Create your own LMDE, Part 1

  11 years ago


Are you excited about the relatively new Linux Mint Debian Edition, but somewhat frustrated that it doesn't come in 64-bit or alternative desktop environments (e.g. KDE, Xfce, etc.)? Do you want to get your hands dirty and try building your own “LMDE” from scratch? If you don't want to wait for an official LMDE release with support for 64-bit and/or alternate DE's, then this guide is for you!


Note: I created this guide at the request of another Linux Mint user. Take note that this isn't officially endorsed by the Linux Mint devs or anything...this is just a guide that I hope will help those who are dissatisfied with the current incarnation of LMDE for various reasons, and have the time and patience to build their own Debian installation just like I have.


Disclaimer: This guide is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. In other words, don't sue me if this guide borks your computer.


In this guide, we will be installing Debian Testing 64-bit with Gnome from a Debian netinst image (KDE users, don't panic, you can choose KDE instead of's just that I prefer Gnome over KDE, and my own Debian installation uses Gnome).


Before we go on, make sure you have a spare CD, an ethernet connection (this is will need to be wired to the Internet, since wireless won't be working for sure during a netinst installation), a lot of bandwidth to spare, and a lot of time and patience (you may need the better part of half a day to tweak everything to your liking).


Now, let's dive right into the fun...


Go to to download the latest Debian Testing netinst image. For amd64 (i.e. 64-bit) users, you'd want to pick this: . It's a relatively small .iso file, around 160 MB in size. Once it's downloaded, check the md5sum, then burn it as an image onto a blank CD, with Brasero/K3b/the program of your choice.


Reboot into your new Debian netinst CD. In the interest of keeping this guide as short as possible, I'm going to assume you know how to boot up from a CD instead of from your hard drive as usual. (You'll notice that in this guide, I'm going to assume that you have a certain level of knowledge...if you don't, you're better off waiting for Clem and co. to release LMDE with the features you want, instead of pulling your hair out trying to get your new Debian installation to work).


(Side note: if you're interested, you may want to read up on the Debian installation guide first before starting the installation process. Not strictly necessary, but I did find it useful at explaining certain things. If you have any questions on the following process, check that first... and don't forget the FAQ as well... If you don't feel like RTFM'ing at the moment, I understand, so let's move on.)


Once it's booted up, you'll see a sparse screen that's entitled “Installer boot menu”. KDE/Xfce users, take note. If you want an alternative DE, choose Advanced options, where you will be given the option to switch to your DE of choice, amongst other options. The netinst installation will default to Gnome if you neglect this step.


From the main menu, select Install. On a Debian netinst image, you will not have the option of doing a graphical install, in case you were wondering. It's not all that bad though; the text installation is straight-forward and intuitive.


Select your locale/timezone, and your keyboard. If you haven't figured it out already, use arrow keys to navigate and the enter/return key to make your choices.


The installer will then configure your connection. If you use DHCP (you probably are), everything will be automatic; if not, then you would already know your IP Address, Netmask, Gateway, Name server addresses, etc., and would be able to manually configure your connection. Once that's done, we come to the partitioning stage.


The partitioner gives you a LOT of options...try not to be overwhelmed. :P Seriously though, if you can work with Gparted for example, you shouldn't have too much trouble working with Debian's partman. The exact partitioning setup you should use is beyond the scope of this guide; I'm going to assume you know what you want. If in doubt, stick with the basic / and /swap setup. Oh, and choose manual partitioning instead of guided partitioning, unless you want to erase your entire hard drive in the process.


RAID, LVM, and encryption are supported by the installer. They are however beyond the scope of this guide, and I urge you to consult the Debian installation guide (link is near the start of this guide) should you decide to setup any of them.


As for manual partitioning...I'm going to quote exactly what the Debian installation guide says: Manual Partitioning

A similar screen to the one shown just above will be displayed if you choose manual partitioning except that your existing partition table will be shown and without the mount points. How to manually set up your partition table and the usage of partitions by your new Debian system will be covered in the remainder of this section.

If you select a pristine disk which has neither partitions nor free space on it, you will be asked if a new partition table should be created (this is needed so you can create new partitions). After this, a new line entitled “FREE SPACE” should appear in the table under the selected disk.

If you select some free space, you will have the opportunity to create a new partition. You will have to answer a quick series of questions about its size, type (primary or logical), and location (beginning or end of the free space). After this, you will be presented with a detailed overview of your new partition. The main setting is Use as:, which determines if the partition will have a file system on it, or be used for swap, software RAID, LVM, an encrypted file system, or not be used at all. Other settings include mountpoint, mount options, and bootable flag; which settings are shown depends on how the partition is to be used. If you don't like the preselected defaults, feel free to change them to your liking. E.g. by selecting the option Use as:, you can choose a different filesystem for this partition, including options to use the partition for swap, software RAID, LVM, or not use it at all. Another nice feature is the ability to copy data from an existing partition onto this one. When you are satisfied with your new partition, select Done setting up the partition and you will return to partman's main screen.

If you decide you want to change something about your partition, simply select the partition, which will bring you to the partition configuration menu. This is the same screen as is used when creating a new partition, so you can change the same settings. One thing that may not be very obvious at a first glance is that you can resize the partition by selecting the item displaying the size of the partition. Filesystems known to work are at least fat16, fat32, ext2, ext3 and swap. This menu also allows you to delete a partition.

Be sure to create at least two partitions: one for the root filesystem (which must be mounted as /) and one for swap. If you forget to mount the root filesystem, partman won't let you continue until you correct this issue.

Capabilities of partman can be extended with installer modules, but are dependent on your system's architecture. So if you can't see all promised goodies, check if you have loaded all required modules (e.g.partman-ext3partman-xfs, or partman-lvm).

After you are satisfied with partitioning, select Finish partitioning and write changes to disk from the partitioning menu. You will be presented with a summary of changes made to the disks and asked to confirm that the filesystems should be created as requested.


Once you're done with partitioning, just confirm the choices you make and let partman write the changes to disk. Then, let's move on.


You'll then be able to set up a root password, and a single user account + password. Do so, then we'll get to the stage where we'll actually start downloading stuff and building our base system.


When you get the prompt to choose what predefined collections of software you'd like to install, take note of the following:


The various server tasks will install software roughly as follows. DNS server: bind9; File server: samba, nfs; Mail server: exim4, spamassassin, uw-imap; Print server: cups; SQL database: postgresql; Web server: apache2.


The “Standard system” task will install any package that has a priority “standard”. This includes a lot of common utilities that are normally available on any Linux or Unix system. You should leave this task selected unless you know what you are doing and want a really minimal system.


Personally, I picked graphical desktop environment, print server, file server, laptop, in addition to the standard system collection. Note that “graphical desktop environment” will truly install the entire desktop environment...if you have limited bandwidth, you may want to skip this, and add your DE of choice post-install with apt-get/aptitude. Depending on your connection, this step can take hours. For me, downloading and installing everything took a bit under 2 hours, and I have high-speed internet. :P


Once you've made your choices, grab a book and stick around. The installer will occasionally prompt you with prompts during the process of downloading and installing those updates, and there's still some stuff to do after downloading and installing the packages you want. You're probably used to Ubuntu's Ubiquity installer, in that you tell it everything it needs to know in the beginning and it never bothers you again during the installation process. Debian's installer is quite the opposite.


Once all that is done, you'll have to tell the installer where to install Grub (or whether to install Grub, if you don't want it). If you don't know where you want to install Grub, I suggest the MBR of your hard drive, i.e. /dev/sda. Not sda#, just sda. Continue...


Remove the netinst CD at the prompt, then reboot.


I'll write the 2nd part of my guide in a separate tutorial...I never anticipated that a Debian installation guide would be so long. Then again, the Debian manual is much longer than this.


Update: Here's Part 2:

robertb 8 years ago

This is too old. Somebody should update it. Converting Debian to Mint is quite painful right now.

luisnando 11 years ago

@Silent_Warrior I just followed the tutorial, and I got the ext4 partition...

tdockery97 11 years ago

Excellent tutorial. Wonderful for those who really need 64 bit Debian.

Vincent 11 years ago

luisnando: I haven't tried booting a netinst image from a USB, but it should be possible. Go to this URL: and choose "other images" corresponding to your architecture, most likely i386 (32-bit) or amd64 (64-bit). E.g. for amd64,

Refer to to learn how to install an .img file onto a USB (basically, sudo apt-get install usb-imagewriter)

Silent_Warrior 11 years ago

I think unetbootin might give you the best experience. There is also the USB-creator, but that doesn't always work. Well, it exists in Ubuntu, at least - not about how things stand for us...

Anyway: unbetbootin.

Also, the netinstall-image I tried just now, dated 7/10 (2010), worked quite well with my wireless (Realtek 8187B). In case anyone needs to know.

luisnando 11 years ago

Can I boot with the netinstall version from a pendrive? Dou you suggest any tool?

Vincent 11 years ago

That explains it. Debian Lenny uses the 2.6.26 kernel by default, while ext4 was only built into the mainline kernel starting from 2.6.28. I did link directly to the correct .iso file in my tutorial above, but I've just realised that the link is broken, so I guess it's my turn to blush. :P

Silent_Warrior 11 years ago

Eh... As it turns out, I DID in fact use a Lenny image. A-HEM! I'll just go blush something grand for a bit, if you don't mind.
(Not downloaded, thus not tested on my end, but I'm going to assume downloading the CORRECT version of the image will make following the tutorial a cinch.)

Vincent 11 years ago are using the most up-to-date release of the Testing netinst image, right (not an old Lenny netinst or something similar)? I don't know why ext4 doesn't seem to work for you; it worked perfectly for me when I setup my partitions in partman.

Silent_Warrior 11 years ago

BEWARE: I'm using EXT4, and the partitioning failed. The netinstaller seems to "only" support up to EXT3... EXT4-users are out of luck for now.

If you have EXT4, you'll have to use the more official LMDE-disc. Whether to wipe your partitions and make them EXT3 or play it safe and just do 32-bit until the project takes off is up to you.