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3. Hardware Requirements

3.1 On what architectures/systems does Debian GNU/Linux run?

Debian GNU/Linux includes complete source-code for all of the included programs, so it should work on all systems which are supported by the Linux Kernel; see the *Linux FAQ for details.

The current Debian GNU/Linux release contains a complete, binary distribution for the i386 architecture; this covers PCs based on Intel-compatible processors, including Intel's80386, 80486, Pentium, and Pentium Pro, and compatible processors by AMD, Cyrix and others.

The development of binary distributions of Debian 1.2 for the m68k architecture (Motorola 680x0 processors for x>=2; with MMU) is currently underway, and ports to Alpha, SPARC, and MIPS processors are expected to follow.

3.2 What hardware is assumed by the stock Debian GNU/Linux boot disks?

The configuration file used to build Debian GNU/Linux' standard distribution kernel assumes an 80386 CPU, and includes support for PCMCIA cards SCSI cards for which there exist Linux drivers. Support for network interface card is provided by loadable modules, so there is no need to compile these drivers into the kernel.

3.3 What amount of disk space is recommended?

A generous installation, sufficient to accommodate a few users, X Window System software, and several large applications, might require disk partitions at least as large as:

The optimum disk space allocated for swap depends critically on the way the system will be used. Many people just choose to set aside twice as much disk space as they have RAM space. Systems with large RAM may not need so much swap space, especially if there are only a few users. The installation process supports systems with no swap space.

But how much RAM and disk space are absolutely essential?

These minimal requirements are sufficient for a system without X11 and only 1 or 2 users:

Debian Linux can be installed on systems with only 4 MBytes of RAM. The latest installation disks are especially organized to provide an easy installation path for machines with small memories. Some users report success at using Debian Linux to convert PCs having limited RAM (and disk space) into X terminals. An 80386-based system with only 4 MBytes of RAM and 40 MBytes disk space has been used to run Debian Linux in this way; i.e., both networking and basic X11 server functions operated satisfactorily. This mode of operation even works if 1 MByte of the RAM is used as a ramdisk when the machine is booted, implying that only 3 Mbytes of RAM is absolutely essential for using Debian Linux on a PC in order to use it as an X server. This mode of operation requires a swap partition; without it, the system will not even go into multi-user mode.

3.4 How should I partition my drive?

Partitioning a drive has the disadvantage that drive space can be used much less flexibly than an unpartitioned drive. Most users find, however, that this disadvantage is more than offset by the fact that damage to a filesystem on a partitioned disk is usually limited to a single partition. Furthermore, backups of a partitioned hard disk can be more easily managed because the files that change most frequently are likely to be localized to a single partition.

A user with a 1.6 GByte drive has concluded after a survey of Debian users that it is reasonable to design a partitioning scheme that closely follows the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard. For his 1.6 GByte disk, he chose these partitions:

It is possible to use a swap file instead of a swap partition. However this usually is a bad solution, so we suggest to use a swap partition.

3.5 Are very large disks supported?

There is an upper limit on the size of the disk partition that is used for booting. This limit applies to all operating systems, not just Linux. Basically, the BIOSs typically available on PCs cannot access disk partitions larger than 1024 cylinders or tracks. Thus, any operating system used on a PC cannot be booted from a disk partition larger than 1 GByte. It is worth emphasizing that this restriction only applies to the partition from which Linux is booted. Other partitions can be larger. One solution to this limitation is to place the directory /boot/ (and usually the whole root partition) in its own (very small) partition, entirely within the first 1024 blocks of the disk.

Support for large non-bootable partitions varies with the driver. Detailed information is provided in the *Large-Disk mini-HOWTO.

The Linux kernel includes the Multi-Device disk driver ('md'), which provides plain concatenation of drives (called linear mode) or striping support (also known as RAID 0) in software.

3.6 (How) Does Debian provide PCMCIA support?

Utilities that provide PCMCIA card services have been developed by David Hinds. These utilities are provided in Debian by the package pcmcia-cs-KKK_VVV-RRR.deb, where the components 'VVV' and 'RRR' follow the usual conventions on Debian package names, and the component 'KKK' refers to the kernel version for which the pcmcia-cs package was built.

The pcmcia-modules-KKK package must be rebuilt for systems not using the default Debian kernel. The pcmcia-source_VVV-RRR.deb package is provided for users who need to recompile the PCMCIA modules or utilities. It unpacks the source files for the PCMCIA utilities into the /usr/src/modules/pcmcia-cs/ directory. See the /usr/src/modules/pcmcia-cs/README.gz file; it contains instructions for rebuilding the PCMCIA packages.

PCMCIA cards that include IDE drives have to be supported by the kernel. The version of the kernel distributed with the Debian installation disks includes support for such PCMCIA cards. That is, its .config file includes the line: CONFIG_BLK_DEV_IDE_PCMCIA=y.


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