Little install FAQ for SunOS version 4.1

by Keith Woodworth, January 24, 1998

I do not know how many people out there acutally have or even run version 4.1 of SunOS these days, but it so happens that I do.

I am writing this to shed some light on this particular version as pretty much everything I have found on the internet deals with versions 4.1.x (4.1.1, 4.1.2,(was there a 4.1.2?) 4.1.3 and various updates)

This little FAQ deals with installing version 4.1 of SunOS because Sun changed the way the OS is installed between version 4.1 and 4.1.x. Well not really the way its installed as I'm sure its pretty much the same but really how to run/boot/install from QIC-24 tape.

As I have found there is very little or no information out there detailing the install of SunOS version 4.1. I have a couple of Sun 3/60's that I got a while back that came with v4.1 installed and two copies of SunOS 4.1 on tape.

The OS was sort of "broken". Alot of things worked, but alot of things did not. Some basic commands like vi, uname, vipw and various others did not work. Along with that some programs for creating a file system to netboot other Suns was there but some of it worked and some did not. After a few months of getting by with the OS in this shape I finally got around to getting the netbooting somewhat operational. But as some of that stuff was "broken" it never worked right so I finally decided to bite the bullet and re-install from scratch.

That was when I really discovered there was nothing out there for SunOS 4.1. Everything I found was for 4.1.x.

Messages went out, ftp sites searched, webs scoured and I came up with a few tidbits. One that I tried got me to a point. Then, through not having enough information to get the job done, I guessed at some values and knackered the harddrive. I wiped the disklabel and all partition info before I even really got started.

So out of desperation I phoned Sun and a tech there was nice enough to fax me the correct information on getting going with SunOS 4.1

Lets just say it was one big learning experience. One that I am writing down so if anyone else needs it, the information is there.

To Begin

SunOS 4.1 comes on two QIC-24 tapes like other 4.1.x versions, though 4.1.x versions come on CD too. Booting from tape is under 4.1 is similar to 4.1.x versions but requires a few more steps and a different syntax is used.

To boot and copy the miniroot over to the swap partition under 4.1.x you just had to type from the monitor:

  > b st()

and everything was pretty much done for you automatically. Not so with version 4.1. You have to specify a bit more at the monitor prompt to get things going:

  > b st()install sd(0,0,1)

Then it should flash on the screen Copying st(0,0,3) to partition. This is the miniroot being copied over to the swap/dump partition of your hard drive.

After this is completed you will be in the miniroot and you should have a # prompt. From there you can do a normal suninstall and be on your merry way. The above all assumes that you have a working disk, with all partitions and disklabel intact and your swap partition is bigger than the miniroot. If you dont, the copying will bail and a message will come up saying it could not find that partition then leave you at a different prompt which is shown below.

If you should be unlucky enough to NOT have a swap partition or disk with a valid disklabel to know where the swap partition is on the disk (like I did) doing the following from the monitor should get things rolling.

When at the > monitor prompt type:

  > b st()

Notice that this is what you do for 4.1.x installs. But for SunOS v4.1 after the tape spins for a minute or so you will be presented with another prompt:

Now at this prompt you have to type:
  Boot: st(0,0,4)

As this program is loading it detects your disk and you are presented with a small menu asking if you want to format your disk or exit to shell. Choose 1 to format your disk. This *does* not format your disk all it does is then ask which disk you want to format/disklable. A new menu will be presented with what disks were found.

At this point you should have a prompt with two (or three choices). It might look like this:

   1. format sd0
   2. format sd1 (if you have more than one disk you will see this)
   3. exit to shell

Choose 1 and the format program will run. You will then have a list of choices to format, partition, write disklabel and in general do anything you need to do to get a new disk going or just look at the current disk info.

As I had overwritten my original disklabel and lost the partition info I was very happy to find there was a choice to look for a backup disklabel and restore it if there is one. I was lucky, there was a backup and I got my partition info restored.

Once you have quit this part you will be asked if you want to load miniroot, or exit to shell. Hit 1 to load miniroot. Some info will pop up about version numbers etc, and you will see your hardware being probed.

Then you will be dropped, finally!, to a # shell prompt. Now from here you can type suninstall and be on your way. As I have never seen or installed any other version of SunOS except 4.1, I dont know how much it differs but at this point its probably somewhat the same as any 4.1.x version for installing the actual system.

On a related note there is something I did find with SunOS 4.1 that I have ever only seen reference to once and that is Standalone copy and Standalone format.

I did manage to get Standalone copy to run off the tape but I never did figure out how to use it. (the copy program was how I knackered the disklabel in the first place) And as for Standalone format, well I think st(0,0,4) is it but dont know for sure.

For Standalone Copy at the monitor > prompt type:

  > b st(0,0,2)

Tape will spin for a bit then you will have:
  Standalone Copy

I dont know what to enter here but valid devices are only tape drives or hard disks. After that prompt you get the prompt:

Again valid devices are only tape or hard disks.
If anyone does have any info related to Standalone copy and format I would like to hear from you.

So at any rate this is all the info I have about running SunOS 4.1 from tape. After over a month of searching dozens of internet sites related to Sun equipment/software of any kind and digging through any book I found that had mention of Sun Microsystems in it I came up empty handed.

I do not know if this information will be of use to anyone, but I thought if I ever did find what I was seeking I would write it down then post it.

If anyone has anything to add/critique about this info or found it useful in some way email me to the above address.