I'm an Ubuntu user who is exploring Debian and want to install Debian 10 onto a USB drive. I downloaded an ISO that has Debian 10, Gnome and non-free software for drivers, etc from here https://cdimage.debian.org/images/unofficial/non-free/images-including-firmware/10.10.0-live+nonfree/amd64/iso-hybrid/

I had to change the download file extension from .iso to .img so that the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator software saw it. After making the live USB installer, I booted from it and choose the default option, i.e. run the Debian 10 live installation. After the live installer finished booting up, I clicked the button to install Debian 10. This Calamares process began a series of of steps leading to a choice of disk to install it on - see screenshot below.

Installation Disk Offered

All the installer "sees" are the 2 SDD drives on my machine: sda (my main drive) and sdd (my backup drive). It ignores the 2 USB drives, one for the live Debian installer, the other for holding the full installation. In a way, the existence of drives sdb and sdc is implied by the sda and sdd designations - but not displayed as installation options.

lsblk output is shown below.

enter image description here

As what I'm trying to do is a common practice among people exploring a new distro - as well as those wanting to permanently configure their live installation disk - I find it odd that I am not facilitated by the Debian 10 installer.

For good measure, I also tried the graphical and non-graphical installer options from the Debian boot menu. But the problem here is that this only seems to look in the CD drive for an installation ISO . . . No option to seek a USB drive as a location for the Debian installer exists - or at least is "seen" by the program.

Debian Install Menu

The installer menu is just like something 15 years ago - it all seems based on a user presenting a CD system image and no option for a USB image exists . . . Funny if not so inconvenient.

Am I missing something here ? Or does Debian only want people to have full installs on a SSD drive ? (I would think this narrow-mindedness most untypical of Debian.)

On YouTube and suchlike I see lots of installs of Debian but they nearly always use KDE as their desktop. I wonder if my choosing Gnome is off the beaten track as far as serious testing goes ? I used to like KDE in the old days on Red Hat but today I find Gnome easier to follow visually and more explicit in its functions.


The problem with the Live Debian Installer not seeing my USB drives was solved by burning the Debian ISO image to a USB with Etcher, not Ubuntu's Startup Disk Creator. (Apparently most ISO burner programs only work on a given distro.) After I booted into the new installation USB and used Graphical Debian Install option (the Calamares process on the Debian 10 Live Install option still did not see the USBs ...), the install program displayed all media devices mounted including my 2 USBs.

Installation to a second USB was still a tricky and extremely slow process however. I tried to follow this guy's procedure after failing on my own twice. I let the installer format the whole USB drive for itself (a default option) and enter nothing for root and root-password. Yet at the end of a long a tedious process I had a system installed that my UEFI BIOS wouldn't boot off.

To get the boot loader to "see" my Debian system, I had to choose to manually create partitions on the installation USB during the Graphical Debian Installer process.

The first partition (and the one that is booted from) was formatted as EFI System Partition and its boot flag set on.

The second partition - which holds the vast bulk of the system - has to be made as big as possible and at least > 10 GB. Debian documentation has it both ways on this question: officially you only need 1 GB storage but another section "recommends" 10 GB. In my recent experience, 10 GB is minimum. I gave it as much as I could at ~ 13 GB as I had just 15 GB in all the USB. More space also gives a faster installation process!

The third partition is just a swap space and formatted as such. I could only spare it 1 GB from my 15 GB USB stick. But if I'd used a 30 GB stick, I'd make the swap space as big as the second partition.

Debian needs to sharpen its installation process a bit, including improvements to the guide info and error logging files.

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