Installing Debian Linux

Installing the Debian GNU/Linux operating system on a computer is no different than installing any other operating system by following straightforward guidelines. With over 4,000 applications to choose from, most can be installed using the Debian package- management system.

However, some applications aren’t available in the format used by the Debian package-management system; for these you will learn other installation methods. Before beginning the installation process, you need to prepare your system. Namely, you need to take inventory of your machine’s hardware.

At certain points during the installation, you are asked questions about the hardware, such as monitor refresh rate, network card used, and such. Clearly, opening the machine to find that information is very inconvenient, to say the least. Therefore, proper preparation will save you the headaches later.

If you purchased your computer as a commercial system, you might be able to go to the company’s Web site for a specification sheet on all its components. This should include the specifications for your monitor, such as maximum resolution and horizontal and vertical refresh rates.

If you have saved the original paperwork provided with the system, the specification sheets will contain all the information you need. If you are a Windows user and want to have a dual boot system or want to remove Windows and use Linux only, be sure to record the information about your system first.

You can easily access many of the needed specifications for the Windows Device Manager in the following way:

  1. Right-click the My Computer icon on the desktop. Then select Properties from the menu that appears.
  2. Click the Device Manager tab in the dialog box that appears. From here you can see all the devices installed on your system.
  3. If you have a printer connected to your system, press the Print button at the bottom of the dialog box. (If you don’t have a printer, print to a file or jot down the essential information, including network card, video card, and all related information, such as interrupts for any older ISA cards.)
  4. The next dialog box lets you specify how much information prints out— Summary or All. The summary provides all the information that you will most likely need. The All option includes the Windows drivers used in addition to the Summary listing. As more people use Linux, more drivers are being developed for the various hardware that people use. Hardware that would not work five years ago is now supported by the manufacturer. It is to the manufacturer’s advantage to support its products with Linux drivers and to include instructions for its use.

For those of you who choose to build a dual boot system, you will need to prepare the hard drive by creating enough space below the 1,024 sector point on the disk. (This is at approximately the 10GB point on the disk.) This is the limitation for the Linux boot loader.

The boot loader is the program that manages which operating system gets started at boot time. Regardless of whether you use the Linux boot loader or some other boot loader, this limitation determines where to install Debian. You will also need space on the hard drive to install the operating system. Make a note of the amount of memory your video card has when the system boots up.