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Knowledge Base > Operating Systems > Linux > Linux Installation Notes: Debian

Linux Installation Notes: Debian

This article is to provide information for those who are installing the Debian distribution of Linux, and using BootIt BM as their boot manager.

Latest version tested: Debian 8.x (Jessie): Released April 2015.


Overall Summary: Debian is one of the older Linux distributions, originally released in 1993. It is known for having introduced the widely-used deb software package system, as well as the apt-get method of installing and updating packages via the Internet. Many newer distributions have been derived from Debian, including several popular ones such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

The Debian installation media will give you a choice between its classic text-based installer, and the newer graphical installer. The functionality of the two installer versions is essentially identical. The default desktop environment is Gnome 3, but several other desktops are available. For example, the network install CD (netinst) offers a choice from among the Gnome, Xfce, KDE, Cinnamon, MATE, and LXDE desktops on the software selection screen during the install. It is also possible to not install any desktop environment (for a console install) by de-selecting the "Debian desktop environment" option on that screen. In all cases, Debian uses the Grub2 boot loader, and provides options to install it to either the MBR of HD0 (default), or to a partition that you can specify.

Installing Debian is reasonably straight forward, but please note the following 3 items. While these are also covered in the recommended installation procedure further down in the article, they are highlighted here to help ensure that they are noticed:

1. Create the partitions and the Debian boot item with BootIt BM before starting the installation. Also, attempt to boot from the Debian boot item before starting the installation. This is covered in steps 3 through 6 in the procedure.

2. On the "Partition disks" screen, select the Manual partitioning method. This allows you to choose the partitions you created in BootIt BM. This is covered in step 9 in the procedure below.

3. On the Grub boot loader screens, ensure that you select "No" to NOT install Grub2 to the MBR, and then specify the partition that you want to install it to, typically the root partition. This is covered in steps 22 and 23 in the procedure below.

For item 3 above, also note that installing the Grub2 boot loader to the MBR (the default) can lead to data loss if BootIt BM is configured to NOT limit primary partitions. For more information on this issue, and how to recover from it, please see Item 1 in the Additional Information section at the end of this article.

Grub2 Problems in Debian 8.x and 7.x: None noted. Those seen in Debian 6.x (see below) have been fixed.

Grub2 Problems in Debian 6.x In this version, the Grub2 boot loader will not install to either a volume in an extended partition, or to a primary partition, if there is an unoccupied primary partition slot before the partition that Grub2 is being installed to. There is no failure message during the installation. The end result will be that BootIt BM will show "Bootable: No" on the Properties screen for the volume or partition from which it is trying to boot. Attempting to boot Debian from the boot menu will fail with the error message "The Partition is not bootable". Attempting to correct this by installing Grub2 manually after the installation with 'grub-install' will also fail, even though there is no failure message.

If you are affected by this problem, a known workaround is to ensure that all primary partition slots that come before the partition that Grub2 is installed to (typically this is your root partition) are filled. To help clarify the point, here are 2 examples:

Example 1. The root partition is /dev/sda2, and there is is no partition in /dev/sda1. The result will be that Grub2 will not get installed to /dev/sda2 during installation, and Debian will not boot from the BootIt BM menu. There will be no failure message during installation. To correct, make the root partition /dev/sda1, or fill /dev/sda1 with another partition.  

Example 2. The extended partition is /dev/sda3, and the root partition is /dev/sda5 in the extended partition.  Partition slot /dev/sda1 contains BootIt BM, but partition slot /dev/sda2 is empty. The result will be that Grub2 will not get installed to /dev/sda5 during installation, and Debian will not boot from the BootIt BM menu. There will be no failure message during installation. To correct, make the extended partition /dev/sda2, or fill /dev/sda2 with another partition.


Warning: Working with partitions and boot loaders while installing any operating system can lead to data loss if mistakes are made. It is therefore highly recommended that all data be backed up before starting an installation.


Recommended installation steps for BootIt BM users:

1. The test install was done with the 64-bit (amd64) "netinst" ISO image. The graphical version of the installer was chosen when booting from the installation media.

2. Before the Debian install, install BootIt BM first (if not already installed).

3. Important: Before the Debian install, create the partitions for Debian with BootIt BM. Debian requires a root partition and a swap partition at a minimum.  All Linux partitions except the swap partition should be created as Linux Native (type 131/83h). The swap partition should be created as Linux Swap (type 130/82h). Do not be concerned with formatting the partitions at this time. This will be done by the Debian installer during the installation.

4. Important: Before the Debian install, use the Boot Edit dialog in BootIt BM to create a boot menu item for Debian. Be sure to specify the partition to boot from (typically the root partition). This will be the partition to install Grub2 (the boot loader) to in a later step. Also be sure that all partitions created for Debian are included in the MBR Details section of Boot Edit.

5. Important: Before the Debian install, attempt to boot from the Debian boot menu item created in Step 4. This boot attempt will fail, but it will load the Debian partitions in the MBR partition table so that the Debian installer will see them as you specified in the Boot Edit dialog. Skipping this step may cause one or more of your Debian partitions to not be visible to the Debian installer in later steps.

6. Important:  After step 5, reboot the system from the Debian installation disc, without booting any other boot items in between.

7. When booting from the Debian installation disc, select "Graphical Install" on the initial boot menu in order to use the graphical installer. To use the classic Debian text-based installer,  just select the default "Install" option at the top of the boot menu. The two installers are functionally identical.

8.  Proceed through the subsequent screens to configure the network, set up users and passwords, and configure the timezone. This will take you to the Partition disks screen.

9. Important: On Partitions disk screen, select the Manual option for partitioning, and then select Continue. The Manual option will allow you to choose the partitions created in BootIt BM to install Debian to. Note that if not limiting partitions in BootIt BM, using any of the Debian installer's automatic or "guided" partitioning methods, or using it to create, move, or resize partitions in any way can cause it to overwrite existing partitions that it is not aware of. Doing this can lead to data loss.

10. On the next Partition disks screen, you should be able to see the drive that you created your Linux partitions on, as well as the partitions that you created. If you do not see all of your Debian partitions at this point, you will need to go back and ensure that you followed Steps 3 through 6 correctly.

11. On the Partition disks screen, identify and highlight your Debian root partition, and then press <Enter>.

12. On the next screen, set the "Use as" value to the file system of your choice. This will typically be ext4, although ext3, reiserfs, and others can also be selected from the list.

13. On the same screen, set the "Mount point" value to "/". This tells the installer to use this partition as the root partition.

14. On the same screen, set the remaining options as desired. For example, set the "Label" item to whatever you want to use as the root partition's label (optional).

15. When satisfied with the root partition settings, highlight "Done setting up the partition", and press <Enter> to return to the previous screen. You should now see the settings that you selected for the root partition reflected on that screen.

16. On the Partition disks screen, identify and highlight your Debian swap partition, and then press <Enter>.

17. On the next screen, set the "Use as" value to "swap area". On the same screen, highlight "Done setting up the partition", and press <Enter>. This will again take you back to the previous partitioning screen, where the swap partition should now be identified as the swap partition.

18. If you are using any additional partitions, such as for /boot or /home, repeat the steps above to configure those partitions. Be sure to choose the correct mount points. For example, always choose /home as the mount point for the /home partition, or /boot as the mount point for the /boot partition if you choose to have one.

19. When finished configuring the partitions, review all of the information on the Partition disks screen. When satisfied with the partitioning, highlight "Finish partitioning and write changes to disk", and then select Continue.

20. The next screen will summarize the disk and partitioning information, including which partitions will be formatted for the installation. If satisfied with the displayed information, select "Yes", and then select Continue.

21. Proceed through the subsequent screens to configure the Debian package manager, and to make your software selections at the Software selection screen. Note that even if all items on the Software selection screen are unchecked, the base system will still be installed. This is the bare minimum required to have a running system. If you want a console-only install (no GUI), it is suggested that you select at least the Standard system utilities item, which will give you a more usable system. When satisfied with the selections, choose Continue to download/install the selected items. When the selected items have been installed, you will be at the Grub boot loader screen.

22. Important: At the Grub boot loader screen, select "No" to NOT install Grub2 to the MBR, and then select Continue.

23. Important: On the next Grub screen, type in the Linux designation for your root partition in the "Device for boot loader installation" text box. This tells the installer where to install Grub2. For example, if your Debian root partition is /dev/sda2, then type "/dev/sda2" (without quotes) in the text box. Please note again that you must type in the entire path to the partition; in this case /dev/sda2. When finished specifying where to install Grub2, select Continue to proceed with installing Grub2.

24. In step 23, if you have a /boot partition (optional), you could also specify to install Grub2 there. The important thing is that you don't install Grub2 to the MBR, and that you do install Grub2 to the same partition that you selected as the partition to boot from in the BootIt BM boot item.

25. When the installation completes, you will be at the "Finish the installation" screen. From there, you can select Continue to reboot the system when you are ready to do so. Note that as long as Grub2 got installed to a partition (not the MBR), as described in steps 22 and 23 above, BootIt BM should appear normally on reboot, without any need to reactivate or reinstall it. Choosing the Debian boot item (created in step 4) from the menu should start Debian.

26. If Debian does not boot from the BootIt BM menu as expected, recheck that the boot item is correctly configured in Boot Edit. Another item to check is whether or not the partition you are booting from (usually the root partition) is considered to be bootable by BootIt BM. To determine this, go to Partition Work, highlight the Debian root partition, and select Properties. It should say "Bootable: Yes" in the Additional Information section. If not, one possibility is that Grub2 did not get installed to the correct partition, as should have been specified in step 23.

 

Additional Information:

1. If you install Grub2 to the MBR by mistake, it will completely overwrite BootIt BM, including the EMBR area on HD0. This will require that BootIt BM be reinstalled from scratch. If you are NOT limiting primaries in BootIt BM, this situation can also cause some partitions on HD0 to disappear (get deleted), although in most cases, they will be recoverable by using the BootIt BM undelete feature. For more information on this situation, and how to recover from it, please refer to the following KB article:

Grub Article #3 - How to recover from Grub being installed to the MBR

2. There is a significant chance of data loss if you are not limiting primaries in BootIt BM and you use the Debian installer to make any partitioning changes, such as creating, moving, or resizing them. The reason for this is that, with primaries not limited, the installer can overwrite partitions that it is not aware of because they are not present in the MBR during the installation. As recommended above, the safest choice is to create the partitions you need ahead of time in BootIt BM, and then choose them during installation.


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