3.3. Information You Will Need

3.3.1. Documentation

3.3.1.1. Installation Manual

The document you are now reading, which is the official version of the Installation Guide for the squeeze release of Debian; available in various formats and translations.

3.3.1.2. Hardware documentation

Often contains useful information on configuring or using your hardware.

3.3.2. Finding Sources of Hardware Information

In many cases, the installer will be able to automatically detect your hardware. But to be prepared, we do recommend familiarizing yourself with your hardware before the install.

Hardware information can be gathered from:

  • The manuals that come with each piece of hardware.

  • The BIOS setup screens of your computer. You can view these screens when you start your computer by pressing a combination of keys. Check your manual for the combination. Often, it is the Delete key.

  • The cases and boxes for each piece of hardware.

  • The System window in the Windows Control Panel.

  • System commands or tools in another operating system, including file manager displays. This source is especially useful for information about RAM and hard drive memory.

  • Your system administrator or Internet Service Provider. These sources can tell you the settings you need to set up your networking and e-mail.

Table 3.1. Hardware Information Needed for an Install

Hardware Information You Might Need
Hard Drives How many you have.
Their order on the system.
Whether IDE (also known as PATA), SATA or SCSI.
Available free space.
Partitions.
Partitions where other operating systems are installed.
Monitor Model and manufacturer.
Resolutions supported.
Horizontal refresh rate.
Vertical refresh rate.
Color depth (number of colors) supported.
Screen size.
Mouse Type: serial, PS/2, or USB.
Port.
Manufacturer.
Number of buttons.
Network Model and manufacturer.
Type of adapter.
Printer Model and manufacturer.
Printing resolutions supported.
Video Card Model and manufacturer.
Video RAM available.
Resolutions and color depths supported (these should be checked against your monitor's capabilities).


3.3.3. Hardware Compatibility

Many brand name products work without trouble on Linux. Moreover, hardware support in Linux is improving daily. However, Linux still does not run as many different types of hardware as some operating systems.

In particular, Linux usually cannot run hardware that requires a running version of Windows to work.

Although some Windows-specific hardware can be made to run on Linux, doing so usually requires extra effort. In addition, Linux drivers for Windows-specific hardware are usually specific to one Linux kernel. Therefore, they can quickly become obsolete.

So called win-modems are the most common type of this hardware. However, printers and other equipment may also be Windows-specific.

You can check hardware compatibility by:

  • Checking manufacturers' web sites for new drivers.

  • Looking at web sites or manuals for information about emulation. Lesser known brands can sometimes use the drivers or settings for better-known ones.

  • Checking hardware compatibility lists for Linux on web sites dedicated to your architecture.

  • Searching the Internet for other users' experiences.

3.3.4. Network Settings

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.

  • Your host name (you may be able to decide this on your own).

  • Your domain name.

  • Your computer's IP address.

  • The netmask to use with your network.

  • The IP address of the default gateway system you should route to, if your network has a gateway.

  • The system on your network that you should use as a DNS (Domain Name Service) server.

On the other hand, if your administrator tells you that a DHCP server is available and is recommended, then you don't need this information because the DHCP server will provide it directly to your computer during the installation process.

If you use a wireless network, you should also find out:

  • ESSID of your wireless network.

  • WEP security key (if applicable).