5.3. Troubleshooting the Installation Process

5.3.1. Floppy Disk Reliability

The biggest problem for people using floppy disks to install Debian seems to be floppy disk reliability.

The boot floppy is the floppy with the worst problems, because it is read by the hardware directly, before Linux boots. Often, the hardware doesn't read as reliably as the Linux floppy disk driver, and may just stop without printing an error message if it reads incorrect data. There can also be failures in the Driver Floppies most of which indicate themselves with a flood of messages about disk I/O errors.

If you are having the installation stall at a particular floppy, the first thing you should do is re-download the floppy disk image and write it to a different floppy. Simply reformatting the old floppy may not be sufficient, even if it appears that the floppy was reformatted and written with no errors. It is sometimes useful to try writing the floppy on a different system.

One user reports he had to write the images to floppy three times before one worked, and then everything was fine with the third floppy.

Other users have reported that simply rebooting a few times with the same floppy in the floppy drive can lead to a successful boot. This is all due to buggy hardware or firmware floppy drivers.

5.3.2. Boot Configuration

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 Section 5.2, “Boot Parameters”.

If you are booting with your own kernel instead of the one supplied with the installer, be sure that CONFIG_DEVFS is set in your kernel. The installer requires CONFIG_DEVFS.

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 large amount of memory installed in your machine, more than 512M, and the installer hangs when booting the kernel, you may need to include a boot argument to limit the amount of memory the kernel sees, such as mem=512m.

5.3.3. Common Intel x86 Installation Problems

There are some common installation problems that can be solved or avoided by passing certain boot parameters to the installer.

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 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 your screen begins to show a weird picture while the kernel boots, eg. pure white, pure black or colored pixel garbage, your system may contain a problematic video card which does not switch to the framebuffer mode properly. Then you can use the boot parameter debian-installer/framebuffer=false or video=vga16:off to disable the framebuffer console. Only the English language will be available during the installation due to limited console features. See Section 5.2, “Boot Parameters” for details. System Freeze During the PCMCIA Configuration Phase

Some laptop models produced by Dell are known to crash when PCMCIA device detection tries to access some hardware addresses. Other laptops may display similar problems. If you experience such a problem and you don't need PCMCIA support during the installation, you can disable PCMCIA using the hw-detect/start_pcmcia=false boot parameter. You can then configure PCMCIA after the installation is completed and exclude the resource range causing the problems.

Alternatively, you can boot the installer in expert mode. You will then be asked to enter the resource range options your hardware needs. For example, if you have one of the Dell laptops mentioned above, you should enter exclude port 0x800-0x8ff here. There is also a list of some common resource range options in the System resource settings section of the PCMCIA HOWTO. Note that you have to omit the commas, if any, when you enter this value in the installer. System Freeze while Loading the USB Modules

The kernel normally tries to install USB modules and the USB keyboard driver in order to support some non-standard USB keyboards. However, there are some broken USB systems where the driver hangs on loading. A possible workaround may be disabling the USB controller in your mainboard BIOS setup. Another option is passing the debian-installer/probe/usb=false parameter at the boot prompt, which will prevent the modules from being loaded.

5.3.4. 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 Section 8.5, “Compiling a New Kernel”).

5.3.5. Bug Reporter

If you get through the initial boot phase but cannot complete the install, the bug reporter menu choice may be helpful. It copies system error logs and configuration information to a user-supplied floppy. This information may provide clues as to what went wrong and how to fix it. If you are submitting a bug report you may want to attach this information to the bug report.

Other pertinent installation messages may be found in /var/log/ during the installation, and /var/log/debian-installer/ after the computer has been booted into the installed system.

5.3.6. Submitting Installation Reports

If you still have problems, please submit an installation report. We also encourage installation reports to be sent even if the installation is successful, so that we can get as much information as possible on the largest number of hardware configurations.

Please use this template when filling out installation reports, and file the report as a bug report against the installation-reports pseudo package, by sending it to .

Package: installation-reports

Boot method: <How did you boot the installer? CD? floppy? network?>
Image version: <Fill in date and from where you got the image>
Date: <Date and time of the install>

Machine: <Description of machine (eg, IBM Thinkpad R32)>
Partitions: <df -Tl will do; the raw partition table is preferred>

Output of lspci and lspci -n:

Base System Installation Checklist:
[O] = OK, [E] = Error (please elaborate below), [ ] = didn't try it

Initial boot worked:    [ ]
Configure network HW:   [ ]
Config network:         [ ]
Detect CD:              [ ]
Load installer modules: [ ]
Detect hard drives:     [ ]
Partition hard drives:  [ ]
Create file systems:    [ ]
Mount partitions:       [ ]
Install base system:    [ ]
Install boot loader:    [ ]
Reboot:                 [ ]


<Description of the install, in prose, and any thoughts, comments
      and ideas you had during the initial install.>

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.