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.
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
HOWTO; this section contains only a sketch of the most salient
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
HOWTO, including tips for obscure hardware. Some common gotchas are
included below in Troubleshooting the Boot
Process, Section 6.6.
The installation system recognizes a few arguments which may be useful.
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).
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.
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:
http://http.us.debian.org/debian/dists/potato/main/disks-i386/current/base2_2.tgz(see Base System Files, Section 5.4.4)
dbootstrapfor 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
and place that file somewhere on a DOS 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.,
To install from an already existing Linux partition, follow these instructions.
dbootstrapfor Initial System Configuration, Chapter 7.
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:
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.
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.)
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
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.
Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.2 For Intel x86version 2.2.27, 14 Listopad, 2001