A ZeroDiskInstall, one of ?DebianInstallerIdeas, is an install method requiring USB, CD or DVD drives. The netinst is most of the way there, but seems to require a floppy or CD to kick it off.

Debian can also be installed from another Linux system. See Installation Guide Appendix D.3. Installing Debian GNU/Linux from a Unix/Linux System for instructions: https://www.debian.org/releases/stable/amd64/apds03.en.html


Try the sarge netinst with grub on an old laptop with a broken external floppy, but working linux with a network connection:

 rsync me@elsewhere:dnl/sarge-i386-netinst.iso ''boot''
 mount /boot/sarge-i386-netinst.iso /mnt/tmp
 cp -a /mnt/tmp/install /boot/["isolinuxDEB"]

with a grub entry per http://d-i.alioth.debian.org/manual/en.i386/ch05s01.html#boot-initrd :

GRUB grub.conf entry:

 title Debian sarge install
 kernel (hd0,0)/["isolinuxDEB"]/vmlinuz root=/dev/ram devfs=mount,dall
 initrd (hd0,0)/["isolinuxDEB"]/initrd.gz

Reboot, and then the installer starts up but of course, can't find the cdrom. Try going to a shell to mount the image:

  mkdir /mnt
  mount /dev/disks/disk1/part1 /mnt
  mount /mnt/sarge-i386-netinst.iso /cdrom -o loop

but sadly, it faults out with:

 mount: Could not find a spare loop device

There doesn't seem to be a loopback driver (loop.o) in the netinst config. If /dev/loop* devices were there, perhaps one could manually mount the non-CD and continue the netinstall.


Redhat/Fedora does a ZeroDiskInstall as written in http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~colohan/docs/fedora_upgrade.html, but it is not a net install. It requires the CDROM images already downloaded onto the local machine. That method should work for Debian too.

Try http://http.us.debian.org/debian/dists/testing/main/installer-i386/current/doc/INSTALLATION-HOWTO section 2.5.

Some people at the original wiki are looking for something similar: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?NoBootdiskRequired