Installing Debian From Any Linux Distro

There are times where you have to install a Debian machine, but you don’t have access to a debian iso, or you don’t already have a USB stick ready. This happened recently to me when I was volunteering at NYCMesh. We needed to install Debian on a machine, but I only had my arch linux iso for some reason.

I remembered stumbling upon this debian page on installing from a linux machine (the original link was broken since debian made new releases, but the content is similar). This was exactly what I needed, but some commands had to be changed to fit that system, which I will outline later.

This is similar to the install process of some more hardcore linux distros, like arch, void, and gentoo. So because I had experience installing distros from scratch, the process was pretty straightforward.

  1. You format the disks and mount them
  2. run your distro’s bootstrap script on that mount (this sets up the package manager)
  3. chroot into the disk
  4. install base packages, like your linux image, headers, bootloader, etc…
  5. setup things like your keyboard layout, locale, time, networking, drivers
  6. install the bootloader
  7. restart and pray that it all works

The debian guide I linked above contains pretty much everything that you’ll need. However, I ran into some issues trying to install the grub bootloader, for my future convenience and whoever is out there that ran into the same issue as me, I’ll write down what I did.

It appears that grub needs to know where your boot drive is, but it was not able to because your drives were not properly mapped in /dev. But you can fix it by doing the following from RescueLive Guide before entering the chroot.

for name in proc sys dev ; do mount --bind /$name /mnt/$name; done

This command will mount proc, sys, dev to your chroot, so grub can read them inside your new linux instance.

grub-install also had to be run with --force for some reason still unbeknownst to me. If you have any idea of why this is the case, please let me know.

I am still not super familiar with the process, and my memory of it is a big foggy since I did this a few weeks ago, I have just been really busy and not been able to write this down.

(I also ended up installing Ventoy on my USB drive so I can load up multiple linux images onto it)

If you have any questions, want to change my mind, or literally anything else, please reach out!