Linux startup process is the multi-stage initialization process performed during booting a Linux installation. It is in many ways similar to the BSD and other Unix-style boot processes, from which it derives.
Booting a Linux installation involves multiple stages and software components, including firmware initialization, execution of a boot loader, loading and startup of a Linux kernel image, and execution of various startup scripts and daemons. For each of these stages and components there are different variations and approaches; for example, GRUB, coreboot or Das U-Boot can be used as boot loaders (historical examples are LILO, SYSLINUX or Loadlin), while the startup scripts can be either traditional init-style, or the system configuration can be performed through modern alternatives such as systemd or Upstart.
Early stages of the Linux startup process depend very much on the computer architecture. IBM PC compatible hardware is one architecture Linux is commonly used on; on these systems, the BIOS plays an important role, which might not have exact analogs on other systems. In the following example, IBM PC compatible hardware is assumed:
start_kernel()which performs the majority of system setup (interrupts, the rest of memory management, device and driver initialization, etc.). It then starts up, separately, the idle process, scheduler, and the init process, which is executed in user space.
On shutdown, init is called to close down all user space functionality in a controlled manner. Once all the other processes have terminated, init makes a system call to the kernel instructing it to shut the system down.
The boot loader phase varies by computer architecture. Since the earlier phases are not specific to the operating system, the BIOS-based boot process for x86 and x86-64 architectures is considered to start when the master boot record (MBR) code is executed in real mode and the first-stage boot loader is loaded. In UEFI systems, the Linux kernel can be executed directly by UEFI firmware via EFISTUB, but usually uses GRUB 2 or systemd-boot as a boot loader. Below is a summary of some popular boot loaders:
Historical boot loaders, no longer in common use, include:
/etc/lilo.conf) is created in a live system which maps raw offset information (mapper tool) about location of kernel and ram disks (initrd or initramfs). The configuration file, which includes data such as boot partition and kernel pathname for each, as well as customized options if needed, is then written together with bootloader code into MBR bootsector. When this bootsector is read and given control by BIOS, LILO loads the menu code and draws it then uses stored values together with user input to calculate and load the Linux kernel or chain-load any other boot-loader.
The Linux kernel handles all operating system processes, such as memory management, task scheduling, I/O, interprocess communication, and overall system control. This is loaded in two stages – in the first stage, the kernel (as a compressed image file) is loaded into memory and decompressed, and a few fundamental functions such as basic memory management are set up. Control is then switched one final time to the main kernel start process. Once the kernel is fully operational – and as part of its startup, upon being loaded and executing – the kernel looks for an init process to run, which (separately) sets up a user space and the processes needed for a user environment and ultimate login. The kernel itself is then allowed to go idle, subject to calls from other processes.
For some platforms (like ARM 64-bit), kernel decompression has to be performed by the boot loader instead.
The kernel is typically loaded as an image file, compressed into either zImage or bzImage formats with zlib. A routine at the head of it does a minimal amount of hardware setup, decompresses the image fully into high memory, and takes note of any RAM disk if configured. It then executes kernel startup via
./arch/i386/boot/head and the
startup_32 () (for x86 based processors) process.
The startup function for the kernel (also called the swapper or process 0) establishes memory management (paging tables and memory paging), detects the type of CPU and any additional functionality such as floating point capabilities, and then switches to non-architecture specific Linux kernel functionality via a call to
start_kernel executes a wide range of initialization functions. It sets up interrupt handling (IRQs), further configures memory, starts the Init process (the first user-space process), and then starts the idle task via
cpu_idle(). Notably, the kernel startup process also mounts the initial RAM disk ("initrd") that was loaded previously as the temporary root file system during the boot phase. The initrd allows driver modules to be loaded directly from memory, without reliance upon other devices (e.g. a hard disk) and the drivers that are needed to access them (e.g. a SATA driver). This split of some drivers statically compiled into the kernel and other drivers loaded from initrd allows for a smaller kernel. The root file system is later switched via a call to
pivot_root() which unmounts the temporary root file system and replaces it with the use of the real one, once the latter is accessible. The memory used by the temporary root file system is then reclaimed.
Thus, the kernel initializes devices, mounts the root filesystem specified by the boot loader as read only, and runs Init (
/sbin/init) which is designated as the first process run by the system (PID = 1). A message is printed by the kernel upon mounting the file system, and by Init upon starting the Init process. It may also optionally run Initrd[clarification needed] to allow setup and device related matters (RAM disk or similar) to be handled before the root file system is mounted.
At this point, with interrupts enabled, the scheduler can take control of the overall management of the system, to provide pre-emptive multi-tasking, and the init process is left to continue booting the user environment in user space.
initramfs, also known as early user space, has been available since version 2.5.46 of the Linux kernel, with the intent to replace as many functions as possible that previously the kernel would have performed during the startup process. Typical uses of early user space are to detect what device drivers are needed to load the main user space file system and load them from a temporary filesystem. Many distributions use dracut to generate and maintain the initramfs image.
Once the kernel has started, it starts the init process. Historically this was the "SysV init", which was just called "init". More recent Linux distributions are likely to use one of the more modern alternatives such as systemd.
Basically, these are grouped as operating system service-management.