8.1. An overview of boots and shutdowns
The act of turning on a computer system and causing its
operating system to be loaded
is called booting. The name comes from
an image of the computer pulling itself up from its bootstraps,
but the act itself slightly more realistic.
During bootstrapping, the computer first loads a small piece
of code called the bootstrap loader, which
in turn loads and starts the operating system. The bootstrap
loader is usually stored in a fixed location on a hard disk
or a floppy. The reason for this two step process is that
the operating system is big and complicated, but the first
piece of code that the computer loads must be very small (a
few hundred bytes), to avoid making the firmware unnecessarily
Different computers do the bootstrapping differently.
For PCs, the computer (its BIOS) reads in the first sector
(called the boot sector) of a floppy or
hard disk. The bootstrap loader is contained within this sector.
It loads the operating system from elsewhere on the disk (or
from some other place).
After Linux has been loaded, it initializes the hardware and
device drivers, and then runs init.
starts other processes to allow users to log in, and do things.
The details of this part will be discussed below.
In order to shut down a Linux system, first all processes
are told to terminate (this makes them close any files and
do other necessary things to keep things tidy), then filesystems
and swap areas are unmounted, and finally a message is printed
to the console that the power can be turned off. If the proper
procedure is not followed, terrible things can and will happen;
most importantly, the filesystem buffer cache might not be flushed,
which means that all data in it is lost and the filesystem on
disk is inconsistent, and therefore possibly unusable.