600PC/133 Indy, I'd temporarily put in an R4K/200 CPU instead. This greatly speeds up the installation, and obviously a faster CDROM helps too, but remember to use a compatible CPU, eg. for installing an R4600PC/133, I couldn't swap in an R5000SC/180 since the libraries are not the same. Similarly, one could not put in an R10K/195 in place of an R4K/150 in an Indigo2. What matters is the IP number of the target CPU (in this context, the word IP has nothing to do with network addresses), as shown by hinv, eg. an R4K machine is usually IP22, while an R10K Indigo2 is an IP28. If the faster CPU one would like to swap in for the installation has the same IP number, then it should work ok.

Note that there is not and never was an R5000SC/200 CPU for Indy;, it is possible to modify a 180MHz CPU to act as a 200 by changing the timing crystal, but this does only result in a 200MHz Indy with 512K L2, as opposed to the 1MB L2 in the O2 version.

As stated earlier, please see my performance comparisons page for a complete analysis of the installation times.

Ian's SGI Depot: FOR SALE! SGI Systems, Parts, Spares and Upgrades

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