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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Alpha - Chapter 3
Before You Start


3.1 Backups

Before you start, make sure to back up every file that is now on your system. The installation procedure can wipe out all of the data on a hard disk! The programs used in installation are quite reliable and most have seen years of use; still, a false move can cost you. Even after backing up be careful and think about your answers and actions. Two minutes of thinking can save hours of unnecessary work.

Even if you are installing a multi-boot system, make sure that you have on hand the distribution media of any other present operating systems. Especially if you repartition your boot drive, you might find that you have to reinstall your operating system's boot loader, or in some cases (i.e., Macintosh), the whole operating system itself.


3.2 Information You Will Need

Besides this document, you'll need the cfdisk manual page, the fdisk manual page, the dselect Tutorial, and the Linux/Alpha FAQ.

On the Alpha platform, since the port is quite recent, we specially encourage you to use the World-Wide Web to get the very last news about Debian installation on the Alpha. Pay special attention to the Official Debian-Alpha page (mother of all links), the installation disks for Debian/Alpha page (especially its installation guide) and the Debian ALPHA Installation HOWTO.

Yes, there are several installation guides and you have to browse them all. We apologize for the inconvenience but this reflects the recent work done on the Alpha.

If your computer is connected to a network 24 hours a day (i.e., an Ethernet or equivalent connection -- not a PPP connection), you should ask your network's system administrator for this information:

If your computer's only network connection is via a serial line, using PPP or an equivalent dialup connection, you are probably not installing the base system over a network. You don't need to worry about getting your network setup until your system is already installed. See Setting up PPP, Section 7.22 below for information on setting up PPP under Debian.


3.3 Pre-installation Hardware and Operating System Setup

There is sometimes some tweaking to your system that must be done prior to installation. The x86 platform is the most notorious of these; pre-installation hardware setup on other architectures is considerably simpler.

This section will walk you through pre-installation hardware setup, if any, that you will need to do prior to installing Debian. Generally, this involves checking and possibly changing firmware settings for your system. The ``firmware'' is the core software used by the hardware; it is most critically invoked during the bootstrap process (after power-up).


3.3.1 Over-Clocking your CPU

Many people have tried operating their 90 MHz CPU at 100 MHz, etc. It sometimes works, but is sensitive to temperature and other factors and can actually damage your system. One of the authors of this document over-clocked his own system for a year, and then the system started aborting the gcc program with an unexpected signal while it was compiling the operating system kernel. Turning the CPU speed back down to its rated value solved the problem.


3.3.2 Bad Memory Modules

The gcc compiler is often the first thing to die from bad memory modules (or other hardware problems that change data unpredictably) because it builds huge data structures that it traverses repeatedly. An error in these data structures will cause it to execute an illegal instruction or access a non-existent address. The symptom of this will be gcc dying from an unexpected signal.


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Installing Debian GNU/Linux 2.1 For Alpha
version 2.1.11, 28 August, 1999
Bruce Perens
Sven Rudolph
Igor Grobman
James Treacy
Adam Di Carlo