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31 Debian CDs — Why? and which do I need for a vanilla desktop install?

I am about to install Debian. But Debian has 52 CD Images - how can Debian be so large? 52 CDs will equate to almost 36 GB! Am I mistaking something or what?

  • From debian site=> It depends, but we think that in many cases the minimal CD image is better — above all, you only download the packages that you selected for installation on your machine, which saves both time and bandwidth. On the other hand, the full CDs are more suitable when installing on more than one machine, or on machines without a free Internet connection.
    – SHW
    Jun 27 '12 at 8:20

There's a FAQ on Debian CDs, which also includes this:

Which of the numerous images should I download? Do I need all of them?

No. First, of course you only need to download either CD or DVD images - the two types of images contain the same packages.

Also, you only need the CD/DVD images for your computer's architecture. [...]

Furthermore, in most cases it is not necessary to download all of the images for your architecture. The packages are sorted by popularity: The first CD/DVD contains the installation system and the most popular packages. The second one contains slightly less popular ones, the third one even less popular ones, etc. You will probably only need the first DVD (or the first two CDs) unless you have very special requirements. (And in case you happen to need a package later on which is not on one of the CDs/DVDs you downloaded, you can always install that package directly from the Internet.)

It goes on with explaining the network installation (netinst) images, a viable alternative to using the CD sets (if you've got an internet connection).

  • 1
    +1 for net install (~150MB download). Debian is the largest repository of free software in the world. Those 52 disks comprise all of it. You should only ever download the installer (netinst) unless the target system will have no Internet access.
    – bahamat
    Jun 27 '12 at 19:49

What sr_ wrote is pretty much what I'd answer.

I'd only add that the most Debian I've ever needed to download was the first CD. Not even DVD. And after a while I realised it wasn't even worth doing that, so I only downloaded netinst images. You can have a base Debian installation in half an hour, boot into it, and start installing more applications while you're setting up the previous ones. So I find it saves the ‘dead’ time of a multi-CD download with bonus (near-) instant gratification. :)


That's only if you decide to install absolutely everything that Debian supports -- which includes not only the base system but several desktop environments, several dozen window managers, at least three entire office suites that I'm aware of, four different HTTP servers that I can name off the top of my head, several dozen programming languages and full library suites for each, several different development environments, at least a half dozen full SQL database servers, whole hosts of scientific/electronic/mathematical application suites, and so on and so on...

Debian is gigantic, and the fact that the stable releases tend to be rock solid is little short of amazing. But if you want to install it, I recommend creating just a netinst CD and have the install process download only what you really want.

  • 1
    And it's impossible to 100% of it anyway because many packages conflict with each other.
    – bahamat
    Jun 27 '12 at 19:50

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