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I've got a shining new x64 laptop running Windows 7 and I want to dual boot Debian stable.

I've installed Ubuntu on loads of laptops in the past using a USB drive, but I can't find decent instructions for installing Debian like the Ubuntu instructions.

I've installed Debian from CD a couple of times in the past too, but my new machine doesn't have an optical drive.

The questions are:

  1. Which files do I need from the Debian download page?

  2. How do I make the Debian files on a USB drive bootable?

  3. Does the Debian installer have a disk partitioner (like the Ubuntu one does)? Reading the installation guide it seems not to, which would be another hurdle. If this is the case, which partitioner can I use?

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migrated from Apr 2 '11 at 13:33

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

up vote 32 down vote accepted

Download UNetbootin, which allows one to create bootable USB installation media for almost any Linux and BSD distribution out of the box.

Just run it, select Debian, choose the usb drive and wait while it downloads the .iso and transfers it to your usb. After that it's bootable and the install works like from a CD.

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Great answer so far. Do you know if, during installation, debian gives the option to partition the disk? – blokeley Apr 2 '11 at 13:41
Any linux distro that doesn't let you partition the disk is doomed to fail. Partitioning the disk is a basic part of any installation of Linux. So I'd say yes, it does. – Majenko Apr 2 '11 at 13:51
The debian installer did have a partitioner. However, debian didn't support either my ethernet or wifi adapters so I couldn't install it! See… – blokeley Apr 7 '11 at 10:37
Fantastic answer. Worked first time, and that was after several hours of trying to get the instructions in the debian installation guide to work. – Recurse May 10 '12 at 3:56
I've had more luck with the Universal USB Installer, with UNetBootin bootmgr was missing – Aculeo Oct 6 '13 at 12:11

If you're on Linux, the easiest way is to simply do:

cat debian.iso > /dev/sdb; sync

This will wipe everything from your USB drive, so be careful!

Also make sure you've got the correct device by checking the output of dmesg right after connecting your USB device.

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Why the downvote? this method works and is by far the easiest way to create a bootable Debian USB drive. – Shahin Dohan Dec 10 '12 at 6:18
It didn't work for me. Just a blank screen showed up when I tried to install. Not sure if it is a problem with my usb drive or the image or the command mentioned above. – Sivaji Jan 17 '13 at 15:15
@Sivaji what do you mean "tried to install"? if you actually got to the menu then it's probably none of those. Try running the normal installer (not the graphical one) and see if that works. – Shahin Dohan Mar 21 '13 at 20:16
works just perfect – tuxtimo Feb 3 '14 at 17:57
No idea why this isn't the accepted answer, it's simple, easy to remember, and works, and requires no other tools. Best usb iso suggestion I've ever seen. – Lizardx Feb 29 at 1:12

If you use Linux terminal you can also decide to show old dd some love:

dd if=/your/path/debian-7.5.0-i386-netinst.iso of=/dev/sdX bs=16k

See Debian official instructions here.

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+1 for the retro style – The Disintegrator Aug 9 '14 at 14:51
Let's show the young uns! :D – Pitto Aug 13 '14 at 9:55
use bs=4M for faster copying – Stuart Mar 18 at 18:53

You can try EasyBCD to boot from the iso file directly without creating a bootable usb

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Thanks for the note, but this doesn't answer any of the 3 specific questions. – blokeley Apr 2 '11 at 13:58

So far the easiest way I have found is

cp debian-7.2.0-i386-netinst.iso /dev/sdX

Where X is the drive letter assigned to the devise (see dmesg right after inserting the USB)

As seen in the Debian instructions

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To quote from the Very Verbose Debian Installation Walkthrough:

Step 3 � (cfdisk) You should now be at a black screen that says, "cfdisk 2.11n", at the top. This is where we will partition our hard drive to prepare it so we can install Debian. Probably one of the most "scary" tasks when installing Debian is partitioning the drive. Debian uses a command line tool called cfdisk, which is really quite simple to use, so don't be discouraged by its monochrome presentation.

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This will hopefully be useful to others.

At present, the official FAQ about Debian install CDs - (alongside the usual Linuxy methods, which are nice until you're on a Windows-only machine) - also suggests Win32DiskImager, a simple GUI-based program to write bootable images (such as the Debian .iso) to USB:

I've used this method to install latest x86 and x64 Debian with no issues whatsoever.

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Please describe the content of the sites you linked, otherwise when they'll be removed your answer will be useless. – Máté Juhász Sep 1 '15 at 19:47
What more description do you want than "the official FAQ about Debian install CDs" and "Win32DiskImager"? These both seem self-explanatory to me. I'm not being sarcastic, but if you want more info, specify what. – underscore_d Sep 1 '15 at 23:23 - 4.3. Preparing Files for USB Memory Stick Booting

4.3.1. Preparing a USB stick using a hybrid CD or DVD image

Debian CD and DVD images can now be written directly to a USB stick, which is a very easy way to make a bootable USB stick. Simply choose a CD or DVD image (such as the netinst, CD-1, DVD-1, or netboot) that will fit on your USB stick. See Section 4.1, “Official Debian GNU/Linux CD/DVD-ROM Sets” to get a CD or DVD image.

The CD or DVD image you choose should be written directly to the USB stick, overwriting its current contents. For example, when using an existing GNU/Linux system, the CD or DVD image file can be written to a USB stick as follows,

# cp debian.iso /dev/sdX
# sync

4.3.3. Manually copying files to the USB stick — the flexible way

If you like more flexibility or just want to know what's going on, you should use the following method to put the files on your stick. One advantage of using this method is that — if the capacity of your USB stick is large enough — you have the option of copying any ISO image, even a DVD image, to it.

Regarding the boot loader for MS FAT formatted file system.

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