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I am looking for the most compatibility in a Gentoo download. When I go to the download page, I am greeted by this:

  • install-x86-minimal-20120306.iso 07-Mar-2012 08:50 135M
  • install-x86-minimal-20120306.iso.CONTENTS 07-Mar-2012 08:50 3.2K
  • install-x86-minimal-20120306.iso.DIGESTS 07-Mar-2012 08:50 348
  • install-x86-minimal-20120306.iso.DIGESTS.asc 07-Mar-2012 13:27 1.2K
  • stage3-i486-20120306.tar.bz2 07-Mar-2012 08:50 135M
  • stage3-i486-20120306.tar.bz2.CONTENTS 07-Mar-2012 08:50 2.9M
  • stage3-i486-20120306.tar.bz2.DIGESTS 07-Mar-2012 08:50 332
  • stage3-i486-20120306.tar.bz2.DIGESTS.asc 07-Mar-2012 13:27 1.2K
  • stage3-i686-20120306.tar.bz2 07-Mar-2012 08:50 135M
  • stage3-i686-20120306.tar.bz2.CONTENTS 07-Mar-2012 08:50 2.9M
  • stage3-i686-20120306.tar.bz2.DIGESTS 07-Mar-2012 08:50 332
  • stage3-i686-20120306.tar.bz2.DIGESTS.asc 07-Mar-2012 13:27 1.2K

I can narrow it down though. I don't need the contents, or the digests. I want i486 instead of i686, this has the most compatibility. So should I choose

  • install-x86-minimal-20120306.iso 07-Mar-2012 08:50 135M


  • stage3-i486-20120306.tar.bz2 07-Mar-2012 08:50 135M

What does stage3 mean? Which one will get the most compatibility? Which one is easiest? I notice the stage3 one is a tar.bz2 and the other one is an iso.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

You'll probably find the "Choosing the Right Installation Medium" part of the install guide helpful.

install-x86-minimal-timestamp.iso is the LiveCD image. You burn that to a CD and boot off it to get into a minimal Gentoo environment that you can use to install Gentoo on your actual system

stage3-i486-timestamp.tar.bz2 is a tarball of the root filesystem; it has /dev, /bin, etc. One of the first things you'll do after booting the LiveCD and partitioning your disks is to download the stage3 tarball and unpack it

The file is called stage3 because you can technically start installing Gentoo from any of three stages, depending on how much of the build you want to do yourself (e.g., stage2 doesn't include a base system -- you need to compile it yourself). stage3 is the only one officially supported, and almost certainly what you want to use

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So should I download both of them? – gadgetmo Mar 16 '12 at 18:17
@gadgetmo You can, if you'll have a way to make the stage3 file available to the LiveCD after you've booted it. The normal procedure is to download the LiveCD iso, burn it, boot off it, partition your disks, mount them, and then download the stage3 file right onto your new root partition using wget or links. If you follow the install guide it has a step for downloading the stage – Michael Mrozek Mar 16 '12 at 18:24
cheers. +1 & accepted answer. – gadgetmo Mar 16 '12 at 18:33

The "minimal" is the CD image that just acts as a live distro for you to perform the Gentoo installation on -- it holds no (or very few) packages, so an Internet connection is still required while on that CD. Today, many Gentoo installers use System Rescue CD instead of the Gentoo-provided images. This step is really only for those that want to install Gentoo onto their current bootable partition.

stage3 is a "higher level" of the old stage 1s. Stage 1 was the "base" that you would start compiling from. Today, the stage 3 provides more already-compiled packages, so the system is a lot easier to set up. Stage1s would require users to do a lot of manual bootstrapping (recompiling with the application you just recompiled... confusing, right?).

You will need to grab the stageX once you are in the environment that you want to start building Gentoo, and it is highly recommended today to start with the stage3s, as opposed to stage 1s. You extract it, and then start building on top of that. See the Gentoo Handbook for instructions on building from the stage3 tarball.

Some like to "recompile" the stage3 binaries with their new USE and CFLAGS, and that is done by bootstrapping.

Good luck installing Gentoo! That's what really got me into GNU/Linux, and I hope it does the same for you.

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