"How To Build A Base VAX-VMS System With Little Or No Prior Experience"

This document is not intended to take the place of any manuals or FAQs. The intention is that it will guide the hobbyist who is new to VMS to quickly get a system up and running with the bare essentials. I found that although I was a basic user of VMS, becoming the system manager of my own system which was basically a "blank slate" presented quite a challenge and the associated learning curve was pretty steep. I therefore have provided this cheat sheet with the "incantations" I used when initially setting up my VAX-VMS system.

Commands which you type, directory names, paths, filenames, and messages from the VAX are CAPITALIZED. It is assumed unless otherwise stated that each command line given is followed by use of the the "ENTER" key. The unbooted prompt is ">>>". The VAX-VMS prompt is "$".
{COMMENTS are enclosed in these brackets.}

To provide consistency throughout, assume an inexpensive yet complete VAX-VMS system, a VAXstation 3100-30. Connected to the example systemís SCSI-B bus via the rear-panel SCSI connector are a full-height 1-gig RZ57 SCSI hard disk installed in a DEC Storage Expansion box, a TK50 95-meg tape cartridge drive, and an RRD40 CD-ROM drive. The 3100 system box does not (yet) have an internal 3.5" SCSI drive connected to the internal SCSI-A bus.
Device names for this particular system are DKB0: for the hard disk, DKB400: for the CD-ROM drive, and MKB700: for the TK50 tape drive.
VMS5.5 was chosen because it does not require the 3rd-party MOTIF product in order to use DECwindows. The Vaxstation 3100 can accept a special color graphics card known as a GPX or an SPX card. These cards allow X-window color graphics. Without the card, the 3100 provides monochrome X-window graphics. In any case, a VT220 terminal set for 9600 baud (default) can be used instead of a graphics head. VMS was installed from the VAX-VMS Hobbyist CD-ROM using standalone backup and the license PAK information entered from the VAX-VMS Hobbyist License Product Authorization Key which was granted online at www.montagar.com/hobbyist/

The Frequently Questioned Answers:


Q. My VAX wonít boot. I get a ">>>" prompt but when I type "boot" I just get an error. When I specify a device, I still get an error.
A. Possibly none of the devices are bootable. Try this:

------- ------ ---- ------ -------- ----- -- ------ ---
ESA0 SEO 08-00-2B- 12-F1-46
DKB0 RZ8 B/0/0/00 DISK 1.00GB FX RZ57 5000
DKB400 RZ12 B/4/0/00 RODISK 681 MB RM WP RRD40 280E
...HOST ID... B/6 TAPE
MKB700 TZ15 B/7/0/00 TAPE ...... RM ..

The table displayed on the CRT shows which devices the VAX has found during its startup. The device names from any VAX may be somewhat different. The point is to see that your devices are present, identify them, and then work with those. Any of the displayed devices containing the proper resources may be booted. The VMS/VMB column shows the device names. You can also use:

>>> HELP

Any of the devices shown are capable of being booted from. Since the VAX would not boot, it looks like there is no VMS on any of the disks. Time to get out the OpenVMS Hobbyist CD-ROM.

Q. How do I install VAX-VMS from the Hobbyist CD-ROM?
A. The VMS install files are in the form of what is called a "save set" on the CD-ROM. Save sets are a special file format for backing up and restoring files or entire disks in VMS. The CD-ROM has on it a special program called Standalone Backup, which boots the VAX and prepares it to receive the save sets and configure VMS for its first use. To install base VMS 5.5 from the hobbyist cd-rom volume "HOBBYISTV1" which is placed in the SCSI CD-ROM drive DKB400:, First boot the VAX from the CD. Then tell standalone backup what save set to install. The filespec for the VMS 5.5 save set is DKB400:[000000]VMS055.B and the /SAVE qualifier tells the VAX that the file is a save set, and the /LOG tells the VAX to display a file-by-file log to the CRT while this procedure executes. You can leave off the /LOG if you want more speed.

>>> BOOT DKB400:

The VAX will ask for the date and time, and will configure devices, showing a table of available devices. Issue the following command:

$ BACKUP DKB400:[000000]VMS055.B /SAVE DKB0: /LOG

As the installation proceeds, the system will prompt you for more information.

Q. How do I install a Hobbyist VMS license?
A. To install your Hobbyist VMS license PAK, you will have to run the VMSLICENSE program and type in the information from the PAK exactly as it appears on the document.


You will get a menu of several options. Pick the one which says:
"REGISTER a Product Authorization Key"
In VMS5.5, Itís selection "1" in the menu. You will be prompted for the information and the license will then be registered in the license database. You will get the menu of several options again. Pick the one which says:
"ENABLE an existing Product Authorization Key"
In VMS5.5, Itís selection "10" in the menu. Reboot with the command:


When you reboot, your license will be active. Instead of this easy menu system, you can alternately use the command-line method to register and load a license, but it is tedious:
$ LICENSE REGISTER {You enter much information as a command line, without prompt}
$ LICENSE LOAD {The system will prompt you for the information.}

When you reboot, your license will be active.

Q. How do I register a license using an automated procedure?
A. Licenses are kept in SYS$COMMON:[SYSEXE]LMF$LICENSE.LDB At some time, you may wish to save your license database in order to move or back it up. It can be converted to DCL as a .COM file, and saved to tape or another disk. First you must convert the licenses on your system to a file you can run from the DCL prompt. This next command line will convert a license database to a file arbitrarily named "LICENSE_PAK.COM" and create it in the topmost directory of SCSI disk DKB0:, and will use the /PROCEDURE qualifier to make LICENSEís output into a .COM file so that you can run that selfsame .COM file to re-install the license(s) to a disk with a simple command later.


If you now SET DEF to DKB0:[000000] and do a DIR, you will see the file "LICENSE_PAK.COM" sitting there. Additionally, if you were to reboot now, the system would inform you that there is no VMS license installed. This is because you just converted the license to a transportabel file. Now you can run LICENSE_PAK.COM, the license PAK install program, the creation of which is described above. To function correctly, the program file must be copied to the correct directory.


and now make sure you are in that directory.


and issue the following command.


the licenses will then be (registered) added to the license database but they will not be enabled yet.

To enable a Hobbyist VMS license after running LICENSE_PAK.COM, type this.


You will get a menu of several options. Pick the one which says:
"ENABLE an existing Product Authorization Key"
In VMS5.5, Itís selection "10" in the menu. You can also LIST the licenses (selection "4"). Play with the menu to get familiar with it. You can alternately use the command-line method to register and load a license:
$ LICENSE LOAD {The system will prompt you for the information.}
Now reboot the VAX with this command:


The license will become active when you restart the computer.

Q. How do I backup a bootable system disk to a disk of a different type and make it bootable also?
A. A good way to do this is to mount the target disk /FOREIGN. Assume that the target is a new 3.5" 1-gig disk connected to the "A" (internal) SCSI bus inside the VAXstation 3100-30. We will back up the existing disk DKB0: to the new disk DKA0:


VMS will mount the volume and display the prompt.


Q. How can I create a standalone backup kit?
A. Use the command:


VMS will prompt you for the information.

Q. How do I backup from disk DUA0: to a save_set named TEST.SAV on the TK50 tape mounted /FOREIGN in drive MKB700:?
A. To backup the contents of the whole drive, use this command:


{This assumes that the contents of the drive will fit on the tape.} To backup ONLY the file DUA0:[VMS$COMMON.SYSEXE]LMF$LICENSE.LDB in the same manner, but to a save_set named LDB001.SAV and without rewinding the tape:


Q. VMS is running. Now how do I install software kits, such as CMUIP?
A. software install kits, such as CMUIP on the Hobbyist CD-ROM, are installed by a utility in vms. Use the command:

{On the CD, there are several files in the CMUIP directory. The CMU files are named CMUIP066.A, CMUIP066.B, CMUIP066.C, AND CMUIP066.D. There is also a CMUIP665K.bck save set which contains various upgrades. please read the FAQ.}
When VMS asks what product you wish to install, you type in the filename part of the spec:

Enter the products to be processes from the first distribution volume set.
* Products: CMUIP066
* Enter installation options you wish to use (none):



All of the following in this section assume you have DECwindows up and running. DECwindows is pretty intuitive.

Q. how do I generate another login prompt with a different login name?
A. Run DECterm


this will spawn another decterm window and give a login prompt for your user login.

Q. How do I generate a new DECterm window from within a DECterm session?

this will spawn another decterm window.

Q. How do I run a DECwindows program from within a DECterm session:

this will run DECW$CLOCK.EXE located in SYS$SYSTEM.

Dean Ostergaard added to the FQA:
I had a couple of tips for the DECWINDOWS Stuff section. (These work on an Alpha running OpenVMS v7.2)
A better way to create a new terminal window with a login prompt:
Without a login prompt (logged in as current user):
These will give you a prompt back in the window you invoke them from so you can use both at the same time.
Also, for running a DECWINDOWS program from a command line I prefer to use the following. (Actually I prefer to add them to the CDE menu but that's a whole different document.)
Again, this command will give you your prompt back without having to exit the program you just ran.