add link to official doc at the top. This page needs a rewrite (simplify)
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Debian GNU/Linux is distributed freely over the Internet. Debian has a reputation for being harder to install than other Linux distributions. Some would say that the reputation is ill deserved. Others point out that installation is something that typically only happens once in the lifetime of a Debian GNU/Linux system. Once the initial install has been done, further upgrades and maintenance happen on the fly. It's possible to upgrade major software components, or even transition between releases of Debian without rebooting the system. Other than kernel or hardware upgrades, there are few if any routine maintenance reasons to take down a Debian system.
The Debian install is also particularly versatile. It's possible to install from floppy, CDROM, over a network, bootstrapped from within another Linux distribution over a laplink (aka nullmodem) cable, or from within a DOS or legacy MS Windows system. Most people probably want to get the small network install CD, then let it download the remaining files over a broadband internet connection (<600Mb usually).
http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/ Official Installation guides ([http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/installmanual other arch])
Download and burn full CD/DVD set
The biggest advantage of downloading the .iso files and burning them yourself is not having to wait for CDs to arrive. The full CD set can be downloaded in .iso format from:
http://www.debian.org/distrib - Official download page
http://www.debian.org/CD/http-ftp - one of the Debian mirrors
If you want to download one or more of the full 650 MB iso images, please use the ["jigdo"] tool which spreads out the load among various Debian servers, lightening their load as well as giving you a faster download.
http://www.debian.org/CD/jigdo-cd - ["jigdo"] (better)
Although there are over 20 CDs (or 3 DVDs) in a full set, only the first CD is required to install Debian. The additional CDs are optional and include extra packages, that can be downloaded individually during the installation, or later.
- ["DebianCDContents"] to find out what is on each CD.
Download and burn network install CD
For folks with broadband internet access, it's quite rare to download a full set of 650 MB iso images to install Debian. Instead, it's most common to just use a minimal network install CD instead. This network install iso (called "netinst") contains just enough packages to install a very basic Debian system. During the install procedure, it downloads the rest from the Internet as needed. A netinst iso image is around 180 MB. Also available is the so-called "businesscard" image that is around 40 MB.
Buy a set of CDs
The easiest way to install Debian is with a set of CDs bought from a vendor. There is a list of CD vendors:
Net Boot via another Debian system
There is also the possibility to boot from another computer without needing to use CD/floppy media at all. All you need is a TFTPD and a DHCPD running on the install-from computer. This is called installing via "netboot".
NetworkBooting - the installation manual for more info on netboot installation.
The most useful thing you can do is to [http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/installmanual read the installation instructions]. For most of you, that's the [http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/install Installing Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 For Intel x86], particularly Section 5, [http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/ch-install-methods.en.html Methods for Installing Debian], which both describes how to install Debian and points to downloadable resources.
ToDo: this page needs a major rewrite.