Basic Debian Installation

Because every computer and situation is a little different, your results may be slightly different from what you find here. These instruction were written to be as generic as possible; however, at some points you will find notes indicating deviations, such as between networks and standalone systems.

One final instruction before continuing: You can navigate the menus with the arrow keys or the Tab key. You can select options with multiple choices using the spacebar. Now you are ready to begin the installation of Debian GNU/Linux on your system.

If for some reason you are unable to boot from the CD, you can create boot floppies to get the installation started. You will need two DOS pre-formatted floppy disks. From DOS or Windows, go to the \dists\potato\main\ disks-i386\\dosutils directory on the CD and execute the rawrite.exe program.

When asked for the source file, enter ..\images- 1.44\rescue.bin. For the destination, enter A:. Repeat again, replacing root.bin for the filename of rescue.bin for the second floppy. If you are lucky enough to have access to a Linux distribution, you can use the Direct Dump (dd if /path/file of /dev/fd0) command to make the disks as well.

Make sure that the floppies are DOS formatted first in either case. Once you have the disks made, you can boot your system using the rescue disk first, then the root disk when asked. The down side of using the floppy disks is that you could end up with the compact kernel found on the floppies.

The compact kernel doesn’t have all the functionality of the full kernel, which means that you may have trouble getting all your hardware to work without having to tweak the kernel. This is why I suggest using the CD to boot from at the start.

After the system is booted, you will see a prompt warning you that if you continue, you may lose data already on your hard drive. Pressing Enter initiates the loading of the installation process. At this time, you are actually running a scaled-down version of Linux for the installation.

The first screen that appears welcomes you to the Debian install, indicates that this is Debian GNU/Linux 2.2, and gives credit to all the programmers and companies who have contributed to this distribution. Press Enter to continue.

The main menu shows the different steps along the way. Using the arrow keys, you can navigate this menu if you ever need to select a menu option other than the one automatically selected. The first option in the menu is choosing a keyboard configuration. Press Enter to accept the menu default.

Configuring the keyboard

Here you can chose from a number of keyboards. For most American PCs, you will use the default qwerty/us option. Once you have selected the keyboard you wish to configure, press Enter to return to the main menu.

Partitioning a hard disk

This is the time to create the partitions you need to install Debian. You need to create a swap partition as well as a Linux partition. First create the Linux partition starting at the beginning of the free space. You only need one Linux partition for the complete installation.

Initializing and activating a swap partition

After the drive is partitioned for the install, it needs to be initialized, which means that it is formatted for use. Select the desired swap partition (normally only one) and press Enter. The next dialog box asks you whether you want to skip the bad blocks check. The default, Yes, skips the check.

Initializing a Linux partition

Time now to initialize the Linux partition. This formats and sets up the main partition on the hard drive where you will install Debian. Select the partition on which you wish to install Debian. If you only have one partition created for Linux, you should only see one partition. Press Enter to accept the partition.

Initializing the operating system kernel and modules

Now that the disk is prepared, the fun begins as the kernel and the needed modules are installed on the new system. Press Enter to accept the highlighted menu option to start this process of installing the kernel and modules.

Configuring device driver modules

After the core kernel gets loaded on your system, you need to configure the modules to go with the kernel. A module is nothing more than a driver that enables the kernel to interact with a particular component. Some modules must be provided after the installation because they come from the manufacturer.

Configuring the network

The Configure the Network option should pop up only if you selected a network card module. This is where you configure the networking device to work with the local network. If you have any questions about the information used here, contact your system administrator.

Installing the base system

The next step is to install the base system, the software for the base operating system, such as the kernel, the modules, and the supporting configuration files. You are given the option to select the basic tasks that this system will perform. The supporting software will load based on those selections. Press Enter on the Install the Base Systems to begin this process.

Configuring the base system

Time now to configure the base system. This primarily sets the time zone in which you live. Press Enter on the highlighted Install the Base System menu option to begin. Select your location by first selecting the area where you live in the left column labeled Directories.

Booting Linux directly from the hard drive

This area of the configuration tells Linux where you want to boot. Under normal circumstances, you use the Master Boot Record (MBR) of the primary drive as the boot choice. This looks like /dev/hda. For those interested in dual booting, use this option unless you use a boot manager like BootMagic from PowerQuest.

Making a boot floppy

It is always a good idea to have a backup boot disk. Especially when trying something different. This disk enables you to boot your system even when something went wrong while writing the boot record. Press Enter on the highlighted menu option labeled Make a Boot Floppy to begin making the boot disk.

Rebooting the system

This is the last step before actually installing the program on the new system. Be sure to remove the CD from the drive before restarting the system.