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Here's my typical workflow for installing Ubuntu/Mint:

  • 1) Boot from a USB stick with Live installation
  • 2) Install, reboot
  • 3) Use my USB network adapter which is supported by Mint to get internet
  • 4) Go to "Additional Drivers" and install the driver for my PCIe network card
  • 5) No longer use the USB network adapter as my PCIe card is far better

When I try to install Debian, it does not have drivers for either of my network devices.

How would I go about installing the driver for either of my network cards on Debian? It's tricky because I cannot use the internet to get any of code or drivers.

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Theoretically, it's possible to include the firmware on a separate device (like a USB key) during installation, but I've tried that about a dozen times on at least 5 different laptops across the last 3 Debian releases and never gotten it to work. Instead, I usually just use the unofficial non-free net install image.

If you know ahead of time what non-free firmware you'll need, you could download the .deb from packages.debian.org before installation, copy it to some external media, and dpkg --install it after you finish installation.

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Here's what worked for me:

  1. In the install screen at the "detect network hardware" step, it will identify the driver it needs. e.g. iwlwifi-7260-17.ucode in my case. Leave the install at that screen.
  2. On another computer, search the Internet to figure out what package that driver resides in.
  3. Download the .deb file:
    • If you do not have the appropriate non-free repository for the desired package in your /etc/apt/sources.list, you will have to find and download the .deb file without using apt-get.
    • Or, if you have the correct repository in sources (and it's a similar flavor of Linux), download the package you need using apt-get download [package-name].
  4. Place the .deb file you just downloaded on the USB media. Be sure to put it in a subdirectory named firmware.
  5. Eject the USB drive. :-)
  6. Back on the being-installed computer, pop in the USB drive and hit "Continue."
  7. It should find the driver and install it correctly.

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