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This question is an extension to my previous question as it deviates far too much from my initial question, however I kindly encourage you to give it a brief read before tackling this. How does one re-install their whole Debian system? I would like to mention that I only have root access when selecting recovery mode via grub. Therefore I can't access root in the regular GUI screen even with CTRL+ALT+F? however I do have access to all the files under / which should help.

All my data has already been backed up so any loss of data is irrelevant to my situation.

The system requires my USB to load up (grub in order to select whether I want to boot normally or in recovery mode) however my USB only has ldlinux.sys, menu.c32, syslinux.cfg, ubnkern, ubninit which has initrd inside it. Nothing else other than that. How do I force a reinstall whilst booting?

  • Can you boot from a CD/USB and install from there? – Anthon Dec 7 '14 at 12:53
  • Don't have any CD and cannot burn an image onto one as it requires root which I can't get outside recovery mode. I've appended the details of the contents inside my USB. However I doubt that's enough/required to reinstall the system. Should I simply try to burn it from another computer whenever I get the opportunity to? – Juxhin Dec 7 '14 at 13:00
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    If you don't have a second USB to isntall from you probably need to try and make a CD. Other ways are much more cumbersome and error prone and would (the way I have done this) require a working VirtualMachine to make the new clean setup that would then be copied in to the (switched off) swap space on the drive. Nothing I recommend to try for less experienced users. – Anthon Dec 7 '14 at 13:12
  • I'd probably just stick with USB then and burn the iso on it whenever I am able to. Thank you very much for your time @Anthon - Should I keep this question up even though there's no answer or should I just delete it? – Juxhin Dec 7 '14 at 13:21
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I would counter-act your question with a series of questions of my own to know what you have done in the first place ?

a. Which version of Debian have you installed ? Whether it is wheezy (current stable), squeeze (old stable) or testing (jessie) which will be released in near future.

b. You haven't shared what you did to actually come to this pass as people would also share ideas which would make it better or easier to do things better for the re-install or rather install from scratch.

c. While as somebody had shared previously that it's a good idea to take a backup of /etc but that is only when you know that /etc is in a good state otherwise it would be better to do things from scratch otherwise you may have the same issues after installation as well.

The more information you share, the easier and better it would be for us to help you.

There are strategies that might be useful when installing, strategies while doing backups and so on and so forth. While installation is something you do once a year or once in few years, backups are an entirely different beast altogether and requires constant attention.

I have wandered far outside the original question. Please answer as much as you can either as a comment or if you can amend the original question and we will try to help as much as we can.

  • Ofcourse - I will answer them here in the comments, if you feel you've got enough information that's valid then I'll amend the original question for everyone to view. a. I have installed Debian Wheezy, no other version, directly from the website ~3 months ago. b. To put it all in a nutshell, I had terminal open and was logged in as root. I accidentally passed in chmod -R 777 * under / and ruined the permissions of all the files. From then on I couldn't do anything with sudo and su as I would receive setuid/guid(Or something along those lines) as being incorrect/broken – Juxhin Dec 8 '14 at 19:36
  • You might be able to get away with dpkg-deb -x $pkg.deb / for each deb package that you have installed. List of packages: ls /var/lib/dpkg/info/ | grep list$ | sed s/.list// – umeboshi Jan 25 '15 at 22:56

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