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Converting from Redhat to Debian

I am currently running Redhat and have decided to try Debian instead. I wish to
install from the hard drive from an existing linux partition and have read the
instructions for doing this from
http://www.us.debian.org/releases/slink/i386/install but am confuse by one aspect.
The instructions state that, "Note that the partition you are installing from
should not be the same as the partitions you are installing Debian to (e.g., /,
/usr, /lib, and all that)". This is all well and good but how are you able to use
that partition as part of the Debian installation. At a guess I would say that
Debian only requires certain partitions for its base install and then leaves me to 
add to the rest including the partition from which I installed. If so, what
partition(s) does the base install require?

This question appearred in this list in 1997 but the archives seem to have been
truncated at 1998.

Jordan Howarth    CSIRO Mathematical and Information Sciences 

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