Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or RHEL, is the go-to enterprise-level Linux distribution for customers who want vendor support. Red Hat sells RHEL to enterprise customers with support subscriptions, which can make it difficult for people looking for a RHEL server or workstation without having to fork out their hard-earned money. Red Hat offers a developer subscription for those who want to work on RHEL, and it’s completely free for those who sign up. We’ll show you how to build a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system for free using a developer subscription.
A brief warning
I’m sure many of you already know this, but for those who don’t, I want to point out that CentOS is a binary equivalent of RHEL. This means that if you are looking for all the same features of RHEL, but for free and without any limitation of use in production, I recommend you CentOS. This guide is intended only for those who wish to experiment, develop and work specifically with RHEL.
If you’re curious as to why Red Hat allows this, it’s because they state very specifically that systems that are part of the Developer Program should not be used for production purposes. This means you can use them around your home, but you don’t have to use them at work to support vital services. They don’t always fix all of the security vulnerabilities in the developer program subscription repositories, so I wouldn’t recommend it anyway.
Creating Your Red Hat Developer Account
To create your Red Hat developer account, go to developers.redhat.com / register. Once there, you will be redirected to a page to create your account. Enter your login ID, email address, work role, and password, then click to accept the Enterprise and Developer program agreements.
After creating your account, confirm your email with the link sent to the email address you used to register.
Once you have done this, you will be taken directly to the home page of your Red Hat developer account. Click on “Linux” in the top navigation bar and you will be taken to the RHEL page. Click “Download RHEL” to start your download.
You have a few options on the download page. You can download the full binary DVD, the bootable ISO, or Arm versions of both. I recommend the Boot ISO because you can register your system from the Anaconda installer and avoid downloading an 8GB ISO file. Choose the option you want, then you will probably be prompted to add additional information. such as your name to complete your account. Once everything is done, choose where you want to save your file, and it will be downloaded.
Building Your Free Red Hat Enterprise Linux System
You will need to choose the type of system you want to create, whether you want a physical desktop, a server, or a virtual machine. If you want a physical system, you’ll want to use a tool like balenaEtcher. If you want to create a virtual system, I recommend Virtual Machine Manager.
Whatever system you create, I recommend that you register your system with Red Hat in the installer. This will allow you to access the Red Hat CDN to install the software during installation on the boot ISO, and it will save you the headache of having to use the
subscription-manager tool once the system is installed. This way everything is finished and ready to go.
To register with Red Hat in the Anaconda installer, you will need your username and password (your email address will not work. It must be your name. user). Once you’ve done that, go through the installer as you wish and then complete the installation.
Here’s how to set up a RHEL system for free. Now you can develop and create on your system however you want, as long as you aren’t using it in production environments. Also be sure to check out the differences between RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora, and learn a bit more about GNOME Shell, the default desktop environment that ships with RHEL.
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