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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ - Getting and Installing Debian GNU/Linux
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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ
Chapter 2 - Getting and Installing Debian GNU/Linux

2.1 What is the latest version of Debian?

Currently there are three versions of Debian GNU/Linux:

release 3.0, a.k.a. the `stable' distribution
This is stable and well tested software, it changes if major security or usability fixes are incorporated.
the `testing' distribution
This is where packages that will be released as the next `stable' are placed; they've had some testing in unstable but they may not be completely fit for release yet. This distribution is updated more often than `stable', but not more often than `unstable'.
the `unstable' distribution
This is the version currently under development; it is updated continuously. You can retrieve packages from the `unstable' archive on any Debian FTP site and use them to upgrade your system at any time, but you may not expect the system to be as usable or as stable as before - that's why it's called `unstable'!

Please see How many Debian distributions are there in the dists directory?, Section 5.2 for more information.

2.2 Where/how can I get the Debian installation disks?

You can get the installation disks by downloading the appropriate files from the Debian FTP site: ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian/ and its mirrors.

The installation system files are separated in subdirectories of dists/stable/main directory, and the names of these subdirectories correspond to your architecture like this: disks-arch (arch is "i386", "sparc", etc, check the site for an exact list). In each of these architecture subdirectories there can be several directories, each for a version of the installation system, and the currently used one is in the `current' directory (that's a symbolic link).

See the README.txt file in that directory for further instructions.

2.3 How do I install the Debian from CD-ROMs?

Linux supports the ISO 9660 (CD-ROM) file system with Rock Ridge extensions (formerly known as "High Sierra"). Several vendors provide Debian GNU/Linux in this format.

Warning: When installing from CD-ROM, it is usually not a good idea to choose dselect's cdrom access method. This method is usually very slow. The mountable and apt methods, for example, are much better for installing from CD-ROM (see dpkg-mountable, Section 8.2.4 and APT, Section 8.2.1).

2.4 I have my own CD-writer, are there CD images available somewhere?

Yes. To make it easier for CD vendors to provide high quality disks, we provide the Official CD images.

2.5 Can I install it from a pile of floppy disks?

First of all, a warning: whole Debian GNU/Linux is way too large to be installed from media as small as a standard 1.44MB floppy disk - you may not find installing from floppies a very pleasant experience.

Copy the Debian packages onto formatted floppy disks. Either a DOS, the native Linux "ext2", or the "minix" format will do; one just has to use a mount command appropriate to the floppy being used.

Using floppy disks has these complications:

  • Short MS-DOS file names: If you are trying to place Debian package files onto MS-DOS formatted disks, you will find that their names are generally too long, and do not conform to the MS-DOS 8.3 filename limitation. To overcome this, you would have to use VFAT formatted disks, since VFAT supports longer file names.

You must have support in the kernel for floppy disks in order to read and write to floppy disk; most kernels come with floppy drive support included in them.

To mount a floppy disk under the mount point /floppy (a directory which should have been created during installation), use:

  •      mount -t msdos /dev/fd0 /floppy/

    if the floppy disk is in drive A: and has an MS-DOS filesystem,

  •      mount -t msdos /dev/fd1 /floppy/

    if the floppy disk is in drive B: and has an MS-DOS filesystem,

  •      mount -t ext2 /dev/fd0 /floppy/

    if the floppy disk is in drive A: and has an ext2 (i.e., a normal Linux) filesystem.

2.6 Can I get and install Debian directly from a remote Internet site?

Yes. You can boot the Debian installation system from a set of files you can download from our FTP site and its mirrors.

You can download a small CD image file, create a bootable CD from it, install the basic system from it and the rest over the network. For more information please see http://www.debian.org/CD/netinst/.

You can also download even smaller floppy disk image files, create bootable diskettes from them, start the installation procedure and get the rest of Debian over the network. For more information, please see http://www.debian.org/distrib/floppyinst.

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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ

version 3.0, 30 April 2002
Authors, Section 15.1