How to Create a Red Hat Enterprise Linux System for Free

Rhel Free Feature

Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or RHEL, is the go-to enterprise-level Linux distribution for those customers who want support from a vendor. Red Hat sells RHEL to enterprise customers along with support subscriptions, which can make it difficult for those individuals who are looking for a RHEL server or workstation without having to fork over their hard-earned dollars. Red Hat has a developer subscription available for those who want to work on RHEL, and it’s completely cost-free for those who sign up. We’ll be showing you how to create a Red Hat Enterprise Linux system for free using a developer subscription. 

A Brief Disclaimer

I’m sure many of you already know this, but for those that don’t, I’d like to point out that CentOS is a binary equivalent of RHEL. This means that, if you’re looking for all the same features of RHEL but cost-free and without any limitations on production use, I’d recommend CentOS. This guide is only for those who are looking to experience, develop on, and specifically work with RHEL.

If you’re curious why Red Hat allows this, it’s because they very specifically state that systems that are part of the Developer Program are not to be used for production purposes. This means that you can use them around your house, but you’re not to use them at work to support vital services. They don’t always patch all security vulnerabilities in the Developer Program subscription repositories, so I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. 

Creating Your Red Hat Developer Account

In order to create your Red Hat Developer account, go to developers.redhat.com/register. Once there, you’ll be redirected to a page to create your account. Enter your login ID, email address, job role, and password, then click to acknowledge the Enterprise and Developer Program agreements. 

Rhel Free Registration
Registering for a Red Hat Developer Account

After you create your account, confirm your email with the link sent to the email address you used to sign up.

Rhel Free Confirm Email
Confirming my email address

Once you do that, you’ll be sent straight to the homepage for your Red Hat Developer account. Click on “Linux” in the top navigation bar, and you’ll be sent to the page about RHEL. Click “Download RHEL” to start your download. 

Rhel Free Download Rhel 1
Ready to download my RHEL ISO file

You have a few options on the downloads page. You can download the full binary DVD, the Boot ISO, or the Arm versions of both. I’d recommend the Boot ISO because you can register your system from the Anaconda installer and avoid downloading an 8 GB ISO file. Choose whichever option you want, then you’ll probably be prompted to add some additional information such as your name to complete your account. Once that’s all completed, choose where you want to save your file, and it’ll download. 

Creating Your Free Red Hat Enterprise Linux System

You’ll have to choose which kind of system you want to create, whether you want a physical workstation, 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’d recommend Virtual Machine Manager

Regardless of which system you create, I’d recommend registering your system with Red Hat in the installer. This will allow you to access the Red Hat CDN for installing software at installation on the Boot ISO, plus it saves you the headache of having to use the subscription-manager tool once the system is installed. This way it’s all done and ready to go. 

Rhel Free Register User Anaconda
In the Anaconda installer, I registered my system. Now I can install software from the Red Hat CDN

To register with Red Hat in the Anaconda installer, you’ll need your username and password (your email address will not work. It has to be your username). Once you’ve done that, navigate your way through the installer to your liking, then complete the installation. 

That’s how to set up a RHEL system for free. You can now develop and create on your system to your heart’s content, as long as you don’t use it in production environments. Also, make sure to check out the differences between RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora, and learn a little more about GNOME Shell, the default Desktop Environment that comes with RHEL.

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