5.1. Booting the Installer on AMD64


If you have any other operating systems on your system that you wish to keep (dual boot setup), you should make sure that they have been properly shut down before you boot the installer. Installing an operating system while another operating system is in hibernation (has been suspended to disk) could result in loss of, or damage to the state of the suspended operating system which could cause problems when it is rebooted.


For information on how to boot the graphical installer, see Section D.6, “The Graphical Installer”.

5.1.1. Booting from a CD-ROM

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 5.4, “Troubleshooting the Installation Process”.

5.1.2. Booting from Windows

To start the installer from Windows, you must first obtain CD-ROM/DVD-ROM or USB memory stick installation media as described in Section 4.1, “Official Debian GNU/Linux CD-ROM Sets” and Section 4.3, “Preparing Files for USB Memory Stick Booting”.

If you use an installation CD or DVD, a pre-installation program should be launched automatically when you insert the disc. In case Windows does not start it automatically, or if you are using a USB memory stick, you can run it manually by accessing the device and executing setup.exe.

After the program has been started, a few preliminary questions will be asked and the system will be prepared to start the Debian GNU/Linux installer.

5.1.3. Booting from Linux Using LILO or GRUB

To boot the installer from hard disk, you must first download and place the needed files as described in Section 4.4, “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/amd64/initrd.gz file and its corresponding kernel netboot/debian-installer/amd64/linux. 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 (or DVD) 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 /etc/lilo.conf:

  • to load the initrd.gz installer at boot time;

  • have the vmlinuz kernel use a RAM disk as its root partition.

Here is a /etc/lilo.conf example:


For more details, refer to the initrd(4) and lilo.conf(5) man pages. Now run lilo and reboot.

The procedure for GRUB is quite similar. Locate your menu.lst in the /boot/grub/ directory (or sometimes /boot/boot/grub/) and add an entry for the installer, for example (assuming /boot is on the first partition of the first disk in the system):

title  New Install
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/newinstall/vmlinuz
initrd /boot/newinstall/initrd.gz

From here on, there should be no difference between GRUB or LILO.

5.1.4. Booting from USB Memory Stick

Let's assume you have prepared everything from Section 3.6.2, “Boot Device Selection” and Section 4.3, “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 the boot: prompt. Here you can enter optional boot arguments, or just hit Enter.

5.1.5. Booting with TFTP

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 4.5, “Preparing Files for TFTP Net Booting”.

There are various ways to do a TFTP boot on i386. NIC or Motherboard that support PXE

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. NIC with Network BootROM

It could be that your Network Interface Card provides TFTP boot functionality. Etherboot

The etherboot project provides bootdiskettes and even bootroms that do a TFTPboot.

5.1.6. The Boot Screen

When the installer boots, you should be presented with a friendly graphical screen showing the Debian logo and a menu:

Installer boot menu

Graphical install
Advanced options       >

Press ENTER to boot or TAB to edit a menu entry

Depending on the installation method you are using, the “Graphical install” option may not be available.

For a normal installation, select either the “Install” or the “Graphical install” entry — using either the arrow keys on your keyboard or by typing the first (highlighted) letter — and press Enter to boot the installer.

The “Advanced options” entry gives access to a second menu that allows to boot the installer in expert mode, in rescue mode and for automated installs.

If you wish or need to add any boot parameters for either the installer or the kernel, press Tab. This will display the default boot command for the selected menu entry and allow to add additional options. The help screens (see below) list some common possible options. Press Enter to boot the installer with your options; pressing Esc will return you to the boot menu and undo any changes you made.

Choosing the “Help” entry will result in the first help screen being displayed which gives an overview of all available help screens. Note that it is not possible to return to the boot menu after the help screens have been displayed. However, the F3 and F4 help screens list commands that are equivalent to the boot methods listed in the menu. All help screens have a boot prompt at which the boot command can be typed:

Press F1 for the help index, or ENTER to boot:

At this boot prompt you can either just press Enter to boot the installer with default options or enter a specific boot command and, optionally, boot parameters. A number of boot parameters which might be useful can be found on the various help screens. If you do add any parameters to the boot command line, be sure to first type the boot method (the default is install) and a space before the first parameter (e.g., install fb=false).


The keyboard is assumed to have a default American English layout at this point. This means that if your keyboard has a different (language-specific) layout, the characters that appear on the screen may be different from what you'd expect when you type parameters. Wikipedia has a schema of the US keyboard layout which can be used as a reference to find the correct keys to use.


If you are using a system that has the BIOS configured to use serial console, you may not be able to see the initial graphical splash screen upon booting the installer; you may even not see the boot menu. The same can happen if you are installing the system via a remote management device that provides a text interface to the VGA console. Examples of these devices include the text console of Compaq's “integrated Lights Out” (iLO) and HP's “Integrated Remote Assistant” (IRA).

To bypass the graphical boot screen you can either blindly press Esc to get a text boot prompt, or (equally blindly) press “H” followed by Enter to select the “Help” option described above. After that your keystrokes should be echoed at the prompt. To prevent the installer from using the framebuffer for the rest of the installation, you will also want to add fb=false to the boot prompt, as described in the help text.