Installing Debian 8 (Jessie), step by step

After using Ubuntu for the past 5+ years, I’m pretty used to Linux. The huge mistake I made was assuming that Debian installation would be as easy as Ubuntu. The truth : It isn’t.

Ubuntu is much more user friendly and tame. Debian is much more larger with more customization options, something that might be overwhelming to those used to the slick UX of Unity.

Disclaimer : This guide is for people who are used to Linux, preferably some other distribution like Fedora or Ubuntu and wants to change to Debian.

Note : If you want to dual boot Debian with Fedora, install Debian first. Fedora is pretty good at the partition adjustment thing.

  • Choosing a download image : The Debian website is a bit confusing when it comes to a downloadable image. It’s much more easier to use a USB, for which an image can be downloaded from here. Debian also provides larger images for a more complete install which are all usually USB compatible.
  • Choosing the Desktop environment : After a bit of experimenting, I settled with Gnome 3. Nautilus is still my favorite file management system and it felt the best fit to the unity-sized hole in my desktop.
  • The first thing to do in your system after installation is to add sources. If you want 100% undiluted FOSS, skip this step, but if you’re a bit more open, run :
su nano /etc/apt/sources.list

This opens the ‘sources.list’ file which should look like :

deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian jessie main contrib non-free #deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian jessie main contrib non-free 
deb http://security.debian.org/ jessie/updates main contrib non-free
#deb-src http://security.debian.org/ jessie/updates main contrib non-free
  • I’m disabling the source packages by commenting the source package repositories. If you want to install the source packages as well, remove the # in front of the source repositories.
  • Here I’m adding the testing repositories to the source.list, but as it was pointed out, sometimes these can misbehave, so be sure you understand the risk, however small before you do this.
  • If you plan to run Debian as your main OS, stick with the stable sources. Testing is NOT recommended in that situation. You can add back ports instead to your source file.
  • If you need to develop/test software from Debian packages, include the following testing sources instead of the stable ones:

Note: As pointed out by the friendly vagabond in the comments, this is not recommended for beginners.

deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian testing main contrib non-free
#deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian testing main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free
#deb-src http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free
  • Now, update the system. Note that you should always update your system before you install new software. Broken packages can cause a HUGE variety of problems including the dreaded ‘’blue screen’’.
apt-get update 
apt-get upgrade
  • If you’re at the latest version of your OS, run distribution upgrade, else skip it
apt-get dist-upgrade
  • Now go ahead and install all the software you want! A good list is given here.

Have fun with your new OS! I’m still getting used to Debian so any and all comments about the above are welcome! :)

Software Engineer. Speaker. Creator. Work-in-progress. Livin’ that Azula life 🔥🌴🌶️😎 She/her