Picture of Jürgen Kreileder

Debian Installer With Kernel 2.6.11

As mentioned recently, Debian Sarge’s installer doesn’t work on my Dell Inspiron 9300. I like Debian but I think it’s a shame that the sarge installer was already outdated on the day of its release.

The official sarge installer still uses a 2.4 kernel by default but includes a 2.6 kernel that can be used by booting with "install26" or "expert26". But even that kernel, 2.6.8, is too old for the Inspiron 9300. It still doesn’t recognize the hard disk.

Ubuntu’s installer, which uses a 2.6.11 kernel, works fine on the machine. Although Ubuntu is a nice distribution, I like pure Debian better. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any 2.6.11 based Debian installer on the net, even a question on debian-boot yielded nothing.

Anyhow, I finally had the time to build one myself:
debian-2.6.11-i386-businesscard.iso (GPG signature)

The image is basically a sarge businesscard ISO with a 2.6.11 kernel from Debian testing instead of the original 2.6.8 kernel.

Unlike with Ubuntu, installation on the Inspiron 9300 still doesn’t work out of the box but with a few tricks I was able to install Debian sarge:

  • Boot with expert26
  • When the installer starts up, switch to the second console (Alt-F2) and enter these commands:
    ~ # modprobe ide_generic
    ~ # modprobe ata_piix

    Without this the installer won’t find the CD-ROM.

  • If network configuration via DHCP fails, just retry — worked for me
  • When asked what version of Debian you would like to install, choose stable. Installing testing or unstable directly doesn’t work.
  • It doesn’t matter which kernel you choose to install, we have to replace it with a 2.6.11 kernel later anyway
  • Just before the first reboot, that means right after the installer ejects the CD-ROM, switch back to console two. Now download and install the latest available Debian kernel. I’ve used 2.6.11-1-686:
    ~ # mount -t proc proc /target/proc
    ~ # chroot /target
    sh-2.05b# cd /root
    sh-2.05b# wget http://blog.blackdown.de/static/debian/kernel-image-2.6.11-1-686_2.6.11-7_i386.deb
    sh-2.05b# dpkg -i kernel-image-2.6.11-1-686_2.6.11-7_i386.deb
    sh-2.05b# exit
    ~ # umount /target/proc
  • Reboot (using the kernel just installed) and complete the installation
  • Upgrade to testing or unstable
  • Build a custom kernel (2.6.12 or newer). It’s probably a good idea to include some additional libata patches. To get the DVD drive working you have to apply this patch.

This article Jürgen Kreileder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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[…] As it turns out, getting Debian to work with SATA disks at installation is a pain in the ass. I could have done what’s suggested here, but I figured that that’s too much work when I can just reinstall Ubuntu and have it autodetect all of my hardware. So, while I wish that it were more up to date, I guess I’ll just be living with that for now. […]

DD said

Works for the Sony Vaio VGN-S4HP, too. acpi=off has to be parsed though otherwise the installer (as with ubuntu) hangs. Afterwards, cardmgr does not cause difficulties.

David said

That’s exactly what I need. However, why isn’t the aacraid module available on your iso? I need it so I can’t make my Adaptec 2610SA controller card work… and I don’t feel like building an debian installer. Could you tell me what I should do?

Hm, I’ve mainly built the image for my Inspiron 9300 which needs the ata_piix module.

I’ve just looked at the ISO again, the aacraid module is in scsi-extra-modules-2.6.11-1-386-di_1.03_i386.udeb. So if you boot with expert26 it should get loaded. If not, then maybe the discover-data is out of date. In that case you have to load it manually: Go to the shell on console 2, install pool/main/l/linux-kernel-di-i386-2.6/scsi-extra-modules-2.6.11-1-386-di_1.03_i386.udeb, and insmod aacraid.ko.

sk said

Huzzah, I was almost positive I wasn’t going to get Debian installed on my Promise TX4 SATA card until I found this.

Thanks a million : )

AO said

Thanks Jürgen – you’ve just saved me having to do exactly the same thing
for some tyan GS-12’s I’m playing with. Cheers!

Ralph said


What kernel module does 2.6.11 have that 2.6.8 doesn’t that makes your businesscard iso make to reckognize my Seagate SATA drive? I have a problem because your iso does reckognize my hd but not my eth card (it’s broadcom’s tg3 module which is in 2.6.8 but not in 2.6.11) therefore I cannot continue the installation without a network card’s driver. On the other hand the original 2.6.8 on the sarge cd have the network driver but it does not find my SATA. I’ve comapred the two kernels and they load the same modules: ata_piix, sd_mod, libata.. So why the 2.6.8 doesn’t see the SATA hardrive and your 2.6.11 does?

Thanks in advance for any reply!

It’s ata_piix. The driver is both in 2.6.8 and 2.6.11 but only the version in 2.6.11 works with recents chipsets.

AFAIK the tg3 driver was wiped from Debian’s 2.6.11 because Debian developers think it’s not distributable…

I think the easiest solution for you is to put a supported PCI ethernet card into the machine for installing Debian. After Debian is installed, build a custom kernel with tg3 support. (The upstream kernel sources still have tg3 support.)

François said

I used your installer, almost everything works, but the DVD drive seems not to be recognized (no entry in /dev/).

If I use the patches, is that going to be solved ?

No, but using the patches probably makes ata_piix more stable. To get the DVD drive working you have to change the ‘#undef ATA_ENABLE_ATAPI’ line in linux/include/linux/libata.h to ‘#define ATA_ENABLE_ATAPI’.

Thanks for reminding me, I’ve updated the article now.

Adridon said

I found this blog and especially this entry via Google. I also have an Dell Inspiron 9300 on which the 2.6 installer didn’t work. But with you installer it seems to work. Thank you, you did a great job.

Mike said

Would you be so generous to also document how you built this installer iso (the kernel being the essential difference)? We all love Debian, but new Dell gear always seems to stymie their default kernels. There are a few docs out there on building custom isos, but none are that complete.


Yeah, the documentation is a bit weak. It took me some time to get the installer building. In short here’s what I did:

  • Got d-i from subversion
  • Installed a few packages from experimental to satisfy build dependencies
  • Installed the Debian 2.6.11 kernel on the system
  • Applied some voodoo…
  • Built udebs of the kernel and a few other packages
  • Replaced the old 2.6 udebs in the official sarge image with the new ones

If I get some spare time in the next days, I’ll write a more detailed HOWTO.

progressdll said

Can i apply 2.6.13x patches to the 2.6.12 kernel?

I too am trying to get SATA and a 2.6.12 kernel working

stephane said

key word : inspiron 9300 hda disk works with official sarge kernel 2.4

guess what,

installing debian sarge with the old kernel 2.4.27-2-686 works
debian is able to recognize the ata disk throught it’s module driver ide-disk 1.17
althought it was not possible with the kernel 2.6
my debian distro is the official v3.1 r0a i386
i must admit i didn’t used the original inspiron disk but another one i bought apart (samsung mp0402h). if you check on the web, you can find it is an ata as the one shipped with my inspiron : toshiba mk6026gax
this disk (samsung) is also an ata and i was able to recognize it with your kernel as an ata one (sda)

booting d-i with linux (kernel 2.4), i have a debian 2.4 kernel but ready for a great kernel upgrade with all tools i need
as i prefer a cd install rather than net, i tried several possibilities until finding this one (also put your kernel into a dvd d-i)
the disk is now recognized as hda rather than sda

thanx a lot indeed for the great job you did and still do, perhaps this trick was not available in a pre release

I’ve tried the 2.4 kernel from the original sarge installer right after its release. It recognized both the hard disk and the DVD drive but disk access was insanely slow. I’ve aborted the installation after formatting one of the smaller partitions still was finished after an hour. Maybe this was just a matter of issuing the right hdparm commands but building my own d-i was an interesting experience anyhow.

I’m mostly happy with my setup nowadays: sid plus a few Ubuntu power-management packages (modified to work with just the kernel’s cpufreq stuff instead of powernowd). The only thing that doesn’t work is suspend-to-RAM — probably NVIDIA’s fault.

It’s also unfortunate that suspend doesn’t work with PAE (HIGHMEM64G) yet. That means you can’t get suspend support and support for the CPU’s NX-bit at the same time.

stephane said

you are right

in using it, i observe slowlyness which i can’t figure out from where it come
… until your word, the disk is painly slow in kernel 2.4 meanwhile i bought a testorosa processor

i am trying to make a custom sarge dvd 1 with your kernel
i will let anyone know how i did it (few commands) here (if you don’t mind / accept)

Just post it.

Edward TLS said


check out this site:


a 2.4 kernel that should work with your dell


Edward TLS

saynos said

Hmm. Not work. The installer not look, my SATA hard disk. :(
Asus P5LD2 chip Intel 945P /ICH7R FSB 1066MHz And Samsung SATA 160Gb with Raid1.

Kumaran said

Your ISO works a start for me. I was looking at a dead end on a DELL SC1425 until I found this post. Perfect procedures as well.

Great contribution!!!


Stefan Heukamp said

Thanks for this modified installer. The mainboard I try to install debian on is such a rubbish FoxConn board (Up to this evening I didn’t hear about this manufacturer either). The harddisks are detected the right way now but as with Ralph my Ethernet-card (also broadcom) is not detected anymore.
I think I have to look for an old PCI-Card tomorrow.
Greetings from the “Bergische Land”, Stefan