Knoppix - A short tour for GNU/Linux newbies

Target audience: first time GNU/Linux users.


Knoppix is the ideal tool for any person who wants to discover GNU/Linux without any headaches, complicated installations or risks for his computer. It is also an ideal learning tool, security tool and rescue instrument (even for Windows machines). A few basic tricks will help you find your way around Knoppix (and GNU/Linux).

What exactly is Knoppix?

Why is Knoppix ideal for beginners?

First look around

Once Knoppix has fully loaded itself, you are looking at something which should not seem too exotic for any Windows user. By default Knoppix loads the KDE desktop manager which is very intuitive and easy to use. On the bottom of your screen, the task bar allows you to launch a number of applications and if you click on the 'K' on the lower left you will have a menu not unlike the one you are used to. Play around, try a couple of things, and get used to how everything is organized.

The only thing which will look very different to you is the application with the icon "sea-shell in front of the screen" on your task bar: this launches the 'Konsole' terminal emulator. You have probably heard that GNU/Linux users love the 'command line' console and many even prefer it to graphic user interfaces. While this might look like the old DOS console, it is something very different, much more powerful and extremely flexible which you will probably learn to appreciate, but for the time being, you can simply ignore it: if you want an all-graphics GNU/Linux, Knoppix and KDE will easily satisfy you!

You should definitely click and play around with the 'control center' application which allows you to configure your desktop and, if needed, configure KDE. It is rather self-explanatory and we shall not go into details here (for this, or for any other KDE-related topic, read the excellent KDE help center handbook, found under 'help').

Getting Around (File systems)

The '/mnt' subdirectory

Knoppix - specific configuration tools

If you press on the 'K' icon in your task bar and scroll to the KNOPPIX menu, you will get to a set of very useful tools to configure Knoppix.

A couple of words about Knoppix and security

Knoppix is about as safe a system as can be, not only because it is GNU/Linux, but also because it is a live-CD. By default, GNU/Linux is already a pretty safe system, but having a live-CD makes it close to indestructible simply because as long as your Knoppix CD is not physically damaged there is no way any virus, worm or hacker can do any damage to your computer. Well, not quite, but almost. While Knoppix is up and running a virus or hacker can, theoretically, mess with your system. But the damage will only persist as long as you do not reboot. Next time you start Knoppix it will reinstall itself with no trace of whatever damage was done. Well, theoretically, one could conceive of something done on your 'persistent home directory' (assuming you created one) but that is exceedingly unlikely simply because '/home' is not a very interesting place to be for a hacker or a virus: they, typically, will try to sneak in those directories which are re-created each time Knoppix is loaded. You do not need to look into all these issues right now, but at least you can have the very comfortable feeling that you are running as system about as secure as conceivably can be!

One last thing - Knoppix passwords

You are unlikely to ever need to worry about passwords while trying our Knoppix. However, some applications might ask you for either a "user password" or a "root password" so we need to mention this here. This is one area were Knoppix is outright weird when compared to other versions of GNU/Linux: Knoppix passwords are locked by default. This means that you are not given any password by the system. Without going into the reasons for this, you need to be aware of a very simple trick which allows you to set a password for you (the user called 'knoppix') and for 'root' (which you can think of as the system administrator). Here is how it goes:

Click on 'K' at the lower left hand corner of your screen, scroll to KNOPPIX and then click on the 'root shell' icon. This will open a back screen with a strange looking prompt:

Just type in the command 'passwd', you will be prompted to 'Enter new UNIX password:' and 'Retype new UNIX password:'. Enter whatever password you have chosen for the administrator and that's it. For the 'knoppix' user, just do the same thing but type in 'passwd knoppix'. You can then close the window by either typing 'exit' or clicking on the 'x' icon on the upper right corner of the window.
Just remember one thing: Knoppix, and all of GNU/Linux, is case-sensitive. This means that 'knoppix', 'Knoppix' and 'KNOPPIX' are all different command or different users or filenames! Make sure to remember this when you create or enter a password.

With all this you have all the information you need to get a good start with Knoppix. Should you have any further questions, you probably will, go to and read the documentation, the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) or post your questions in the appropriate forum. You will find plenty of friendly and competent people willing to help you with any additional questions you might have.

Based on an article by Andrei Raevsky ( Original found at:

More Links

Knoppix - Part 2

One potential key to some of these items may be in that "homedir" that is stored on one's hard drive or elsewhere. And, which is invoked by the "knoppix home=scan" command at boot up. Demo some of what is included on the CD:
Last modified: Sat Apr 3 16:58:41 2004