[buug] Small image to install Debian (e.g. via network)

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Tue Dec 17 03:55:50 PST 2013

Question was asked at the last BUUG meeting 2013-12-05, essentially
asking, what are the smallest Debian images that can be used to do a
Debian installation mostly off of The Internet (direct, or via a
proxy), and without need for any specific PXE boot server or TFTP
server or the like set up.  Essentially just boot from media, and
install anything else needed from The Internet.

The basic answer is the Debian "Network installer" media versions.
These are sufficiently recommended and popular, that for some while now
- apparently around the release of Debian 6.0 "Squeeze" 2011-02-06,
that the main Debian page http://www.debian.org/ has been sporting a
graphic [Download Debian x.x (32/64-bit PC Network installer)] in upper
right corner of top banner on that page.  That presently links to
As Debian 7.3 was released 2013-12-14:
Of course, one can also download via Bittorrent
or if one already has some or many of the contituent components, or
slightly/moderately older similar version, downloading via Jigdo
may be quite efficient.  See:

I rather like the multi-arch Network installer image, as weighing in at
only 496,640 KiB, it fits on "650 MB" (666,000 KiB) CD
And is also quite conveniently small for, e.g. USB flash media.  Also,
supporting both i386 (32 bit) and amd64 (64 bit) architectures, it's
handy to have single fairly small image that will cover either, and is
also handy for fairly simple easy "acid test", where, e.g., someone
doesn't know if their hardware is 32 or 64 bit - well, can try booting
the 64 bit, if that doesn't work, 32 bit is also right there on the
same media.

What else might one need to install?  Debian is very strong on freedom
and that's a good thing.
But if you do or may have hardware that requires non-free (as in
lacking freedoms - e.g. no source code) firmware, especially if that's
needed to successfully access the network (e.g.  needed for whatever
interface one will use to do a network install) can be very handy to
also have the Debian non-free firmware package quite handy.  The Debian
installation guides tell you about how to provide and make use of
firmware during installation time, e.g.:
If you don't have Debian installed already, rather easy to search for
and download via
e.g. look for firmware-linux-nonfree on:
or you can search for it more specifically (firmware-linux-nonfree), or
go right to the package page:
The Network installer image already contains the firmware-linux-free
package, so you don't need to separately grab that.  And if you already
have Debian installed, the firmware-linux package will get both of the
firmware-linux-free and firmware-linux-nonfree packages for you.

If you want to go even smaller than the multi-arch 32/64-bit PC Network
installer image, you can use images for specific architecture, e.g.:
at least those two weigh in at well under 300M each, or more generally,
for any architecture:
(where the * aren't literal, but match the desired architecture).

On the other hand, if you need or wish to do install without network,
the CD-1 binary images can cover that, and will always fit on a "650
MB" (666,000 KiB) CD.  You don't need all of about 8 or more of the CD
images - you can do a base installation plus quite a bit more with just
the first CD.  Packages are essentially arranged across the multiple
volumes of media, by popularity, so the generally most popular (most
commonly installed) will be on the first CD.  If one wants more on a
single media, there are also DVD images.  One can even put together
Blu-ray disk images (still likely takes more than one, though, if one
really wants absolutely all of the binaries for a given architecture).
Due to size, the Blu-ray images typically aren't made directly
downloadable as full ISO images, but rather are to be assembled via

More information about the buug mailing list