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Debian-Installer HOWTO

Hi all,

the Debian-Installer team has cleand up the build process of d-i images.
At the same time the Debian-CD team has reviewed the netinst isos, so
that we can now present CD images for sarge installation with the new
debian-installer. Find the images here:

Since there still are bugs left, we have put together a HOWTO which will
guide you through the process of installing sarge. Find the HOWTO
attached; a recent version can always be obtained from the
debian-installer cvs repository:

Testing is now most appreciated because of the tight schedule for the
sarge release. Discussion takes place on the debian-boot mailing list:


PGP-Key: http://www.mmweg.rwth-aachen.de/~sebastian.ley/public.key
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How to install sarge with the new debian-installer

This documents describes how to perform an installation with the new
debian-installer, which will be released together with the upcoming
Debian release, codename: sarge.

Find a recent revision of this document in the debian-installer cvs 
repository, browsable via web:

1. Preliminaries

Debian-installer images are currently only available for the i386
architecture. Ports to other architectures are of course
welcome. Please see section 6 if you want to help developing.

The debian-installer is still in its alpha state. If you encounter
bugs during your install, please refer to section 5 on how to report
them. If you have questions which cannot be answered by this document,
please direct them to the debian-boot mailing list
(debian-boot@lists.debian.org) or ask on irc (#debian-boot on the
freenode network).

For better debugging handling, the installer is now configured to show
much more questions than it will in the release version.  Presently
the debconf priority is set to medium, for the release it will be high
or critical which will resolve most steps automatically.

2. Getting images

The installer team provides different types of images for the
debian-installer. They are described below, choose whatever image
suits you best. However note: This document only covers the
installation from CD!

2.1. Install from CD 

The debian-cd team provides two netinst images which can be used to
install sarge with the debian-installer. They can be obtained here:

These images are intended to boot from CD and install additional
packages over a network, hence the name 'netinst'. The difference
between the two images is, that on the full netinst image the base
packages are included, whereas you have to download these from the web
if you are using the business card image.

2.2. Install from floppy

If you can't boot from CD, you can download floppy images to install
Debian. Daily built images can be found here:

You need the floppy-image.img and one of the drivers disks
net_drivers-image.img or cd_drivers-image.img. The drivers disks
contain the necessary modules to do the actual installation from CD or
over the network.

3. Installation

From here on, I assume you have downloaded and burnt the 'netinst'
CD. Put it into your CD-drive and make your system boot from CD.

You will be greeted by a welcome screen. Hit ENTER to boot. After a
while you will be presented with the main-menu of the debian-installer.
Some general remarks:

The main-menu is not static. New entries are added when new installer
modules are loaded. However main-menu tries to resolve the next best
choice and presents that as default selection. If that selection does
not suit your needs just select another entry. If you select an entry
that requires the configuration of an entry you did not yet choose,
the main-menu will try to resolve these dependencies automatically.
This can be used to automate the install process. If you want to try
that, use the menu item sequence of section 3.1 instead of the
sequence described now.

When main-menu first is shown, the default will be "Choose language".
Hit return and choose your language from the list that now is
presented. You will be taken back to main-menu and the next item will
be the default, which is "Detect a keyboard and select layout".

Select that entry and observe that the installer tries to set a
reasonable default based upon your language selection. Select your
preferred keymap and continue.

The next step is "Detect CDROM devices and mount the CD in
/cdrom". This step does not require user interaction, everything
happens automatically.

Now we are able to access additional modules. Select the corresponding
entry "Load installer modules". Since the modules we want to access
are on the CD, select "cdrom-retriever". The floppy-retriever can be
used to load additional modules from a floppy, e.g. if you have exotic

You are presented a long list with optional modules to install. We
only want to install the standard modules, which are selected
automatically, so just hit "Continue". Wait and watch until all
modules have been installed.

Main-menu appears again, but with the additional modules there are new
entries. The next default step would be to configure a network. We are
breaking out of the default route, because we do not need networking
since the base debs are on the CD.

Select "Detect hardware and load kernel drivers for it (full
version)". This step again involves no user interaction.

Now it is time to partition your disk. Unfortunately the associated
menu-entry "Partition a harddrive" is broken as of writing this
document (Bug #209286). Here is what you can do to work around:

  a) You have already partitioned your harddrive. Just proceed with
     the next step.
  b) Switch to the second console via ALT-F2 and start cfdisk
     there. You have to give the disk to partition as argument.
  c) Use the autopartkit ("Automatically partition harddrives"). It
     tries to determine a sane partitioning. WARNING: Use this option
     ONLY if you have no or unimportant data on your harddrives.

After finishing partitioning, select the entry "Configure and mount
partitions". Since autopartkit creates filesystems and mounts them
automatically you can skip this step if you used autopartkit to
partition your harddrive.

Configuring the partitions is pretty straightforward. You are
presented with a list with all partitions, their sizes and a filesystem
if one was detected on that partition. Selecting a partition lets you
choose which filesystem to create on that partition. If you select a
non-swap filesystem, you are also asked for a mount point.

Configure the partitions to your need, and remember to specify a
partition with mount point "/". When you've made your choices, select
"Finish" and confirm that the filesystems should be created as

Now we are ready to install the base system. Select the corresponding
entry ("Install the base system") and lean back. The packages are
retrieved from the CD and installed in the /target area.

Next step will be to install the kernel ("Install the kernel"). If you
did not use autopartkit to partition your harddrive you will be asked
how your fstab file should be created. Select "debian-installer
utility for creating fstab file" to do that.

Next you will presented a list of all available kernel images on the
CD. Select the most suitable for your system and wait until the
installation has finished.

Now we are almost done. Select "Install LILO on a hard disk" or
"Install GRUB on a hard disk" to make your harddisk bootable. You will
be asked where LILO/GRUB shall install the bootblock. A good idea is
your first harddrive in your system which should be in fact the
default selection.

If that last step has completed successfully select "Finish the
installation and reboot", eject your CD and wait until your computer
restarts. Make sure it boots from harddisk, cross your fingers and
wait until base-config is started.

Stepping through base-config is not within the scope of this document
as it is not part of debian-installer.

3.1 More automatic install

Now I will describe the steps you will have to do when you make use of
main-menu's dependency resolver. It will do some steps automatically.
Select the steps in the order below and note the hints for the
corresponding entries from the long description ins section 3.

  1) "Choose language"
  2) "Detect a keyboard and select layout"
  3) "Load installer modules"
  4) -> Partition your harddrives with one of the methods in section 3
  5) "Finish the installation and reboot"

4. Installation Report

If you successfully managed an installation with debian-installer,
please take you time to provide us with a report. There is a template
named "install-report.template" in the /root directory of a freshly
installed system. Please fill it out and file it as a bug against the
package "installation-reports". See section 5 on how to file bugs.

5. Reporting bugs

If you did not reach base-config or ran into other trouble, you
probably found a bug in debian-installer. To improve the installer it
is necessary that we know about them, so please take your time and
report them.

First, look here to see if your bug has already been reported:

The page is sorted by packages which represent the individual
subsystems of debian-installer. File your bug against the respective
subsystem or, if you do not know which it is, against the package
"install". Look here for an explanation of how to file bugs:

6. Get involved

The Debian-Installer Team always welcomes people who would like to
work on the installer. We have plenty of work to do: fixing bugs,
improve usability, create new modules and of course extensive
testing. If you are interested to help, check out this page:

An overview of the status of d-i related packages can be obtained here:

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