Debian - easier than you might think

Switching from Ubuntu to Debian is easier than you might think.

Considering you are here, you most likely already know how to install a Linux distribution, so I'm not going to cover that here. What I will share with you are some very basic steps that should help you on your way to installing Debian on your equipment if you desire to do so.

First I would recommend using the netinst iso, which contains just the core Debian installer code and a small core set of text-mode programs. During the install process you can choose which desktop environment you want to install, including Gnome, KDE, Mate, lxde, lxqt, xfce, etc. You will get the most up to date packages this way as they will be downloaded during the installation process. Obviously a Internet connection is required to use the netinst iso.

You can download the amd64 version of the netinst iso here.

Good news if your using the i386 platform. Debian still supports it. You can download the i386 version of the netinst iso here.

But what about hardware compatibility? You have two options.

Option one is to download firmware drivers, put them on a USB drive and insert them if needed, and you will be asked to do so if the installer does not support all of your hardware. At a minimum, you probably will need to do this to get your WiFi working. This is the option I used, and it worked very well. You can download the firmware here.

Option two is to download the unofficial alternative build that includes non-free firmware. You can download that here.

You may also find the following link helpful.

If a Internet connection is not posible when your installing see the following links listed below.

For amd64 builds
For i386 builds

I elected to install the Gnome DE during the install from a netinst iso on a realitively new laptop (September 2018). The installation went very well. All hardware was picked up and supported. I did use the firmware download on a USB drive as it was needed for the WiFi card. Debian 10.0 works very well out of the box, every bit as good as Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS.

A couple screenshots for you.

For me, deciding to leave Ubuntu was a Snap :wink:


If you use Debian Sid, beware: you may get mayor breakage that can make your PC unbootable with any update, particularly those made shortly after a stable release. Be careful.


I agree about Debian 10 (Sid). I reccommend Debian 9, which is rock solid.

Debian 10 will be fine in a year or so.

But, then, I take this approach will all Debian derivatives, including Ubuntu. That is to say, I always go for LTS and always wait to take the plunge until a full 50% of an LTS's lifespan has elapsed.

It's all about risk tolerance and compartmentalisation of risk, I guess.

For me, I have a very high risk tolerance for risk that is generate by my own experimentations and a very low risk tolerance for risk that is imposed on me in a way that is outside of my control.


Do not forget to try MATE DE on Debian. It runs very well there:

Installable with sudo apt-get install task-mate-desktop or sudo tasksel install mate-desktop :slight_smile:

Snap is removable from Ubuntu with simple sudo apt-get purge snapd .
By switching to ordinary Debian you lose more useful feature - Personal Package Archives on LaunchPad .net (for example for LibreOffice).

But Debian itself is great, he is a father of Ubuntu and Ubuntu MATE :slight_smile:


Good point @Magnusmaster. Sid is, and always will be the unstable branch of Debian. It is designed for testing, not for production.

If anyone is interested in reading more about Debian releases, see and perhaps

Glad to see your still here @stevecook172001. We are not so different in our approach to using a stable release point. My decision to install Buster was not with out research and testing.

I have been testing Debian in VirtualBox since June of 2018 when Stretch was released. I put Buster through a short period of testing in VirtualBox as well. That was followed by installing Buster on a external hard drive that was connected to the laptop targeted for installation. After finding it to be both stable and compatible with the hardware, it was installed it along side Ubuntu, which allowed time for a bit more testing, while data was transferred from one OS to the other. Then finally Ubuntu was replaced with Debian.

But with that being said, this is not a mission critical environment that I'm working with, and I still consider this to be a time of testing. But from what I have seen thus far, I am hopeful that this will be the beginning of something good.


I've got something pretty nerdy to show you.... :smiley:

Debian 9 with openbox window manager, tint2 panels, lxpanel (for the system tray) pcmanfm managing the desktop.

Also, with a modified openbox menu utilizing xdotool in order to have multiple Openbox menus available simultaneously on the top panel

It's a simulated Mate desktop, basically. But loads up at about 250MB on the RAM.

I'm just knocking up some scripts which I will attach to panel launchers which will allow the user to selectively switch off and on the panels and the window manger. In other words, it will be possible, on the fly, to change the interface from a bare bones openbox empty display to a full "mate" desktop and back again. And, of course, if it is running in vanilla openbox mode, the memory requirement would drop to a ludicrously low 150MB or thereabouts.

I've currently got it set up, at login, to load the lxpanel, tint2 panel and pcmanfm managing the desktop. However, I think I am going to set it up so that it loads as a basic openbox interface but provides a dialog box, on login that allow the user to choose whch elements they want to run in that session. But, with the addittional option of switching those elements off and on during the session itself.

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I like it @stevecook172001 :sunglasses:... Looks like a good project to try on a raspberry pi with raspbian lite as the base.

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I just find Ubuntu Mate (using 18.04) much more polished and pleasant to use out of the box.

Debian default config is not for me, and i would need to spend a lot of time for no noticeable gains.

If i want a really light and feature complete distro, i choose q4os that's built on top of debian and really fast and light, and there is also a 32 bit version. And it's getting better every release, but for now i still really prefer ubuntu mate if the pc is fast enought, let's say ssd, 1gb ram and a 64 bit cpu that scores at least 1000 on cpu benchmark (almost everything for the past 10 years or so).

I use q4os on a netbook and on a 32 bit p4 with 2gb ram i have in my 2nd home, for example.


Snap is what I'm concerned about. Yes, right now you can remove it. I forget which distro that wouldn't allow installing Chromium using apt. Needed to install using snap.

apt is lean on installs. Snap is not. A while back I compared both installs for storage use. Apt by for was less in size.

The problem I have with debian is the password required mounting other partitions. I know google has the answer somewhere, but last night it wasn't easy to find it.
Something like polkit or org.freedesktop. Some such esoteric location and file editing.


The title of your post caught my attention, so I read through. I originally discovered MATE in Mint (having been using Ubuntu), and I liked MATE so much I switched to Mint. When Ubuntu finally released a MATE spin, I came back to Ubuntu for ease of use.

One subject you don't touch upon, perhaps intentionally to avoid controversy, is why you wanted to switch from Ubuntu to Debian. I'm not wedded to any particular distribution, having spent time with many over the years. I've stuck with Ubuntu mainly because I prefer the rolling update approach; an OS for me is just a foundation - I'm more selective of the tools I use directly. So if the OS can maintain itself and stay out of my way, that's pretty much all I want from it.

Care to share some of your motivations for the switch? I may not know what I'm missing. Thanks.

Hey @guyr, the reason for switching to Debian really revolves around snap packages.

Currently with deb packages, when a software update is ready, you can see what is going to be installed to your system, and you have the choice whether to allow it to happen, or not. Naturally you would want to keep your system updated, but still, your computer, your choice.

With snap packages you not longer have the ability to see whats going to be installed on your computer, nor are you able to give your consent for it to happen. The whole concept behind snap packages is for the developers to push updates to the end user computer with out their consent or intervention.

I see that as a huge violation from a security stand point, as you would no longer be in control of what is being installed on your system, or when. This is especially true when the snap packages are from a third party. In that case the chance of abuse only increases.

So since Ubuntu is going down this road, I feel that I have little choice but to move to another distribution. I chose Debian because I have much time invested in learning Debian based systems like Ubuntu, which I have been using somewhat steady since the release of Hardy Heron.


I ultimately feel that way as well. I have tried Manjaro Mate on and off and, on the whole, like it very much. Expecially the massive repos (including the AUR) of apps. But, it always ends up letting me down at some point with minor (and occassonally not so minor) breakages.

So, for the same reason as you, I have found myself repeatedly ending up with Debian Mate or, even, more latterly, a modified (by me) Debian openbox.


Think about all we are learning about Debian, and Linux in general through this. It's been good for me, and I'm pretty sure you could say the same. I was looking through my notes the other day and I've actually been testing Debian since Jessie not Stretch as I thought earlier.

Certainly wouldn't want to go back to Windows at this point. I'm hoping Linux distributions will not become as invasive as Microsoft has. I see snap packages as heading in that direction though.

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I've been off MS Windows fully and on Linux since 2007, other than the occassional use of Windows XP in a VM (and even that is becoming a rare neccessity these days). Though, I was messing around with Linux as early as 2005.

I'll never ever go back to using MS windows now. My eldest son uses the latest MS Windows a lot for his work and, when I look at it now, it is utterly alien to me. He tells me he can't stand it but is forced to use it for the bespoke applications he needs to run.

I reckon even he will be installing a Linux parition to run alongside his Windows partition on his home machine in the not too distant future.



I have been listening to the debate on snap, flatpak and app image. There seems to be 2 sides to this. In the corporate Linux world it seems that sysadmins and developers see these package manager as a way to allow software to be installed without having several different package managers depending on the distro. In other words, it wouldn't matter the distro, the apps would be able to be installed without issues.

The other thing is the fragmentation of Linux, which is keeping it from being a major player on the desktop. Linux needs a unified way regardless of the distro to be able to just allow people to install the software they want so they can get on with their work. I see this a a good thing.

The other side of the coin is those who continue to maybe not really understand the freedom concept of Linux and has begun to distort what Linux is really about. While no one wants a corporation or even a distro to tell them what they can or cannot do with the software, Linux needs a viable way to allow proprietary software that Linux does not have to run on the platform. People have work to do, and I would rather run adobe, Office or any mac software on a solid Linux foundation then on the MS, Apple, Android foundation.

Linux developers need to create the applications that 98% of the world is using in order to feed there families and pay their bills. Right now linux is great on the server side, cloud side. But if I am someone who needs applications like photoshop, or any of the main applications for music production, movie production, graphics, arts and crafts, podcasting, 3D printing, game development I would have to jump through hoops to find the apps and then learn them. Why would anyone want to go through that when they can stay on Windows, Apple and get their work done.

I have listened to popey, Chris LAS, Noah and a host of people from Destination Linux, and many other Linux advocates and they all say the same thing. Linux needs a single point of distribution of apps, as well as apps that are on the same level if not better than proprietary software. Linux will always be free as Linux is really just the kernel and the core parts that make up the OS.

I think a lot of people have never really understood or read the history of Linux and why it was created, instead some have turned it into a religion instead of just a piece of software to get work done.

It's funny to me, to see people complain about proprietary software, when they used it for years and had no problem with it, even when they paid enormously for it and it really wasn't worth the money. It never seems to stop anyone from doing what they wanted to, they just could not change it.

I understand the Big Brother aspect of computing, and as long as corporations have anything to do with it, it will continue. After all doesn't it cross one's mind that when you get a trademark, patent or any other license to protect your work, that the government is the one to give you that? So they have control, no matter what you or I think. The real problem is the greed of Individuals who own the corporations who want to control the data, so they can continue to make billions off of our personal business. That is more of a issue, then anything else. Linux is Open Source software, it is created by people all across the world so that they can use their computers and do some very incredible things. It is because of that we have the freedom to use the computer for what it was intended which was creativity, and allows those who would not be able to have a platform in which they too can support their families, communicate and have fun doing so.

And that's what makes, Debian, Debian as well as all the other Linux distro's out there.

@steven, thanks very much for taking the time to explain. I understand your concerns with snap packages. I haven't really paid close attention to them, since Ubuntu just started using them. My limited understanding is that the advertised benefit of using snaps is to isolate apps from one another and hence avoid breakage due to unforeseen changes to dependencies. Sounds beneficial, but I don't like the aspect you mention of updates being applied without my knowledge or consent. I'll investigate further as time allows.

I have already run into a problem with snaps. I started tinkering with .NET Core, which is available via snaps. Unfortunately, it simply does not work on Linux dependably. If I try to use GtkSharp, it encounters cross-snap dependencies; the GtkSharp developers said flat out snap installation doesn't work, using the normal install. So, that's one failed attempt out of one attempt - not a great start.

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When it comes to standalone apps, I prefer Appimages in any event. You don't even "install" them. You just download the binaries and put them in one folder and execute the main binary in there. That's it.

And here is a list of image hubs (repositories):

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Hello yawanathanisrael

You may find this to be of interest:

Free (libre) open source software (FLOSS) is my preference, the kernel is released under the GPL, the GNU tools too. :slightly_smiling_face:

For those who may not already know, we need to increase our funding of those people writing "free" software. The free is about freedom, not lack of cost to the user. Donate what you can, when you can, if you use FLOSS - programmers have bills to pay too. :slightly_smiling_face:

FYI there is also a good search site for all three formats (AppImage, Snap and FlatPak) -

What is great that we do not need to install GNOME Software or KDE Discover to compare package versions.
Personally like deb-packages from official and third-party (regular and PPAs) more, but it is great that an alternative exists :slight_smile:

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I believe products like AppImage, FlatPak, and Snap packages will continue to grow in production and become more of a standard in open source software because it allows software developers to put all the dependencies to their products in one package and eliminate the need to package their products for multiple distributions, and that would have to be attractive to them.

But when speaking from a security stand point, convenience always equals compromise.

Cloud computing is an good example of this. Cloud computing is very convenient. You can upload your data to Apple, Windows, and Google servers to name a few, and from there you can sync your data across multiple operating systems and devices. In addition to that, your data is backed up off site and that pretty much eliminates concerns of corruption or accidental deletion.

Very convenient indeed, but where exactly is your data being stored when you upload it to the cloud? And who has access to the servers that it is stored on? Do they make back up copies of your data? If they do, which is normally the case, who has access to the back ups? And where are the backups stored? And for how many years are they retained?

It's pretty easy to see the potential for compromise in such a situation, but it's convenient so we do it anyway. Do you realize that most medical records are now stored in the cloud? Think that data will ever be compromised?

And the cloud is really just the tip of the iceberg when it come to convenience causing compromise. You should look into what kind of data is being gathered about us from our cell phones every day. Then there is voice recognition software, facial recognition software, thumb print readers, and palm vein scanners, just to name a few. Care to guess where all that data is being stored? The cloud perhaps?

The sad thing is that we have become so conditioned to these modern day conveniences that we hardly even pay attention to them anymore.

Sorry for being off topic, but I find it quite amazing what we are willing to give up for the sake of conveniences.