Knoppix, or KNOPPIX is a GNU/Linux operating system based on Debian designed to be run directly from a CD / DVD. Knoppix was developed by Linux consultant Klaus Knopper. When starting a program it is loaded from the optical disc and decompressed into a RAM drive. The decompression is transparent and on-the-fly.

Although Knoppix is primarily designed to be used as a Live CD, it can also be installed on a hard disk like a typical operating system. Computers that support booting from USB devices can load Knoppix from a live USB flash drive or memory card.

There are two main editions of Knoppix: the traditional Compact Disc (700 megabytes) edition and the DVD (4.7 gigabytes) "Maxi" edition. Each of these main editions has two language-specific editions: English and German.

Knoppix mostly consists of free software, but also includes proprietary software.


Knoppix can be used to back up files easily from hard drives with inaccessible operating systems. To quickly and more safely use Linux software the Live CD can be used instead of installing another OS.


More than 1000 software packages are included on the CD edition and more than 2600 are included on the DVD edition. Up to 9 gigabytes can be stored on the DVD in compressed form. These packages include:


Requirements to run Knoppix:

  • Intel-compatible processor (i486 or later)
  • 32 MB of RAM for text mode, at least 96 MB for graphics mode with KDE (at least 128 MB of RAM is recommended to use the various office products)
  • Bootable CD-ROM drive, or a boot floppy and standard CD-ROM (IDE/ATAPI or SCSI)
  • Standard SVGA-compatible graphics card
  • Serial or PS/2 standard mouse or IMPS/2-compatible USB-mouse

Saving changes in the environment

Prior to Knoppix 3.8.2, any documents or settings a user created would disappear upon reboot. This lack of permanence made it necessary to save documents explicitly to a hard drive partition, over the network, or to some removable medium, such as a USB flash drive.

It was also possible to set up a "persistent home directory", where any documents or settings written to the user's home directory would automatically be redirected to a hard drive or removable medium, which could be automatically mounted on bootup. What is stored there physically is a file called knoppix.img. The file is used to simulate a file system into which files are written for later use. This is transparent for the user. What the user perceives is that it is possible to write files to the home directory.

Union mount support was added in version 3.8.1 through UnionFS. This was later replaced in 5.1.0 by Aufs to improve stability.. The union mount allows virtual updates to the data on the read-only CD/DVD medium by storing changes on a separate writable medium and then representing the combination of the two as single storage device. The writable medium can be memory (ramdisk), a hard disk, USB flash drive, etc. This means that the user can modify the software installed on the Knoppix system, such as by using APT to install or update software. The storage device containing the changes needs to be present whenever Knoppix is started else only the original data from the disc will be used.

By default Knoppix will scan available storage devices for a persistent home directory, but you can override this scan and provide a specific location with a boot option (see below) such as:


By carrying a Knoppix CD and a USB flash drive, a user can have the same environment, programs, settings, and data available on any computer that is Knoppix-compatible.

Boot options

When using Knoppix as a Live CD, one can use boot options, also known as 'cheatcodes', to override a default setting or automatic hardware detection when it fails. For example, the user may wish to boot into a plain console, or proceed without SCSI support. For this, Knoppix allows the user to enter one or more cheat codes at the prompt before booting. If the user doesn't enter a cheat code, or doesn't press any key before the timeout, Knoppix will boot with its default options. For example, to set the language to French rather than the default, one would type:

knoppix lang=fr


Knoppix was one of the first Live CD Linux distributions to gain popularity. There are several factors that contribute to the popularity of Knoppix:

  • Knoppix was one of the first Live CDs available, and is known as the "original" Debian-based Live CD
  • Its extensive hardware detection allows most systems to start Knoppix without any configuration
  • Its ability to automatically connect to most kinds of networks
  • Its utilities for system repair and troubleshooting

Knoppix works on a fairly high number of PCs or laptops, but not all. The automatic hardware detection cannot cope with all hardware, and sometimes the drivers used will not be optimal. Knoppix has difficulty recognizing some cards made before 1998, or motherboards with a BIOS made before 2002. (In some cases, manual configuration with codes entered at boot time can overcome problems with automatic detection.)

If a PC does not have enough RAM to run KDE and other included programs, Knoppix boots up a very limited twm session instead. The only window running in the twm session by default is xterm.


As of April 2008, from version 4 up until 5.1.1, Knoppix has been split into a DVD "maxi" edition (with over 9GB of software), and a CD "light" edition, both developed in parallel, after 5.1.1 only the DVD version is available.

The following is the version history for major releases.

Knoppix version Release date CD DVD
1.4 30 September 2000
1.6 26 April 2001
2.1 14 March 2002
2.2 14 May 2002
3.1 19 January 2003
3.2 26 July 2003
3.3 16 February 2004
3.4 17 May 2004
3.5 LinuxTag-Version June 2004
3.6 16 August 2004
3.7 9 December 2004
3.8 CeBIT-Version 28 February 2005
3.8.1 8 April 2005
3.8.2 12 May 2005
3.9 1 June 2005
4.0 LinuxTag-Version 22 June 2005
4.0 updated 16 August 2005
4.0.2 23 September 2005
5.0 CeBIT-Version 25 February 2006
5.0.1 2 June 2006
5.1.0 30 December 2006
5.1.1 4 January 2007
5.2 CeBIT-Version March 2007
5.3 CeBIT-Version 12 February 2008
5.3.1 26 March 2008


Adriane Knoppix

Adriane Knoppix is a variation that is intended for blind and visually impaired people, which can be used entirely without vision oriented output devices. It was released in the third quarter of 2007 as a Live CD. Adriane Knoppix is named after Adriane Knopper, the wife of Klaus Knopper, the developer of Knoppix. Adriane has a visual impairment, and has been assisting Klaus with the development of the software. The name Adriane is also an acronym (although it's probably a backronym) for "Audio Desktop Reference Implementation And Networking Environment".

Adriane Knoppix is intended not only for the blind but also for beginners who don’t know much about computers. It is simple to use since the user does not have to search through many applications to find what they need. It uses the SUSE-Blind-Linux (SBL) Screenreader with a phoneme generator and speech engine for normal output.

Other variations

  • Auditor Security Collection, intended to test the security of networks
  • BackTrack is the result of the merger between the Auditor Security Collection (above) and Whoppix, a discontinued live CD with computer network penetration testing tools and known later as WHAX, during which time it was based on SLAX instead of Knoppix.
  • Buildix, oriented on an agile development infrastructure with Trac, Subversion and CruiseControl
  • ClusterKnoppix, which uses openMosix
  • Damn Small Linux, 50 MB image file with Linux 2.4. Works as Live CD and Live USB
  • Feather Linux, 128 MB image with Linux 2.4, works as a Live CD and Live USB
  • Flonix USB Edition, an old live CD
  • Guadalinex, Spanish
  • Helix, focusing on the computer security areas of forensics, data discovery and incident response
  • Hikarunix, which provides a full study/play environment for Go
  • INSERT (INside SEcurity Rescue Toolkit), which fits on a Mini-Live CD and is focused on security and system repairs
  • Kanotix, with live-cd function, but fully supports HD-install and dist-upgrade as well
  • Knoppix STD (Security Tools Distribution), which focuses on computer security tools
  • KnoppMyth, a distro that attempts to make the Linux and MythTV installation as trivial as possible
  • Kurumin, in Brazilian Portuguese
  • Morphix, a modular distribution with four basic variations and the ability to construct more variations easily using a module system
  • Musix GNU+Linux, specifically for musicians
  • Quantian, for statisticians
  • sidux, independent distribution with installer, inspired by knoppix, over the detour of kanotix.
  • Tilix, Bulgarian Linux based operating system, easy to use for beginners and for advanced users. The distribution can work directly from CD or can be installed to you hard drive. The hardware recognition is automatic.

See also


Further reading


News articles

External links

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