This section will help you determine which different media types you can use to install Debian. For example, if you have a floppy disk drive on your machine, it can be used to install Debian. There is a whole chapter devoted media, Chapter 4, Obtaining System Installation Media, which lists the advantages and disadvantages of each media type. You may want to refer back to this page once you reach that section.
In some cases, you'll have to do your first boot from floppy disks. Generally, all you will need is a high-density (1440 kilobytes) 3.5 inch floppy drive.
Whenever you see “CD-ROM” in this manual, it applies to both CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs, because both technologies are really the same from the operating system's point of view, except for some very old nonstandard CD-ROM drives which are neither SCSI nor IDE/ATAPI.
CD-ROM based installation is supported for some architectures. On machines which support bootable CD-ROMs, you should be able to do a completely floppy-less installation. Even if your system doesn't support booting from a CD-ROM, you can use the CD-ROM in conjunction with the other techniques to install your system, once you've booted up by other means; see Chapter 5, Booting the Installation System.
Both SCSI and IDE/ATAPI CD-ROMs are supported. In addition, all non-standard CD interfaces supported by Linux are supported by the boot disks (such as Mitsumi and Matsushita drives). However, these models might require special boot parameters or other massaging to get them to work, and booting off these non-standard interfaces is unlikely. The Linux CD-ROM HOWTO contains in-depth information on using CD-ROMs with Linux.
USB CD-ROM drives are also supported, as are FireWire devices that are supported by the ohci1394 and sbp2 drivers.
Booting the installation system directly from a hard disk is another option for many architectures. This will require some other operating system to load the installer onto the hard disk.
Many Debian boxes need their floppy and/or CD-ROM drives only for setting up the system and for rescue purposes. If you operate some servers, you will probably already have thought about omitting those drives and using an USB memory stick for installing and (when necessary) for recovering the system. This is also useful for small systems which have no room for unnecessary drives.
You can also boot your system over the network.
Diskless installation, using network booting from a local area network and NFS-mounting of all local filesystems, is another option.
After the operating system kernel is installed, you can install the rest of your system via any sort of network connection (including PPP after installation of the base system), via FTP or HTTP.
If you are running another Unix-like system, you could use it to install
Debian GNU/Linux without using the
debian-installer described in the rest of the
manual. This kind of install may be useful for users with otherwise
unsupported hardware or on hosts which can't afford downtime. If you
are interested in this technique, skip to the Section C.4, “Installing Debian GNU/Linux from a Unix/Linux System”.
The Debian boot disks contain a kernel which is built to maximize the number of systems it runs on. Unfortunately, this makes for a larger kernel, which includes many drivers that won't be used for your machine (see Section 8.5, “Compiling a New Kernel” to learn how to build your own kernel). Support for the widest possible range of devices is desirable in general, to ensure that Debian can be installed on the widest array of hardware.
Generally, the Debian installation system includes support for floppies, IDE drives, IDE floppies, parallel port IDE devices, SCSI controllers and drives, USB, and FireWire. The file systems supported include FAT, Win-32 FAT extensions (VFAT), and NTFS, among others.
The disk interfaces that emulate the “AT” hard disk interface which are often called MFM, RLL, IDE, or ATA are supported. Very old 8 bit hard disk controllers used in the IBM XT computer are supported only as a module. SCSI disk controllers from many different manufacturers are supported. See the Linux Hardware Compatibility HOWTO for more details.