Gentoo Wiki



Base Install

  1. What is Gentoo?
  2. About
  3. Preparation
  4. Partitioning
  5. Configuring
  6. Stage Progression
  7. Kernel
  8. Bootloader
  9. Test
  10. Converting from or to a non-Gentoo distribution
  11. Troubleshooting
  12. Maintaining


Base Extras



Other Articles



What it is

Gentoo Linux is a special flavor of Linux that can be automatically optimized and customized for just about any application or need. Extreme performance, configurability and a top-notch user and developer community are all hallmarks of the Gentoo experience. Gentoo is a metadistribution whose from-source, bottom-up installation approach allows it to fit nearly any need.


Gentoo is characterized by several key features. While no single feature is unique to Gentoo, no other distribution has this critical combination of features.

Package Management System(s)

Portage is the main application used with Gentoo to facilitate installation of packages in the Gentoo distribution. When you use Portage to install an application, it automatically checks for dependencies, downloads the source, configures the build environment, compiles the program, installs the files into the filesystem, and keeps track of where the files went. When a program is uninstalled or upgraded Portage cleans up everything except for certain config files (for example in /etc), which are not changed without the sysadmin's permission. Gentoo also offers alternatives to the default Portage system. The most popular alternatives are Paludis and Pkgcore.

Source-Based Distribution

In general, Gentoo packages are compiled from source code on each user's machine. The biggest advantage of this approach is that up-to-date versions of many applications are available very quickly. The Gentoo package developer does not have to create an i386 binary, a PowerPC binary, a Sparc binary, etc. Instead the package creator makes one source package and releases it to the user community to be compiled and tested. Another advantage is that source code patches can be incorporated into the Gentoo package as soon as they are available, leading to quick turnaround for bug fixes and security patches.

Gentoo allows one to specify which features are enabled or disabled in the software that is installed in the system both at a universal level (as USE flags in /etc/make.conf) and on a per-package basis (/etc/portage/package.use). For example, one may wish to use a mysql database backend in those packages that support it, while someone else might prefer to use an sqlite backend. Binary distributions generally leave users with a "one-size-fits-all" feature set.

Some closed-source applications (Acrobat reader) and large binaries (OpenOffice) are also available as binary installations just like the packages being compiled from source.

There is also some binary support (that means that the packages that are built from source can also be downloaded and installed as binaries), but it's rather limited (that is a problem because Gentoo is about choice).

Another advantage, although one which is somewhat overblown in certain discussion forums, is the ability to create binaries that are optimized for your specific hardware and usage. A Gentoo system is therefore more likely to run faster and more efficiently than a binary installation. If someone has documented this, please post a link here!

User Community

Gentoo Linux is a community project governed by the Gentoo Foundation. The official Gentoo documentation, the Forums, and this Wiki are all places where Gentoo users help one another.

Commercial Support

Commercial support for Gentoo is available from:

That is not the only Gentoo company in existence, however, it is the only one listed in the sponsor page. See Talk:Gentoo.

Commercial support found on Google

System Flags

Some of the key features of Gentoo are the USE Flags and CFLAGS which reside in make.conf. These flags are the way in which you tell Portage how to optimize the build process for your system. USE flags tell Portage what software capabilities should be built into your applications, and CFLAGS tell the compiler how to optimize for your hardware.

Learning Opportunities

Gentoo does not have an installer! Do not worry, there are very good installation instructions in the Gentoo Handbook. You will have to learn something about how GNU/Linux works as you install the various components of the operating system. There are three "stages" of installation that allow you to trade off customization vs. involvement. See the Gentoo Handbook for details.

That was true before the development of several installers. See Talk:Gentoo.

Gentoo Penguin

An actual Gentoo penguin
An actual Gentoo penguin


Barry the Cow

Barry The Cow
Barry The Cow
Retrieved from ""

Last modified: Sat, 20 Sep 2008 19:54:00 +0000 Hits: 49,612