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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ
Chapter 2 - Getting and installing Debian GNU/Linux

The official document giving installation instructions is the Debian GNU/Linux Installation Guide. We'll give some additional notes about getting and installing Debian GNU/Linux here.

2.1 What is the latest version of Debian?

Currently there are three versions of Debian GNU/Linux:

release 6.0, a.k.a. the `stable' distribution or squeeze

This is stable and well tested software, it changes if major security or usability fixes are incorporated.

the `testing' distribution, currently called wheezy

This is where packages that will be released as the next `stable' are placed; they've had some testing in unstable but they may not be completely fit for release yet. This distribution is updated more often than `stable', but not more often than `unstable'.

the `unstable' distribution

This is the version currently under development; it is updated continuously. You can retrieve packages from the `unstable' archive on any Debian FTP site and use them to upgrade your system at any time, but you may not expect the system to be as usable or as stable as before - that's why it's called `unstable'!

Please see How many Debian distributions are there?, Section 6.1 for more information.

2.2 Are there package upgrades in `stable'?

No new functionality is added to the stable release. Once a Debian version is released and tagged `stable' it will only get security updates. That is, only packages for which a security vulnerability has been found after the release will be upgraded. All the security updates are served through security.debian.org.

Security updates serve one purpose: to supply a fix for a security vulnerability. They are not a method for sneaking additional changes into the stable release without going through normal point release procedure. Consequently, fixes for packages with security issues will not upgrade the software. The Debian Security Team will backport the necessary fixes to the version of the software distributed in `stable' instead.

For more information related to security support please read the Security FAQ or the Debian Security Manual.

2.3 Where/how can I get the Debian installation disks?

You can get the installation disks by downloading the appropriate files from one of the Debian mirrors.

Please refer to Debian GNU/Linux on CDs for more information about CD (and DVD) images.

2.4 How do I install the Debian from CD-ROMs?

Installing Debian from CD is straightforward: configure your system for booting off a CD, insert your CD, and reboot. Your system will now be running the Debian Installer. See the Debian GNU/Linux Installation Guide for more information.

2.5 Why does the official stable released CD-ROM contain symlinks for `frozen' and `unstable'? I thought this CD contains just `stable'!

Official Debian CD images indeed contain symlinks like:

      /dists/frozen -> squeeze/
      /dists/stable -> squeeze/
      /dists/testing -> squeeze/
      /dists/unstable -> squeeze/

so that they work when your sources.list has an entry like

      deb cdrom:[<name as on cd label>]/ unstable main [...]


The fact these symlinks are present does not mean the image is `unstable' or `testing' or anything. Read the CD label in /.disk/info to find out which Debian version it contains. This information is also present in /README.txt on the CD.

Read http://www.debian.org/releases/ to find out what the current `stable' and `testing' releases are.

2.6 Can I get and install Debian directly from a remote Internet site?

Yes. You can boot the Debian installation system from a set of files you can download from our FTP site and its mirrors.

You can download a small CD image file, create a bootable CD from it, install the basic system from it and the rest over the network. For more information please see http://www.debian.org/CD/netinst/.

You can also download even smaller floppy disk image files, create bootable diskettes from them, start the installation procedure and get the rest of Debian over the network.

2.7 Are there any alternative strategies for booting the system installer?

Yes. Apart from CD or DVD, you can install Debian GNU/Linux by booting from floppy disks, USB memory stick, directly from hard disk, or using TFTP net booting. For installing on multiple computers it's possible to do fully automatic installations. NB: not all methods are supported by all computer architectures. Once the installer has booted, the rest of the system can be downloaded over the network, or installed from local media. See the Debian GNU/Linux Installation Guide for more information.

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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ

version 5.0, 27 August 2011

Authors are listed at Debian FAQ Authors