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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.2 For Intel x86
Chapter 6 - Booting the Installation System

This chapter begins with some general information about booting Debian GNU/Linux, then moves to individual sections on particular installation methods, and concludes with some troubleshooting advice.

Note that on some machines, Control-Alt-Delete does not properly reset the machine, so a ``hard'' reboot is recommended. If you are installing from an existing operating system (e.g., from a DOS box) you don't have a choice. Otherwise, please do a hard boot when booting.

6.1 Boot Parameter Arguments

Boot parameters are Linux kernel parameters which are generally used to make sure that peripherals are dealt with properly. For the most part, the kernel can auto-detect information about your peripherals. However, in some cases you'll have to help the kernel a bit.

If you are booting from the Rescue Floppy or from CD-ROM you will be presented with the boot prompt, boot:. Details about how to use boot parameters with the Rescue Floppy can be found in Booting With the Rescue Floppy, Section 6.5. If you are booting from an existing operating system, you'll have to use other means to set boot parameters. For instance, if you are installing from DOS, you can edit the install.bat file with any text editor. Full information on boot parameters can be found in the Linux BootPrompt HOWTO; this section contains only a sketch of the most salient parameters.

If this is the first time you're booting the system, try the default boot parameters (i.e., don't try setting arguments) and see if it works correctly. It probably will. If not, you can reboot later and look for any special parameters that inform the system about your hardware.

When the kernel boots, a message Memory: availk/totalk available should be emitted early in the process. total should match the total amount of RAM, in kilobytes. If this doesn't match the actual of RAM you have installed, you need to use the mem=ram parameter, where ram is set to the amount of memory, suffixed with ``k'' for kilobytes, or ``m'' for megabytes. For example, both mem=65536k and mem=64m mean 64MB of RAM.

Some systems have floppies with ``inverted DCLs''. If you receive errors reading from the floppy, even when you know the floppy is good, try the parameter floppy=thinkpad.

On some systems, such as the IBM PS/1 or ValuePoint (which have ST-506 disk drivers), the IDE drive may not be properly recognized. Again, try it first without the parameters and see if the IDE drive is recognized properly. If not, determine your drive geometry (cylinders, heads, and sectors), and use the parameter hd=cylinders,heads,sectors.

If your monitor is only capable of black-and-white, use the mono boot argument. Otherwise, your installation will use color, which is the default.

If you are booting with a serial console, generally the kernel will autodetect this. If you have a videocard (framebuffer) and a keyboard also attached to the computer which you wish to boot via serial console, you may have to pass the console=device argument to the kernel, where device is your serial device, which is usually something like ``ttyS0''.

Again, full details on boot parameters can be found in the Linux BootPrompt HOWTO, including tips for obscure hardware. Some common gotchas are included below in Troubleshooting the Boot Process, Section 6.6.

6.1.1 dbootstrap Arguments

The installation system recognizes a few arguments which may be useful.

This will cause the installation system to suppress confirmation messages and try to do the right thing without fuss. If you are familiar and comfortable with what the installation system is going to expect, this is a nice option to quieten the process.
Ask even more questions than usual.
Emit additional debug messages to the installation system log (see Using the Shell and Viewing the Logs, Section 7.1.1), including every command run.
Pre-select the keyboard you want to use, e.g., bootkbd=qwerty/us
Use monochrome rather than color mode.

6.2 Interpreting the Kernel Startup Messages

During the boot sequence, you may see many messages in the form can't find something, or something not present, can't initialize something, or even this driver release depends on something. Most of these messages are harmless. You see them because the kernel for the installation system is built to run on computers with many different peripheral devices. Obviously, no one computer will have every possible peripheral device, so the operating system may emit a few complaints while it looks for peripherals you don't own. You may also see the system pause for a while. This happens when it is waiting for a device to respond, and that device is not present on your system. If you find the time it takes to boot the system unacceptably long, you can create a custom kernel later (see Compiling a New Kernel, Section 8.5).

6.3 Booting from a Hard Disk

In some cases, you may wish to boot from an existing operating system. You can also boot into the installation system using other means, but install the base system from disk.

6.3.1 Booting from a DOS partition

It is possible to install Debian from an already installed DOS partition on the same machine. You have two alternatives: either try the floppy-less installation, or boot from the Rescue Floppy but install base from the local disk.

To try floppyless booting, follow these directions:

  1. Get the following files from your nearest Debian FTP mirror and put them into a directory on your DOS partition. Be sure to retain their subdirectory structure, e.g., images-1.44\compact\rescue.bin.
  1. Boot into DOS (not Windows) without any drivers being loaded. To do this, you have to press F8 at exactly the right moment (and optionally select the `safe mode command prompt only' option).
  1. Enter the subdirectory for the flavor you chose, e.g., cd c:\debian\compact. Next, execute install.bat.
  1. Skip down to Using dbootstrap for Initial System Configuration, Chapter 7.

If you want to boot from floppies, but install base from a DOS partition, then simply download and create the Rescue Floppy and Driver Floppies as described in Creating Floppies from Disk Images, Section 5.5.4. Download http://http.us.debian.org/debian/dists/potato/main/disks-i386/current/base2_2.tgz and place that file somewhere on a DOS partition.

6.3.2 Installing from a Linux Partition

You can install Debian from an ext2fs partition or from a Minix partition. This installation technique may be appropriate if you are completely replacing your current Linux system with Debian, for instance.

Note that the partition you are installing from should not be the same as the partitions you are installing Debian to (e.g., /, /usr, /lib, etc.).

To install from an already existing Linux partition, follow these instructions.

  1. Get the following files and place them in a directory on your Linux partition. Use the largest possible files for your architecture:
  1. You can use any other functional boot method when installing from a partition. The following assumes you are booting with floppies; however, any boot installation can be used.
  1. Create the Rescue Floppy as discussed in Creating Floppies from Disk Images, Section 5.5.4. Note that you won't need the Driver Floppies.
  1. Insert the Rescue Floppy into your floppy drive, and reboot the computer.
  1. Skip down to Using dbootstrap for Initial System Configuration, Chapter 7.

6.4 Booting and/or Installing from a CD-ROM

If you have a CD which is bootable, and if your architecture and system supports booting from a CD-ROM, you don't need any floppies. Often, it's as simple as puting the CD-ROM in the CD drive and booting. You may need to configure your hardware as indicated in Boot Device Selection, Section 3.3.2. Then put the CD-ROM into the drive, and reboot. The system should boot up, and you should be presented with the boot: prompt. Here you can enter your boot arguments, or just hit enter.

Note that official Debian CD-ROM sets for Intel x86 will boot different ``flavors'' depending on which CD-ROM you boot from. See Choosing the Right Installation Set, Section 5.2 for a discussion of the different flavors. Here's how the flavors are laid out on the different CD-ROMs:

CD 1
Boots the `vanilla' flavor.
CD 2
Boots the `compact' flavor.
CD 3
Boots the `idepci' flavor (2.2r3 or better only)
CD 4
Boots the `udma66' flavor (2.2r3 or better only)

So, if you want to boot from one of the above flavors, put that CD in the drive for booting.

If your hardware does not support bootable CD-ROMs, you should boot into DOS, and execute the boot.bat file which is located in the \boot directory on your CD. Then, skip down to Using dbootstrap for Initial System Configuration, Chapter 7.

Even if you cannot boot from CD-ROM, you can install the base Debian system from CD-ROM. Simply boot using a different media, such as floppies. When it is time to install the base system and any additional packages, point the installation system at the CD-ROM drive as described in ``Install the Base System'', Section 7.15.

6.5 Booting With the Rescue Floppy

Booting from the Rescue Floppy is easy: place the Rescue Floppy in the primary floppy drive, and reset the system by pressing reset, or by turning the system off and on. As mentioned above, doing a ``hard reboot'' is recommended. The floppy disk should be accessed, and you should then see a screen that introduces the Rescue Floppy and ends with the boot: prompt.

If you are using an alternative way to boot the system, follow the instructions, and wait for the boot: prompt to come up. If you boot from floppies smaller than 1.44MB, or, in fact, whenever you boot from floppy on your architecture, you have to use a ramdisk boot method, and you will need the Root Disk.

You can do two things at the boot: prompt. You can press the function keys F1 through F10 to view a few pages of helpful information, or you can boot the system.

Information on boot parameters which might be useful can be found by pressing F4 and F5. If you add any parameters to the boot command line, be sure to type the boot method (the default is linux) and a space before the first parameter (e.g., linux floppy=thinkpad). If you simply press Enter, that's the same as typing linux without any special parameters.

The disk is called the Rescue Floppy because you can use it to boot your system and perform repairs if there is ever a problem that makes your hard disk unbootable. Thus, you should save this floppy after you've installed your system. Pressing F3 will give further information on how to use the Rescue Floppy.

Once you press Enter, you should see the message Loading..., followed by Uncompressing Linux..., and then a screenful or so of information about the hardware in your system. More information on this phase of the boot process can be found below.

If you choose a non-default boot method, e.g., ``ramdisk'' or ``floppy'', you will be prompted to insert the Root Floppy. Insert the Root Floppy into the first disk drive and press Enter. (If you choose floppy1 insert the Root Floppy into the second disk drive.)

6.6 Troubleshooting the Boot Process

If you have problems and the kernel hangs during the boot process, doesn't recognize peripherals you actually have, or drives are not recognized properly, the first thing to check is the boot parameters, as discussed in Boot Parameter Arguments, Section 6.1.

Often, problems can be solved by removing add-ons and peripherals, and then trying booting again. Internal modems, sound cards, and Plug-n-Play devices can be especially problematic.

If you have a very old machine, and the kernel hangs after saying Checking 'hlt' instruction..., then you should try the no-hlt boot argument, which disables this test.

If you still have problems, please submit a bug report. Send an email to submit@bugs.debian.org. You must include the following as the first lines of the email:

     Package: boot-floppies
     Version: version

Make sure you fill in version with the version of the boot-floppies set that you used. If you don't know the version, use the date you downloaded the floppies, and include the distribution you got them from (e.g., ``stable'', ``frozen'').

You should also include the following information in your bug report:

     flavor:        flavor of image you are using 
     architecture:  i386
     model:         your general hardware vendor and model
     memory:        amount of RAM
     scsi:          SCSI host adapter, if any
     cd-rom:        CD-ROM model and interface type, e.g., ATAPI
     network card:  network interface card, if any
     pcmcia:        details of any PCMCIA devices

Depending on the nature of the bug, it also might be useful to report whether you are installing to IDE or SCSI disks, other peripheral devices such as audio, disk capacity, and the model of video card.

In the bug report, describe what the problem is, including the last visible kernel messages in the event of a kernel hang. Describe the steps that you did which brought the system into the problem state.

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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.2 For Intel x86

version 2.2.27, 14 Listopad, 2001
Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo