How to install CentOS 7 Server and Desktop

This tutorial will show you how to install the latest version of CentOS Linux 7 on a dedicated server or desktop machine. The same steps will work on private or public cloud virtual machines too. CentOS is a stable Open Source Linux distribution and one of the most popular Linux platforms based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (rhel) sources.

The typical installation of CentOS as performed in this tutorial will be based on the CentOS 7 DVD ISO image. You can burn the image to a DVD or copy it to a bootable USB drive. The installation covers the process of installing CentOS 7 on UEFI based machine. The same installation procedure can be successfully applied on old BIOS motherboards or on UEFI systems with Legacy Mode or CSM (Compatibility Support Module) option enabled.


Initial Preparation

After you’ve downloaded the CentOS DVD ISO image by following the download link presented above, use a DVD burning software to place the bootable image to a DVD or prepare a bootable USB stick that contains the CentOS image.

Bootable USB Drive

A bootable USB drive can be created with the Rufus program in order to be fully compatible with UEFI based motherboards. If you don’t have an UEFI motherboard machine, then you can use any other software to create a bootable CentOS 7 USB stick. Some of the most popular software to create bootable USB flash memory drives can be found at the website.

Configure Bios

Another important aspect which must be followed in order to properly install CentOS 7 on UEFI based motherboards is to open your machine motherboard UEFI settings (pressing a special key, such as F1, F2, F11, F12, Del, Esc) and disable QuickBoot or FastBoot and Secure Boot options. The BIOS/EFI keys you need to press during hardware initialization or machine power on phase in order to enter BIOS/UEFI settings highly depend on the motherboard vendor specifications and should be included in the motherboard’s manual. Another important aspect is to change the machine boot order and instruct the BIOS/EFI to use the proper drive for booting (DVD drive or USB). On some machines, the boot order or the boot drive can be selected by pressing a special key at hardware power on.

Install CentOS 7

After you’ve made the above settings to your machine motherboard UEFI/BIOS, place the DVD ISO image of CentOS 7.4 or the bootable USB flash stick in the appropriate motherboard drive. Then reboot or power-on the machine. Hit the appropriate bootable key from the keyboard and instruct the BIOS or UEFI software to boot the machine from the appropriate DVD or USB drive. The CentOS 7 bootable ISO image should load and it will present you the first installation image on your monitor screen. Select Install CentOS 7 from that menu and hit the Enter key to start the installation process, as illustrated in the following image.

CentOS Boot menu

After a few seconds, the CentOS graphical installer will be loaded into your machine RAM and will present you the ”Welcome to CentOS 7” screen. Select the appropriate language for your system installation process and press hit on Continue button.

CentOS Installer loaded - select thee language

On the next screen, you will see the Installation Summary menu. Here, first select the Date and Time menu to open this menu. Use the map to select your geographical location. Also, below the map, you have the option to configure the date and time settings. If the time is correctly configured just hit on the upper left Done button to complete this stage and return to the initial menu, as illustrated in the below images.

Configure Date and Time

Set the timezone

On the next step, hit on Keyboard menu and set up the keyboard layout for your system. To add another keyboard layout hit on the + button and select the appropriate keyboard. When you finish this step hit on Done to return to the main menu.

Choose keyboard layout

Next, hit the Language Support menu and setup your system language support. Again, when you finish this step, hit Done to return to the main menu.

Select the language

Next, hit the system Security Policy menu and select a security profile from the list. You’re safe to choose the Default security profile. Hit the Select profile button and switch Apply security policy button to ON. When you finish, hit the Done button to return to the main screen.

Security policy

In the next step, go to Software Selection menu. There, you will find a list of some predefined base environments for your system. You can choose to install a graphical desktop environment, such as Gnome, KDE Plasma or Creative Workstation, or you can choose to install a custom server installation, such as Web server, Compute Node, Virtualization host, Infrastructure server, Server with a graphical interface or File and Print Server.

The most suitable environment for a server is the Minimal Install option because it is the most flexible and has a small disk footprint. Select Minimal Install base environment, select Compatibility Libraries add-ons from the left pane and hit on the Done button to finish this setting and return to main menu.
Software selection

In case you want to install a full Gnome or KDE Desktop environment, select the proper environments as shown in the below screenshots and hit on Done button. However, you cannot choose to install more the one environment per installation.

Select Desktop - KDE or GNOME

KDE Desktop

Next, go to the Installation Source menu and select Auto-detected installation media as default. You also have the options to perform the installation from other network locations such as HTTP, HTTPS, FTP or NFS server or add additional repositories. When you finish, hit Done to return to the main menu.

Installation source

Next, hit on the Installation Destination menu to open storage partition settings. In Device Selection, check the local machine hard disk. Then, in Other Storage Options, check Automatically configure partitioning. This option ensures that the machine hard disk will be automatically partitioned with the /(root), /home and swap partitions. When you finish, hit the Done button to activate the machine drive partition layout and return to the main menu screen.

Installation destination

In the next installation screen, hit the KDUMP menu and disable KDUMP kernel crash mechanism in order to free system RAM. Hit on the Done button to apply this setting and return to the main menu.


Next, hit the Network & Hostname menu and configure your machine FQDN hostname.  Also activate and enable the network service by switching the Ethernet button from OFF to ON. You can manually configure the network interface in this step if that’s the case. When you finish, hit the Done button to return to the main installation menu.

Configure network settings

Finally, before starting the installation process, make sure you review all settings you’ve made. When you finish, hit the Begin Installation button to start installing CentOS 7.

Network and Hostname

After the installer starts hit on the ROOT PASSWORD menu in Configuration screen and setup a strong password for the root account. When you finish, hit the Done button to return to user settings screen.

User settings

Set root password

Next, hit the User Creation menu and add a new system account and a strong password for this account. Check Make this user administrator and Require a password to use the account options in order to grant this user root privileges. This avoids that you have to manually enter the password each time you log in to the system. When you finish setting up the user, hit on the Done button to return to the initial menu and wait for the installation process to complete.

After a few minutes, the installer will report that CentOS has been successfully installed on your machine. In order to use the system you just have to remove the installation media and reboot the machine.

Create system user

After the installation process completes, hit on Reboot button and the machine will reboot. After the restart, log in to the CentOS console with the credentials configured while installing the system. Then issue the following command with root privileges to update the system.

sudo yum update

That’s all! You’ve successfully installed the latest version of CentOS 7 on your machine.