posted by Clinton De Young on Sun 27th Oct 2002 18:15 UTC

"Going through the main installation cycle - Part I"
Debian's installer is not a linear one like most Linux distributions; per se. It is more like the FreeBSD installer in that you can jump around the installation menu and perform a variety of tasks in no particular order. However, Debian's installer tries to guide you by highlighting the next logical task in red and placing it at the top of the menu list. We will only have to vary from the installer's suggestion a couple of times.

Step 1 (Configure the Keyboard)
Since it is usually most comfortable for people to install an OS using their preferred keyboard layout, Debian's installer suggests selecting your keyboard layout as the first task; and so do I.

To select your layout, make sure the, "Configure the Keyboard", menu item is highlighted and press the Enter key. On the, "Select a Keyboard", screen, most English speaking users will want to select the top choice; "Qwerty/US: U.S. English (Qwerty)". Personally, I use the Dvorak layout, so feel free to choose something else if QWERTY isn't your layout of choice. Once you have selected your layout, press the Enter key to move to the next screen.

Step 2 (Partition a Hard Disk)
You should now be back at the, "Debian GNU/Linux Installation Main Menu", screen. Notice, however, that the, "Configure the Keyboard", menu item is no longer at the top of the menu list (although it is still accessible in case you have made a mistake). In its place is the, "Partition a Hard Disk" menu. See, Debian is taking care of you. Press the Enter key to partition your hard disk.

You should now be at the, Select Disk Drive, screen. In the middle of the screen is a box with all of your hard drives listed in it. For those who don't already know, Linux disk drives are stored as files in the /dev directory and are referred to like this:

Primary IDE device on the primary IDE controller = /dev/hda
Slave IDE device on the primary IDE controller = /dev/hdb
Primary IDE device on the secondary IDE controller = /dev/hdc
Slave IDE device on the secondary IDE controller = /dev/hdd

If you have Windows installed on this machine, or have in the past, /dev/hda will be what Windows refers to as the C:\ drive.

SCSI devices are listed differently. They are usually /dev/sda, /dev/sdb, etc.

The Debian installer is smart enough to detect which of your devices are hard drives, and it will list all of them here on the, "Select Disk Drive", screen.

On my machine, there are two hard drives, so I have /dev/hda and /dev/hdb listed. I am going to install Debian onto my primary hard drive, /dev/hda, so I will highlight that drive in the list and press the Enter key.

You will now see the, "LILO Limitations", screen. Debian still uses LILO by default, although it is very easy to install Grub after your system is running. LILO has some issues with booting from hard drives on older machines where the boot information resides above the 1024th cylinder. If you are going to install Debian on the entire drive, this won't be an issue. However, if you have a Windows (or other OS) partition that extends beyond the 1024th cylinder, and your machine uses an older BIOS, you may have problems booting. I will show you two easy ways to get around potential booting problems later, in case it is an issue for some. For now, this screen is simply warning you about a potential issue. You can safely press the Enter key to continue.

Step 3 (cfdisk)
You should now be at a black screen that says, "cfdisk 2.11n", at the top. This is where we will partition our hard drive to prepare it so we can install Debian. Probably one of the most "scary" tasks when installing Debian is partitioning the drive. Debian uses a command line tool called cfdisk, which is really quite simple to use, so don't be discouraged by its monochrome presentation.

If you look about 1/3 way down the screen, you will see a dashed line that extends the entire width of the screen. The item(s) listed beneath this line are the current partitions installed on your machine. If you want to make Debian the sole OS on this machine, you can delete all these partitions by highlighting them one at a time with the up and down arrows, and then selecting the [Delete] menu item by using the left and right arrows to navigate the menu at the bottom of the screen, and pressing the Enter key. Please note that you cannot delete the "PRI/LOG Free Space []" partition since it is the free space on your hard drive. Also, if you shrunk the partition of another OS, say Windows, and you want to keep that operating system as well as Debian, you need to make sure that you don't delete any NTFS or FAT32 partitions in this list. If you delete a partition that you didn't want deleted, simply select [Quit] from the menu at the bottom of the list and start again. You partition changes won't be written to the drive until you select the [Write] menu.

Once you have deleted all the partitions that you don't want to keep, you need to make some partitions to install Debian on to. Check your partition list (directly under the dashed line) and make sure that you have an item that says, "PRI/LOG Free Space []". If you don't have this menu item, you either have not created free space on your hard drive, or you have selected the wrong hard drive to install Debian on to. If such is the case, you will need to create some free space using a program like Partition Magic, select another drive to install to, or buy and install another drive. Remedy the problem and then return to this point.

Table of contents
  1. "Introduction and how to get hold of Debian"
  2. "Getting to the main installation"
  3. "Going through the main installation cycle - Part I"
  4. "Going through the main installation cycle - Part II"
  5. "Going through the main installation cycle - Part III"
  6. "Going through the main installation cycle - Part IV"
  7. "System Configuration - Part I"
  8. "System Configuration - Part II"
  9. "Installing XFree86 - Part I"
  10. "Installing XFree86 - Part II"
  11. "Synaptic, Mozilla, Conclusion"
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