The easiest route for most people will be to use a set of Debian CDs. If you have a CD set, and if your machine supports booting directly off the CD, great! Simply configure your system for booting off a CD as described in Section 3.6.2, “Boot Device Selection”, insert your CD, reboot, and proceed to the next chapter.
Note that certain CD drives may require special drivers, and thus be inaccessible in the early installation stages. If it turns out the standard way of booting off a CD doesn't work for your hardware, revisit this chapter and read about alternate kernels and installation methods which may work for you.
Even if you cannot boot from CD-ROM, you can probably install the Debian system components and any packages you want from CD-ROM. Simply boot using a different media, such as floppies. When it's time to install the operating system, base system, and any additional packages, point the installation system at the CD-ROM drive.
If you have problems booting, see Section 5.3, “Troubleshooting the Installation Process”.
To boot the installer from hard disk, you must first download and place the needed files as described in Section 4.5, “Preparing Files for Hard Disk Booting”.
If you intend to use the hard drive only for booting and then
download everything over the network, you should download the
netboot/debian-installer/i386/initrd.gz file and its
corresponding kernel. This will allow you to repartition the hard disk
from which you boot the installer, although you should do so with care.
Alternatively, if you intend to keep an existing partition on the hard
drive unchanged during the install, you can download the
hd-media/initrd.gz file and its kernel, as well as
copy a CD iso to the drive (make sure the file is named ending in
.iso). The installer can then boot from the drive
and install from the CD image, without needing the network.
For LILO, you will need to configure two
essential things in
to load the
initrd.gz installer at boot time;
vmlinuz kernel use a RAM disk as
its root partition.
Here is a
image=/boot/newinstall/vmlinuz label=newinstall initrd=/boot/newinstall/initrd.gz root=/dev/ram0 append="devfs=mount,dall ramdisk_size=12000"
For more details, refer to the
lilo.conf(5) man pages. Now run
lilo and reboot.
The procedure for GRUB is quite similar. Locate your
menu.lst in the
directory (sometimes in the
add the following lines:
title New Install kernel (hd0,0)/boot/newinstall/vmlinuz root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk_size=12000 initrd (hd0,0)/boot/newinstall/initrd.gz
and reboot. If the boot fails, you can try adding
devfs=mount,dall to the “kernel” line.
Note that the value of the
ramdisk_size may need to be
adjusted for the size of the initrd image.
From here on, there should be no difference between GRUB
Let's assume you have prepared everything from Section 3.6.2, “Boot Device Selection” and Section 4.4, “Preparing Files for USB Memory Stick Booting”. Now
just plug your USB stick into some free USB connector and reboot the
computer. The system should boot up, and you should be presented with
boot: prompt. Here you can enter optional boot
arguments, or just hit Enter.
In case your computer doesn't support booting from USB memory devices,
you can still use a single floppy to do the initial boot and then
switch to USB. Boot your system as described in Section 5.1.4, “Booting from Floppies”;
the kernel on the boot floppy should detect your USB stick automatically.
When it asks for the root floppy, simply press Enter. You should see
You will have already downloaded the floppy images you needed and created floppies from the images in Section 4.3, “Creating Floppies from Disk Images”.
To boot from the installer boot floppy, place it in the primary floppy drive, shut down the system as you normally would, then turn it back on.
For installing from an LS-120 drive (ATAPI version) with a set of
floppies, you need to specify the virtual location for the floppy
device. This is done with the root= boot
argument, giving the device that the ide-floppy driver maps the device
to. For example, if your LS-120 drive is connected as the first IDE
device (master) on the second cable, you enter
linux root=/dev/hdc at the boot prompt.
Installation from LS-120 is only supported by 2.4 and later kernels.
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 reboot when booting.
The floppy disk will be accessed, and you should then see a screen
that introduces the boot floppy and ends with the
Once you press Enter, you should see the message
Loading..., followed by
Uncompressing Linux..., and
then a screenfull or so of information about the hardware in your
system. More information on this phase of the boot process can be
found below in Section 5.3.4, “Interpreting the Kernel Startup Messages”.
After booting from the boot floppy, the root floppy is requested. Insert the root floppy and press Enter, and the contents are loaded into memory. The installer program debian-installer is automatically launched.
Booting from the network requires that you have a network connection and a TFTP network boot server (DHCP, RARP, or BOOTP).
The installation method to support network booting is described in Section 4.6, “Preparing Files for TFTP Net Booting”.
There are various ways to do a TFTP boot on i386.
It could be that your Network Interface Card or Motherboard provides PXE boot functionality. This is a Intel™ re-implementation of TFTP boot. If so you may be able to configure your BIOS to boot from the network.
It could be that your Network Interface Card provides TFTP boot functionality.
The etherboot project provides bootdiskettes and even bootroms that do a TFTPboot.
When the installer boots, you should be presented with a friendly graphical screen showing the Debian logo and the boot prompt:
Press F1 for help, or ENTER to boot:
At the boot prompt you can either just press Enter to boot the installer with default options or enter a specific boot method and, optionally, boot parameters.
Information on available boot methods and on boot parameters which might
be useful can be found by pressing F2 through
F7. 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.,
If you are installing the system via a remote management device that
provides a text interface to the VGA console, you may not be able to
see the initial graphical splash screen upon booting the installer;
you may even not see the boot prompt. Examples of these devices include
the text console of Compaq's “integrated Lights Out” (iLO)
and HP's “Integrated Remote Assistant” (IRA).
You can blindly press F1 to bypass this screen and view the help text. Once you are
past the splash screen and at the help text your keystrokes will be echoed
at the prompt as expected. To prevent the installer from using the
framebuffer for the rest of the installation, you will also want to add
debian-installer/framebuffer=false to the boot prompt,
as described in the help text.
 In some cases these devices will require special escape sequences to enact this keypress, for example the IRA uses Ctrl-F, 1.