I have installed Debian Wheezy on two different partitions of the same desktop computer.

The first installation was done a few months ago with a version 7.5 iso image. The installation has been upgraded on a regular basis using apt-get.

The second was done one week ago with a 7.8 iso image. The installer detected the previous debian installation and set up grub to see both installations. Now I can boot into any of the two debian instances.

When using the older instance, the console boots with a relatively large font and after a few seconds switches to a smaller font.

When using the newer instance, the console boots with a large font and does not switch to the smaller one.

I would like to have the same behaviour on both installations, namely the smaller console fonts.

At first I thought it could be a grub problem but, since there is one grub managing all the boot configurations, I suppose the problem is in the configuration of Debian itself. Next thing I looked at both /etc/default/console-setup but they are identical on the two systems.

So, why do the two systems use different console font sizes? Has the default changed between Wheezy 7.5 and 7.8? Or can it depend on packages that have been installed on one system but not on the other?

In any case, how can I find the font size used by the older system and set it on the new system?


I just did a fresh install of Debian 8 on a free partition and I have the same problem: the fonts in the console mode are pretty large and stay like that. In previous installations of Debian 7 on many different machines (even a 12 year old laptop), the console starts with large fonts at boot, but then switches to smaller fonts before starting the X server. After that, when I switch to a console with ALT-F1-6, I get a console with small fonts.

In my current Debian 8 installation, on a new desktop, console fonts remain large.

  • Do you have X configured on either/both instances? Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 9:20
  • @Faheem Mitha: Yes. I suppose X was chosen automatically when installing the gnome desktop.
    – Giorgio
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 9:22
  • It can be that I chose desktop in the installer only for one instance but I am not sure any more. Does gnome get installed on a non-desktop installation (that would be the older one)?
    – Giorgio
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 9:24
  • Well, look at the X config file, which would be at /etc/X11/xorg.conf if it exists. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 9:28
  • @Faheem Mitha: Are the text consoles also controlled by the X server? Anyway, I don't have this file on either system.
    – Giorgio
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 9:51

1 Answer 1


I just found the solution to my problem, which occurred on new installations of both Debian 7 and Debian 8. The problem was that the kernel did not switch the graphic mode during boot. I noticed some error messages in the log complaining that firmware-linux-nonfree was missing.


$ sudo apt-get install firmware-linux-nonfree

solved the problem.

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