By far the easiest way to install Debian GNU/Linux is from an Official Debian
CD-ROM Set (see the
vendors page). You may also download the CD-ROM images from a
Debian mirror and make your own set, if you have a fast network connection and
a CD burner (see the
page for detailed instructions). If you have a Debian CD set and
CDs are bootable on your machine, you can skip right to Booting from a CD-ROM, Section
5.4; much effort has been expended to ensure the files most people need are
there on the CD. Although a full set of binary packages comprises of seven or
more CDs, it is unlikely you will need packages on the third CD and above.
If your machine doesn't support CD booting, but you do have a CD set, you can use an alternative strategy ( floppy disk, hard disk, or net boot) to initially boot the system installer. The files you need for booting by another means are also on the CD; the Debian network archive and CD folder organization are identical. So when archive file paths are given below for particular files you need for booting, look for those files in the same directories and subdirectories on your CD.
Once the installer is booted, it will be able to obtain all the other files it needs from the CD.
If you don't have a CD set, then you will need to download the installer system files and place them either on your hard disk, floppy disk or a connected computer so they can be used to boot the installer.
When downloading files from a Debian mirror, be sure to download the files in
binary mode, not text or automatic mode. It's important to replicate
the directory structure you find on the mirror to create a local `sub-mirror'.
It isn't really necessary to do this if you place all the installation files on
floppies; but it still makes it easier to find the files when you need them.
You should start your local directory structure at the level under
disks-alpha, for example:
You don't need to download every file under that level, just those that apply to you (you'll find out which ones apply as you read on). Just name the directories the same as the mirror's, and keep the files in their proper directories.
If your machine is set up to automatically decompress/decode files you download, you must turn that feature off when downloading the installation system files. They will be decompressed just-in-time by the installer. Decompressing in your current system will waste space and time, and if the original compressed archives are deleted by the decompression program, they won't be there later when the installer needs them.
Files you may need fall into three categories:
If you have a working Ethernet connection on the computer, and your Ethernet card is of one of the types compiled into the installation kernel, you may only need the install system boot files. The installer is capable of installing the kernel and drivers over the network for many common Ethernet cards.
If you have an Ethernet connection for which the installer doesn't have built-in support, you may need both the install system boot files and the kernel and peripheral driver installation files.
If you are installing on a system without a working network connection, or if your network connection is via PPP (using a modem) rather than Ethernet, you will need to obtain all three types of files before starting the installation.
If you're not sure which files you need, just start with the install system boot files. If your first attempt to configure the network within the installer fails, you can just quit, get the extra files you need, and re-start the installation.
The base system installation file
basedebs.tar is currently about
27M. If you are able to use a CD, or configure your network before installing
the base system, it is better to do so; in that case you won't need this file.
The network location is listed in the appendix (Debian Base System Installation Files,
Installation files include kernel images, which are available for various ``subarchitectures''. Each subarchitecture supports a different set of hardware. The subarchitectures available for Alpha are:
The network locations of installation files for each alpha flavor are listed in the Appendix. These include:
The rescue image contains a compressed Linux boot kernel. It is used for both
floppy disk booting (when transferred to a floppy) and as the source for the
Linux kernel when the kernel is being installed on your machine. The kernel
linux.bin is an uncompressed binary kernel. It is used
when booting the installer from the hard disk or CD-ROM, and is not needed for
floppy installer booting.
Refer to Creating Floppies from Disk Images, Section 4.3 for important information on properly creating floppy disks from floppy images.
The root floppy image contains a compressed RAMdisk filesystem which gets loaded into memory after you boot the installer.
The peripheral drivers may be downloaded as a series of floppy images or as a
drivers.tgz). The installer system will need access to
the drivers file during installation. If you have a hard drive partition or
connected computer which will be accessible to the installer (see below), the
tarball will be more convenient to handle. The floppy image files are needed
only if you must install the drivers from floppies.
When downloading files, you should also pay attention to the type of file system you are downloading them to, unless you will use floppies for the kernel and drivers. The installer can read files from many kinds of file systems, including FAT, HFS, ext2fs, and Minix. When downloading files to a *nix file system, choose the largest possible files from the archive.
If you choose to boot from ARC console firmware using
will also need to prepare a disk containing
LINLOAD.EXE from the provided disk images. See Alpha Console Firmware, Section
5.1 for more information on Alpha firmware and boot loaders. The floppy
images can be found in the
MILO directory as
MILO images could not be tested and might not
work for all subarchitectures. If you find it doesn't work for you, try
copying the appropriate
MILO binary onto the floppy (
Note that those
MILOs don't support ext2 ``sparse superblocks'',
so you can't use them to load kernels from newly generated ext2 file systems.
As a workaround, you can put your kernel onto the FAT partition next to the
MILO binaries are platform-specific. See CPU, Main Boards, and Video
Support, Section 2.1.2 to determine the appropriate
for your Alpha platform.
During the installation, you will erase the partition(s) on which you are installing Debian before beginning the installation. All downloaded files must be placed on partitions other than those on which you are planning to install the system.
Bootable floppy disks are commonly used to boot the installer system for machines with a floppy drive. Floppies can also be used for installation of the kernel and modules on most systems.
Disk images are files containing the complete contents of a floppy disk in
raw form. Disk images, such as
rescue.bin, cannot simply
be copied to floppy drives. A special program is used to write the image files
to floppy disk in raw mode. This is required because these images are
raw representations of the disk; it is required to do a sector copy of
the data from the file onto the floppy.
There are different techniques for creating floppies from disk images, which depend on your platform. This section describes how to create floppies from disk images on different platforms.
No matter which method you use to create your floppies, you should remember to flip the tab on the floppies once you have written them, to ensure they are not damaged unintentionally.
To write the floppy disk image files to the floppy disks, you will probably need root access to the system. Place a good, blank floppy in the floppy drive. Next, use the command
dd if=file of=/dev/fd0 bs=1024 conv=sync ; sync
where file is one of the floppy disk image files (see Downloading Files from Debian Mirrors, Section
4.2 for what file should be).
/dev/fd0 is a
commonly used name of the floppy disk device, it may be different on your
workstation (on Solaris, it is
/dev/fd/0). The command may return
to the prompt before Unix has finished writing the floppy disk, so look for the
disk-in-use light on the floppy drive and be sure that the light is out and the
disk has stopped revolving before you remove it from the drive. On some
systems, you'll have to run a command to eject the floppy from the drive (on
eject, see the manual page).
Some systems attempt to automatically mount a floppy disk when you place it in
the drive. You might have to disable this feature before the workstation will
allow you to write a floppy in raw mode. Unfortunately, how to
accomplish this will vary based on your operating system. On Solaris, you can
work around volume management to get raw access to the floppy. First, make
sure that the floppy is auto-mounted (using
volcheck or the
equivalent command in the file manager). Then use a
dd command of
the form given above, just replace
/vol/rdsk/floppy_name, where floppy_name is
the name the floppy disk was given when it was formatted (unnamed floppies
default to the name
unnamed_floppy). On other systems, ask your
If you have access to an i386 machine, you can use one of the following
programs to copy images to floppies. A fairly complete list of similar
programs is at
The FDVOL, WrtDsk or RaWrite3 programs can be used under MS-DOS.
To use these programs, first make sure that you are booted into DOS. Trying to use these programs from within a DOS box in Windows, or double-clicking on these programs from the Windows Explorer is not expected to work. If you don't know how to boot into DOS, just hit F8 while booting.
NTRawrite is an attempt to create a contemporary version of
Rawrite/Rawrite3 that is compatible with WinNT and Win2K. It is a
self-explanatory GUI application; you select the disk drive to write to, browse
to the disk image you want to place there and hit the Write button.
The messages shown by the rescue floppy (before loading the Linux kernel) can
be shown in your mother tongue. To achieve this if you are not an English
speaker, after writing the image file, you must copy the provided message files
and a font to the floppy. For MS-DOS and Windows users there is a batch file
setlang.bat in the
dosutils directory, which copies
the correct files. Simply enter this directory (e.g.
) within a command prompt window, and run setlang lang, where lang is a two-letter code of your language in lower case, for example setlang pl to set the language to Polish. Currently these language codes are available:
ca cs da de eo es fi fr gl hr hu it ko ja pl pt ru sk sv tr zh_CN
Note that the descriptions in this manual assume that you use non localized (English) installation; otherwise the names of menus and buttons will differ from what you will see on your screen.
If your machine is connected to a local area network, you may be able to boot it over the network from another machine, using TFTP. If you intend to boot the installation system from another machine, the boot files will need to be placed in specific locations on that machine, and the machine configured to support booting of your specific machine.
You need to setup a TFTP server, and for CATS machines, a BOOTP server .
Unlike the Open Firmware found on Sparc and PowerPC machines, the SRM console will not use RARP to obtain its IP address, and therefore you must use BOOTP for net booting your Alpha. You can also enter the IP configuration for network interfaces directly in the SRM console. 
The Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) is used to serve the boot image to the client. Theoretically, any server, on any platform, which implements these protocols, may be used. In the examples in this section, we shall provide commands for SunOS 4.x, SunOS 5.x (a.k.a. Solaris), and GNU/Linux.
To get the TFTP server ready to go, you should first make sure that
tftpd is enabled. This is usually enabled by having the following
tftp dgram udp wait root /usr/sbin/tcpd in.tftpd /tftpboot
Look in that file and remember the directory which is used as the argument of
in.tftpd; you'll need that below. The -l argument
enables some versions of
in.tftpd to log all requests to the
system logs; this is useful for diagnosing boot errors. If you've had to
/etc/inetd.conf, you'll have to notify the running
inetd process that the file has changed. On a Debian machine, run
/etc/init.d/netbase reload (for potato/2.2 and newer systems use
/etc/init.d/inetd reload); on other machines, find out the process
inetd, and run kill -HUP inetd-pid.
Next, place the TFTP boot image you need, as found in Description of Installation System
Files, Section 11.2.3, in the
tftpd boot image directory.
Generally, this directory will be
/tftpboot. You'll have to make
a link from that file to the file which
tftpd will use for booting
a particular client. Unfortunately, the file name is determined by the TFTP
client, and there are no strong standards.
Often, the file that the TFTP client will look for is
client-ip-in-hexclient-architecture. To compute
client-ip-in-hex, take each byte of the client IP address and
translate it into hexadecimal notation. If you have a machine handy with the
bc program, you can use the program. First issue the
obase=16 command to set the output to hex, then enter the
individual components of the client IP one at a time. As for
client-architecture, try out some values.
On Alpha, you must specify the filename (as a relative path to the boot image
directory) using the -file argument to the SRM boot
command, or by setting the BOOT_FILE environment variable.
Alternatively, the filename can be given via BOOTP (in ISC
use the filename directive). Unlike Open Firmware, there is
no default filename on SRM, so you must specify a filename by
either one of these methods.
NOT YET WRITTEN
It is closer to "TFTP install for lowmem..." because you don't want
to load the RAMdisk anymore but boot from the newly created NFS-root file
system. You then need to replace the symlink to the tftpboot image by a
symlink to the kernel image (for example,
experience on booting over the network was based exclusively on RARP/TFTP which
requires all daemons running on the same server (the sparc workstation is
sending a TFTP request back to the server that replied to its previous RARP
request). However, Linux supports BOOTP protocol, too, but I don't know how to
set it up :-(( Does it have to be documented as well in this manual?
To boot the client machine, go to Booting from TFTP, Section 5.6.
For installing on multiple computers it's possible to use the fully automatic
FAI. The Debian package
to be installed on a computer called the install server. Then all install
clients boot from their network card or floppy disk and automatically install
Debian on their local disks.
Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For Alphaversion 3.0.24, 18 December, 2002