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I have a Debian based server but I don't have physical access to it and it doesn't have a DVD-drive or similar. I only have root access. Is it possible to format and reinstall Debian just by using the root account?

I was thinking of solutions like installing to a separate partition and after install format the current partition or perhaps using VMWare and always run it as a VM although this would impede performance.

This is because my Debian server is currently in my home country(at my parents) while I moved to another country. Do you think perhaps I should dump the server altogether and go for a hosted solution? I normally would prefer to keep my server because hosted solutions normally cost you more than having your own server and paying only for electricity.

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You want to wipe your server and create it anew? – Karlson Mar 5 '12 at 22:44
@Karlson as I understand it, yes, but he has no physical access to it. – Renan Mar 5 '12 at 22:47
Hi Karlson! Thank you for your comment. Yes, wiping out is exactly what I want. – nlight Mar 5 '12 at 22:47
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I would say the answer is maybe but I wouldn't do it and I would STRONGLY recommend you DO NOT TO ATTEMPT IT.

The idea is fairly simple but requires perfect execution which Murphy's Law will mess up.

If your hardware has PXE boot and another Linux machine on the network where your server resides you can set up a Network Boot Environment wipe your MBR on the primary drive to force a network boot and reboot hoping that your Network Boot configuration is perfect, there are no issues installing the packages and they don't ask for any input and post install configuration such as getting a root or some other admin user enabled works perfectly and everything is happy after.

My experience tells me that there is a great chance that it will not be so unless you have console access quite possibly physical access DO NOT ATTEMPT IT!!!

Another approach depends on the hardware you have and your ability to connect to something like DRAC or HP's ILO, which allows you to mount CDs via network and boot from them. But again this requires you have these cards installed in the server and your hardware is actually capable of supporting them.

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Thanks for your answer Karlson! The reason I want this is that I feel my server became slower over time. When I now try to access my MediaWiki, it will wait like 5-6 seconds until the connection to the wiki is established and after that it will start loading the web page. I don't know why is this happening, could it be a virus or a flood type of attack - or perhaps it could be just because I installed also Tomcat, ruby on rails, etc. as plugins to my apache installation? I have no idea how to debug this so I thought best is to reinstall it. – nlight Mar 6 '12 at 10:51
@danleadgy That's a different question which you might want to post to superuser.com or here to get some ideas. Re-Install in general on a UNIX system is only necessary when everything is completely toast. – Karlson Mar 6 '12 at 14:27

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