Solaris x86 FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

From: Dan Anderson 
Newsgroups: alt.solaris.x86,comp.unix.solaris,alt.answers,comp.answers,news.answers
Subject: Solaris x86 FAQ
Approved: news-answers-request@MIT.EDU
Summary: This posting answers frequently-asked questions from the
         alt.solaris.x86 newsgroup that aren't already covered in the
         Solaris 2 FAQ.  It should be read by anyone who wishes to
         post Solaris x86 questions to the alt.solaris.x86 or
         comp.unix.solaris newsgroups.
Followup-To: alt.solaris.x86

Archive-name: Solarisx86/faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 1998/10/1
Version: 1.11
Copyright: Copyright (c) 1997, 1998 Dan Anderson.  All rights reserved.
Maintainer: Dan Anderson , San Diego, California, USA




(3.1) What FTP and web sites do I need to know about?
(3.2) How do I subscribe to the Solaris/x86 mailing list?
(3.3) Where can I obtain Solaris 2/x86 driver updates?
(3.4) Where can I obtain Solaris 2/x86 patches?
(3.5) How can I obtain freeware, shareware, and GNU software on a CD-ROM?
(3.6) What UNIX-like operating systems are available on x86?
(3.7) What books are available on Solaris x86?
(3.8) What magazine articles are available on Solaris x86?
(3.9) What's planned for release 2.7 of Solaris/x86?

(4.1) What information should I have before an install?
(4.2) What hardware is supported by Solaris 2.x for Intel?
(4.3) What size disks and partitions should I have?
(4.4) What are SCSI IDs expected by Solaris x86?
(4.5) What video card/monitor combination works best?
(4.6) Is Plug-and-Play (PNP) supported by Solaris/x86?
(4.7) Is Advanced Power Management (APM) supported by Solaris/x86?
(4.8) What are the pitfalls of different busses: ISA/EISA/PCI?
(4.9) Are "floppy tape" devices supported by Solaris x86?
(4.10) How can I get a "free" copy of Solaris?
(4.11) How can I get Solaris to see the third IDE controller?

(5.1) How long does the install take?
(5.2) My IDE/ATAPI CD-ROM is not recognized during install by Solaris'
      FCS MCB and it's not in the HCL.  What can I do?
(5.3) What kind of problems might I encounter installing my SCSI system?
(5.4) What do I do when the install hangs/panics?
(5.5) I'm trying to install Solaris/x86 on my 2.5 GB drive. However, the
      installation program says the root partition must end within the
      first 1023 cylinders of the disk.  What can I do?
(5.6) Does Solaris x86 prefer to have the motherboard BIOS set to NORMAL
      or LBA for IDE disks?
(5.7) Why does a Solaris install to a disk with valid, pre-existing
      fdisk partitions sometimes fail?

(6.1) How do I add additional drives?
(6.2) How do I add or configure users, printers, serial ports, software, etc.?
(6.3) How do I suppress the banner page on my printer?
(6.4) How do I set up an HP-compatible printer to print PostScript files?
(6.5) How can I improve disk and graphic performance?
(6.6) How do I change the IP address on Solaris/x86?
(6.7) How do I configure a second serial port, /dev/ttyb (COM2)?
(6.8) How do I disable Solaris/x86 from probing the UPS on COM2?
(6.9) How do I set up Solaris/x86 to use PPP to connect to an ISP?
(6.10) That last answer was torture!  Is there any freeware PPP that's
       easier to use?
(6.11) Is there any commercial PPP that's easier to use?
(6.12) Help! My USRobotics Internal modem doesn't work with PPP.
(6.13) PPP runs _extremely_ slow.  What's wrong?
(6.14) How do I configure PPP using Dynamic IP Addresses (DHCP)?
(6.15) How do I configure my Soundblaster card?
(6.16) Is Solaris/x86 Year 2000 (Y2K) compliant?
(6.17) Can I use Solaris/x86  to setup a "headless" server?
(6.18) Can I get a Sun-style keyboard (Ctrl & Caps Lock reversed) for S/x86?
(6.19) Can I run multiple terminals on the console of Solaris x86
       like those supported on Linux, FreeBSD, Interactive Unix, and SCO?
(6.20) How do I upgrade my video graphics card?
(6.21) Is IPv6 available for Solaris/x86?
(6.22) Does Solaris x86 support multiple processors?

(7.1) What can I do if Solaris won't boot?
(7.2) How do I logon as root if the password doesn't work anymore?
(7.3) How do I restore the Solaris boot block without reinstalling?
(7.4) My licensed software fails because the host ID is 0.  What's wrong?
(7.5) How can I fix Netscape Communicator to render fonts correctly on S/x86?

(8.1) Can I install Solaris x86 on a system that already has Win95/NT or
      NT, and Win95 (among other systems)?
(8.2) How can I use MS Windows' NT Loader to boot Solaris/x86?
(8.3) How can I use the Solaris boot manager to boot Windows' NT?
(8.4) How can I use System Commander to boot Solaris/x86 and other systems?
(8.5) How can I use Linux LILO boot loader to boot Solaris/x86?
(8.6) How can I use LILO to boot Solaris/x86 on the secondary master IDE?
(8.7) How can I use OS-BS to boot Solaris/x86?
(8.8) How can I boot both Solaris/x86 and Win NT on the same disk?
(8.9) How do I mount a DOS partition from the hard drive?
(8.10) How do I access a DOS-format diskette from Solaris?
(8.11) Does Solaris mount and recognize Win 95 partitions with long file
       names (VFAT)?
(8.12) How can I make my Solaris files easily available to Windows 95/NT
       on a network?
(8.13) How can I make my Solaris files easily available to an Apple
       Machintosh on a network?
(8.14) How do I access a Mac diskette?
(8.15) What is WABI?
(8.16) Can I use SunPC on Solaris/x86?
(8.17) How can I get the DOS and UNIX clock to agree on Solaris/x86?
(8.18) Is Solaris x86 able to execute Solaris SPARC applications?
(8.19) Will my old applications from SVR3 or SCO run on Solaris 2/x86?
(8.20) Will my application from Solaris/SPARC work on Solaris/x86?
       I have the source.
(8.21) Will Linux programs run on Solaris 2/x86?
(8.22) Can I access Solaris/x86 partitions from Linux?
(8.23) What are some books on Windows NT/Solaris integration?
(8.24) How can I view MS Word files in Solaris?
(8.25) Can I mount other ufs disks, say from BSDi/FreeBSD, and vice versa?

*New question since last month.
+Significantly revised answer since last month.



The Solaris x86 FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Solaris x86.

This posting contains frequently asked questions, with answers, about the
Sun Solaris 2 x86 Operating System found in the alt.solaris.x86 and
comp.unix.solaris USENET newsgroups.  The alt.solaris.x86 newsgroup covers
Solaris x86, Solaris on the Intel platform, for version 2.5 and higher.
The comp.unix.solaris newsgroup is for Solaris on all platforms--
SPARCS or x86.  Please also consult Casper Dik's excellent FAQ on
Solaris 2, even if you're using Solaris x86.  It's at:
and elsewhere.  Solaris 2.x is also known as SunOS 5.x.

For earlier versions of Solaris/x86, please see the (somewhat dated)
"Solaris 2.4 x86 FAQ" by Bob Palowoda at
and elsewhere.  The (mostly historical) Sun i386 (Roadrunner) is covered
in Ralph Neill's FAQ,

If you post questions to alt.solaris.x86 or comp.unix.solaris, please be
sure to indicate:

- the machine type and brief configuration, e.g.  Pentium Pro 200 MHz,
  64 MB RAM, 128 MB swap space, 2.4 GB XYZ hard drive, etc.

- the exact Solaris version number, i.e.  Solaris 2 is NOT sufficient,
  whereas "Solaris/x86 2.6 with DU3" is more useful.

I'm doing this on my own time as a public service.  PLEASE DO NOT ASK
Microsystems.  If you suspect you have software defect problems, please
call 1-800-SOFTSPT (1-800-763-8778 or 1-510-460-3267).  If you have
hardware problems call your hardware vendor.  If you are outside the
United States, contact your local Sun representative.

comp.unix.solaris.  I don't have the time to diagnose individual Solaris
problems, and I probably don't know the answer either :-).  Many experienced
and knowledgeable people read the newsgroup.  Post your question there.
However, answers, corrections, and comments should be directed to me.

No FAQ is the work of one person, but is a USENET community effort.  This
material was "snarfed" from other FAQs, USENET newsgroup postings, mailing
lists, and personal knowledge.  Generally the source is noted at the end of
each question.  Most answers have been reworded, or expanded, or updated.
Thanks to everyone who contributed directly or indirectly.  Please send any
corrections or additions to me.

This FAQ is Copyright  1997, 1998 Dan Anderson.  All rights reserved.  It
may be freely redistributed in its entirety provided that this copyright
notice is not removed.  Permission is expressly granted for this document
to be made available for file transfer from installations offering
unrestricted anonymous file transfer on the Internet.

This article is provided "as is" without any express or implied warranty
of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.  The answers come
from many varied sources, and, "may be fiction rather than fact."
even if they result from negligence or errors on the part of the author.

Sun, the Sun logo, Sun Microsystems, SunSoft, the SunSoft logo, Solaris,
SunOS, and NFS are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sun Microsystems.,
Inc.  UNIX is a registered trademark of UNIX System Laboratories.  All other
product names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

-Dan Anderson
 alt.solaris.x86 FAQ Maintainer
 San Diego, California, USA



(3.1) What FTP and web sites do I need to know about?

    Sun's main web site, contains pointers to Solaris product information,
    press releases, etc.

   Sun's Software Support and Education website.
   Has x86 driver updates (DUs), knowledge base, Hardware Compatibility
   Lists (HCLs), official FAQs, and other goodies.

   Sun documentation on-line.  Includes manuals, guides, answerbooks,
   and man pages in HTML format.  Especially useful for configuring
   new hardware and new systems is the _Information Library for Solaris
   (Intel Platform Edition)_.
   Stokely Consulting's list of FAQs has lots of pointers resources, not
   only for Solaris x86, but UNIX System Administration in general.
   EIS's Solaris/x86 Resources page with lots of pointers.
   EIS also maintains the Solaris/x86 mailing list (below).
   S.  Christensen's Solaris Freeware Page.  Pointers to LOTS of x86
   Pointers to many Solaris viewers, players, and Netscape plug-ins.
   Selected Solaris 2.x/x86 binaries conveniently packaged in pkgadd
   format at the UNC Sunsite.
   Joe Shamblin's annotated collection of Solaris x86 freeware, with
   pointers to documentation, make it good for freeware browsing.
   Last, but not least, Casper Dik's thorough FAQ on Solaris 2.


(3.2) How do I subscribe to the Solaris/x86 mailing list?

Subscribe or unsubscribe by sending an e-mail message with subscribe or
unsubscribe in the *BODY* of the message to (subject doesn't matter).  For a
digested version of the list use
The list archive is at
[From Casper Dik's Solaris 2 FAQ]


(3.3) Where can I obtain Solaris 2/x86 driver updates?

The Solaris x86 driver updates can be obtained by HTTP from:

The Solaris x86 driver updates can be obtained by anonymous FTP from:
[From Casper Dik's Solaris 2 FAQ]


(3.4) Where can I obtain Solaris 2/x86 patches?

The Solaris x86 driver updates can be obtained by HTTP from:

Pointers to patches, including one huge 2.*_x86_Recommended.tar.Z
file for each release.  This directory is publically accessible--it
doesn't require you to be a contract customer.  Patches are also
available locally at many SunSites.

The "showrev -p" command shows what patches you have installed.

All files replaced by a patch are saved under /var/sadm/patch/
or /var/sadm/pkg/


(3.5) How can I obtain freeware, shareware, and GNU software on a CD-ROM?

Micromata of Kassel, Germany offers its "Summertime" CD with precompiled
software for Solaris Sparc and x86,
It is distributed in the U.S. by EIS of California,
And in the Pacific Rim by Noord Data Systems,

See question 3.1 above for FTP and web software sites.


(3.6) What UNIX-like operating systems are available on x86?

Solaris x86, SVR4-based           (http://www.Sun.COM)
Interactive UNIX, SVR3.2-based    (http://www.Sun.COM)
SCO OpenServer UNIX, SVR3.2-based (
SCO UNIXWare, SVR4-based          (
BSDi                              (
Apple NeXT Intel, Mach-based      (

Linux   (, freeware)
FreeBSD (, freeware)
NetBSD  (, freeware)
OpenBSD (, freeware)

Note that the freeware versions can also be purchased on CD-ROM,
which is a convenient way to get it.  For Linux, there are multiple
vendors selling CD-ROMs (e.g., RedHat,
Other systems are over the horizon, in beta, or for teaching/research.
E.g., GNU's HURD, Apple's Rhapsody, Tanenbaum's Minix, or ATT's Plan 9.

Of course, Intel's 64-bit Merced CPU family is coming. Sun, HP, SCO, and
DEC are all porting their versions of UNIX, Solaris, HP-UX, UNIXWare,
and Digital UNIX, to this chip.


(3.7) What books are available on Solaris x86?

For Unix system administration in general, I like _Unix System
Administration Handbook_, 2d ed. ("The Red Book"), by Evi Nemeth, Garth
Snyder, Scott Seebass, and Trent R. Hein (Prentice Hall, 1995), ISBN

Ron Ledesma has written _PC Hardware Configuration Guide for DOS and
Solaris_ (SunSoft Press, 1994), ISBN 0-13-124678-X, it's a well-written,
but dated, book on setting up Solaris x86 on Intel Architecture.  See

Scott Steeves reports the following two books by Janice Winsor
cover Solaris 2.6 for both Sparc and x86.  They are from
Sun Microsystems/Macmillan Technical Publishing:
_Solaris System Administrator's Guide_, 2d ed. (1998),  ISBN 1-57870-040-X
and _Solaris Advanced System Administrator's Guide_, 2d ed.,
ISBN 1-57870-039-6.

There's also _Solaris 2.X for Managers and Administrators_
by Curt Freeland, Dwight McKay, Kent Parkinson, 2d ed. (1997),
ISBN: 1-56690-150-2

Other books are available on Solaris in general from SunSoft Books and on
UNIX (with sections on Solaris) from O'Reilly & Associates.  Hardcopies of
Sun manuals are available as SunDocs from SunExpress.


(3.8) What magazine articles are available on Solaris x86?

"Sun injects Solaris X86 with  new life as it makes its way to 64 bits"
_Sun World_. Feb. 1997 by Rick Cook .

Note: please e-mail other submissions to


(3.9) What's planned for release 2.7 of Solaris/x86?

The next release of Solaris/x86 (2.7) will have more driver support, of
course.  A big change in Solaris 2.7 will be its support for 64-bit
virtual addresses on UltraSparcs, in contrast to 2.6 which has only
64-bit file offsets.  Solaris 2.7 will NOT support 64-bit virtual
addresses on x86 (or on older Sparcs, for that matter).
However, Solaris/x86 2.7 should support Intel's Extended Server
Memory Architecture, with its 36-bit physical memory addresses
(i.e. up to 64 GB physical memory), on Pentium Pro, Pentium II Xeon,
and future Intel x86 processors.  Full Intel 64-bit functionality will
have to wait for Sun's port of Solaris to Intel's IA-64 (Merced) chip.
[Thanks to Paul Eggert for clarifications]



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

* Size of your disk
* Ethernet hardware address
* IP address
* Bandwidth of your video card and monitor
* Maximum vertical frequency your video card will drive
* Mouse type

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 2.x for Intel?

Solaris x86 is the version that runs on Intel-based PCs and servers.
Requirements vary to release, but generally a 80486 processor or
better is required with an ISA, EISA, MCA, VLB, or PCI bus, 16 MB
of memory, and 200-500 MB Disk.  Many multi-processor boards are
supported.  You must have a CD-ROM drive or access to NFS over the
network to install and a 1.44 MB floppy disk drive.

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.

To receive the complete and often updated list Solaris x86 Hardware
Compatibility List (HCL), send an e-mail message (no subject/body
needed) to:

            x86hcl@Sun.COM      (ASCII)

There's also an online version of all the lists at:
[From Casper Dik's Solaris 2 FAQ]


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

If you don't plan to install any optional software and man pages you
should typically have a 220 to 240 MB drive.  Development systems
should have about 400 to 500 MB.

Note that Solaris uses a tmpfs.  Which means swap and /tmp share a
common disk space.  When configuring a swap space it is not uncommon for
me to configure 80 to 100 MB of swap space on a single user system.  You
want this because many programs use the tmpfs for speeding up applications.

Look at some rough estimates we have:

/            =  56 MB
/usr         = 212 MB
swap         =  80 MB
/export/home = the remaining disk

I didn't take into account the /var partition.  Usually in a single user
development system I let the system install the couple of packages in /var
then move them with a "cp -r" over to another file system.  Then I remove
the /var directory and make a symbolic link over to the new /var directory.

This all seems to fit well in a 540 MB drive and leaves room for growth.
If you don't think you're not going to grow, then think twice. I've done
at least 300 installs by now and shot myself in the foot a few times.
The /export/home I typically use for CDE installs which sets up the
symbolic links during the install.

A word of performance advice.  If you're going to be using a fast wide
SCSI controller such as the Adaptec 2940, use a wide SCSI drive for the
system drive.  These drives usually have double the throughput of the
normal 8-bit drives, according to the iozone benchmark results, and they
make the tmpfs fly.  Don't forget to set the maxpgio in the /etc/system
file for 5400 and 7200 RPM drives accordingly.  See the question on
performance in this FAQ.
[From Bob Palowoda's Solaris 2.4 x86 FAQ]


(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
Tape            ID 4
CDROM           ID 6
SCSI controller ID 7

Typically I turn the vold off.  I find it gets in the way of tar, cpio and
dd.  It's OK for users who like to use the file manager to mount the floppy.

Note: vold will get in the way of WABI's use of the floppy.  You can
comment the entry out in /etc/vold.conf for the floppy.  I just comment it
out of the /etc/init.d/volmgt script and don't even start the daemon.  The
reason is that when you use tar or cpio from the UNIX command line the vold
is going to complain the device is busy.  Then, of course, someone will
come along and want to use the filemgr to look at the floppy and you need
the vold turned on.  You just can't win.

For your information: When the vold communicates with the kernel there's no
way to know if a disk is inserted into the drive, or a new disk was inserted.
[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 here 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.

Resolution: be safe and just use 1024x768 or smaller the first time through
the install.

Screen size should be easy: [\] 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 there scan rates.  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.
[From Bob Palowoda's Solaris 2.4 x86 FAQ]


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

Yes, starting with release 2.6. Solaris 2.5.1 and earlier
(even with the DUs), do NOT support PNP.  PNP should be disabled
and the card manually configured for the latter case.
See the _x86 Device Configuration Guide_ for details on each card
(and see the _x86 Driver Update Guide_ when using updates).


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

APM is not 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) What are the pitfalls of different busses: ISA/EISA/PCI?

Read the merits of running Solaris x86.  But the worst sin is running
UNIX on an ISA bus with disk controllers such as the Adaptec 1542 series.
They're cheap but if you have more that 16 MB of memory in your system
you shouldn't be running an ISA disk controller.

Typically you're going to see better performance from the EISA bus.  And
PCI is the biggest winner.  VLB and MCA are supported, but largely obsolete.
[From Bob Palowoda's Solaris 2.4 x86 FAQ]


(4.9) 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 DOS/Windows partition and back it up from
DOS/Windows or some other operating system.


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

A "free" copy of Solaris for personal use (where "free" means you pay
only media, shipping, and handling cost), is available from here:
For *.edu (Educational users):
For all others:

The cost is US$8 for US Shipping/handling (plus sales tax),
US$12 for Canada, and US$25 for the rest of world.

"Personal use" means not for use for commercial gain or in connection with
business operations (such as MIS or other internal business systems). 

[Thanks to Graham Lovell]


(4.11) How can I get Solaris to see the third IDE controller?

You can't.  The third and fourth IDE controllers cannot be used--only
the first two IDE controllers are supported.

[Thanks to Mike Riley]



(5.1) How long does the install take?

It depends on the CD-ROM and hard disk speed.  On a 50 MHz 486 with a