Before switching things around and trying out other Linux distributions such as Elementary OS or Ubuntu, I used to work exclusively with Debian. Counterintuitive, I know. However, Debian provides a great learning opportunity for those wishing to extend their Linux knowledge. In this ITgirl.tech series, you will find a detailed guide which will help you with your first-time Debian installation.
The Debian Installation Process
A successful Debian installation will depend on several factors. Because installing this distro properly involves knowing more IT-related concepts and vocabulary than with most other Linux operating systems, this guide is dense.
That is the reason why I exceptionally divided into six parts:
- The basics – Gathering your computer specs and Avoiding common pitfalls
- The pre-installation process – Downloading the ISO file
- The pre-installation process – Formatting your pen drive and burning the ISO file
- The pre-installation process – Reviewing your BIOS settings before doing the installation
- The installation process – Booting Debian and choosing a Desktop Environment
If you are already familiar with some of these steps, you can skip ahead to the part more suited to your needs.
I created this series primarily for those wishing to use Debian as their primary OS. However, you will find the content of these articles useful even if you want to try the distro through a virtual Debian installation.
Full Disc Install
For simplicity’s sake, we will dedicate the entire disk to our Debian installation. As we are erasing everything to install Debian, I highly suggest that you first try out a live version of this Linux distribution before committing to it. You can find instructions on how to launch a live version of a Linux OS, either from a USB key or by using a virtual machine, here.
A word of precaution: before installing any new OS on your machine, always do a backup of your system and have a bootable copy of your current version of Linux, Mac, or Windows in case things to awry and you need to revert to your previous operating system. Here are guidelines on how to create a bootable pen drive of different operating systems from Windows, macOS and Linux.
If you aren’t afraid of challenges and want to use your willingness to get to know Linux as a learning opportunity, then Debian is all indicated. However, if you’re new to Linux and do not feel like tackling the command line learning curve, then Ubuntu is a good alternative. Here you can find an ITgirl.tech how-to guide on how to install Ubuntu.
Debian was the very first Linux OS I tried. I had no prior knowledge of Linux whatsoever, and no coding or command line knowledge either. I won’t lie; it was extremely challenging at times, even more so as my laptop had uncommon hardware components that were notorious for their incompatibility. In retrospect, it was probably too much for a first-time user, but I don’t regret my choice. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. What I learned using Debian stuck way more than if I had read about Linux in a textbook or watched a couple of YouTube tutorials. Even the Debian installation process and what it entails, is, in itself, an excellent way of acquiring knowledge.
Some great reasons to opt for a Debian installation
I chose Debian because my laptop’s performance had slowed down to a crawl, and I wanted to use Linux as opposed to the version of Windows that came with the computer. The reasons as to why someone would choose to dedicate their entire hard disk to Debian will vary from person to person. You can usually circumvent most of the drawbacks of having only Linux as your OS of choice. As for the distribution itself, choosing Debian as opposed to Ubuntu or other Linux distributions is a matter of personal preference.
If anything, Debian offers excellent opportunities to learn more about how Linux works. Its higher level of complexity allows you to acquire hands-on experience on how to maneuver this OS using the command line. Because this distro often requires more tinkering than say, Ubuntu or Linux Mint, you get the opportunity to familiarize yourself with online IT communities. Rather than seeing it as a negative, I find that learning how to troubleshoot common OS issues with tools such as StackExchange can be a good thing. After all, it is an essential skill set for anyone working in IT!
Why people might choose Debian will vary, but here are some common reasons:
- Your computer or laptop is old and isn’t performing as optimally as it could while using more traditional operating systems. Linux helps boost the performance you can get out of old hardware.
- You dislike the way your current OS works. Maybe you find it too bloated. Alternatively, you would prefer a more minimalist OS devoid of ads and fancy gadgets.
- You highly value your privacy and would rather opt-out of an OS that uses automatic data collection. Debian allows you to have a higher level of control over the OS through the use of open-source software, and you can quickly opt-out of data collection.
- You like to learn by tackling challenges that appear organically rather than to rely on the theory and exercises found in textbooks. If you are interested in anything IT-related such as programming, networking, or building and maintaining a server, then learning how to use Linux is a particularly useful skillset. Debian is especially recommended for those looking to build a server at home, as this distro is one of the OS of choice for them.
Whatever your reasons to want to use this Linux distribution, your Debian installation process starts here:
The basics – Gathering your computer specs and Avoiding common pitfalls