Installing a minimal Debian system

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I am making this post for users with limited computer resources/old machines. Users with newer and faster machines may also try this if they want their completely customized operating system.

I must also clarify that I personally don’t like bloatwares like Windows Vista etc.

Take my example, when I first installed Ubuntu on my desktop, I had a complete GNOME desktop with many applications pre-installed which I had no use for! So, I started uninstalling that bloat from my system to make my OS slim so that it can run properly on my good ol’ pentium 4 1.7 Ghz machine.

However, uninstalling those extra useless apps didn’t help me much. My Linux system was still bloated and running slower than Windows XP.

Right then, I researched over internet and found a solution to my problem.

What is needed:

  • An internet connection (for downloading packages)
  • Atleast 2GiB of HDDSpace
  • Some spare time
  • And obviously you 😉

Get the netinst disk image from the link according to your system architecture. If not sure, then go with the i386 image. Now burn the image to a CDROM and boot your system with it. Continue with the installation and select all options that apply to you and keep an eye out for a dialog box asking about using a network mirror. When this screen comes up, choose No. Choose to install GRUB and let the install finish.

Now, when your computer restarts, choose debian and boot into it. When you get to the login prompt, login as root.

We need to modify the repositories list for your system.

Type:

Code:

nano /etc/apt/sources.list

And put this into the file:

Code:

deb http://ftp.debian.org/debian lenny main contrib non-free

Make sure to comment out the CD-ROM repository entry by putting a number sign (#) in front of it, like this:

Code:

# deb cdrom:…

Later, if you want to add an official debian installation disk (or if you don’t want to use internet for packages), just insert the disk in drive and type:
Code:

apt-cdrom -f -add

Save it (Ctrl+O) and exit (Ctrl+X) and type in:
Code:

aptitude update

This will update the repositories list. Once you it’s done, we’re going to install the base core files needed to run a visual desktop environment, or just the desktop. As an example, we’ll use GNOME, so type in:

Code:

aptitude install xorg gnome-core gdm

This will setup the XOrg server, GNOME core files and the GNOME Display Manager onto your machine. If you want KDE, type:

Code:

aptitude install xorg kde-core kdm

Now, for the Display Manager (login manager), you can use a very limited, simplistic one. Instead of gdm/kdm, use slim.

After all that is done, reboot and let it start up. You’re set! Now you can install a File Manager, Web Browser, Music player, etc of your choice.
For even more lighter system, LXDE can also be tried. And if you want an extreme lightweight system, do not install any desktop environment. Instead just install a windowmanager like fluxbox/openbox etc.