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.
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.
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.
These minimal requirements are sufficient for a system without X11 and only 1 or 2 users:
basesystem; this provides a minimally-functioning Unix system, but includes no application programs and no network support.
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.
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:
/tmpa symbolic link to
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.
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.
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.
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,
.config file includes the line: