Minimal install of Debian (stretch)

This is really just an update of my previous post with a few minor changes to bring it up to date.

I’m a big fan of the ‘less is more’ approach and a minimal install reduced the overheads which makes it a great starting point for a dedicated server, and if you want to build a desktop system then you can install either MATE, Budgie or XFCE.

Alternatively you could configure NFS and turn the system into a file server.

To begin installing Debian (stretch) all you need to do is download the network boot image, burn it to a CD, then boot from CD. If everything works the first screen you should see is the initial boot menu for the debian installer.

I select the text-based install as I prefer to do it that way but the steps are the same if you use the graphical install – it just takes a little longer to get going.

The installation begins by prompting you to select you language, location, and keyboard layout. English is the default so you just need to press ‘Enter’ to continue.

If you are in the UK like myself then you will need to use the cursor keys to select ‘United Kingdom’ and press ‘Enter’ to continue.


Having selected your language and location you need to select the correct keyboard layout.

The system will then load the remaining components needed by the installer from the CD.

Finally it will attempt to configure the network using DHCP.

The next step is to choose a name for your machine, and (optionally) a domain name. Though if you are on a private network you can leave this blank.

Next you need to choose a strong password for the root account, and a username and password for your user account (the one you will normally use to login). You can add additional user accounts later. Make sure you can remember your password as there is not a lot you can do if you forget it!

Confirm the root password.

The first thing that the installer asks for when creating a default user account is your full name, this can be left blank.

Then you need to enter the actual username, and password.

You should select a strong password for your new user account, obviously it should be different from the root password.

The installer will then attempt to set the time using a time-server.

The next step is to partition the disk, how you chose do this is largely a matter of personal preference so in this example I have just chosen to have the disk partitioned automatically with a separate home partition for user’ files.

In practice things tend to be a bit more complicated, particularly if you want to run more than one operating system on the same machine. I usually partition the disk manually with a primary partition of about 8 GB for the operating system and a couple of extended partitions for the users’ files and swap space (the latter should be about twice the size of the physical memory in your machine).

When you are happy with things you can finish partitioning and write the changes to disk.

No changes have been made to the disk up to this point, but once overwritten any existing data on the drives will be lost.

When you confirm you want to make the changes the partition table will be updated and the new partitions formatted.

Now we can start actually installing the system.

The installer will extract the basic packages it needs from the CD and then prompt you to scan another disk (which we don’t need to do as this is a network install).

The installer needs to know is which network mirror it should use, normally you should select the country closest to you.

Which mirror server you use in your country is up to you, I usually just pick the default.

Normally you can leave the proxy settings blank, unless you are behind a firewall that requires you to specify a proxy server to browse the web.

The installer will then scan the mirror and download the details of available packages.

Having installed the base system the installer will ask you if you want to allow your system to send information on package usage back to the debian package maintainers.

Which option you chose is up to you.

The next step allows you to install all the packages required for a particular feature – normally you would just have to select which desktop environment you prefer at this point (LXDE, XFCE being good choices for a light weight desktop while KDE and GNOME need more resources).

However I prefer NOT to install anything at this point as this gives me more control over exactly what packages are installed later, so I uncheck ALL the default options.

The installer will then download and install the packages you selected – which could take a while depending on what you selected.

Finally the installer will download and install the boot loader.

You need to decide where to install the boot loader, if you are installing Linux alongside an existing operating system then I’d suggest you don’t install it in the MBR and install it in the same partition as you installed Linux, otherwise you can accept the defaults and install it in the MBR.

If it all worked then the system should start to boot normally and you should see boot menu…

A minimal installation install makes a great starting point for a dedicated server or desktop, but you will need to configure the system to add ssh, a firewall, and configure apt.

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