Debian-iMac is a collection of files and instructions needed for installing Debian linux on an iMac PPC computer. Actually, these files may be installed on any PowerPC computer; but the instructions are slanted toward iMac and other NewWorld users who don't have a floppy drive. These files will NOT be useful for owners of the newer Intel-based Macs (2006 or newer). Look, under MacOS, in About This Mac “Processor” section to determine whether you have a PowerPC or not.

Please download one of the debian-imac packages from our Project Release page or checkout the debian-imac CVS repository, and you'll have all the files you need to install. Let us know if you need assistance getting Linux installed on your Powermac.

Available Versions

There are four versions of the archive represented by the Debian versions contained within. Instructions are included within each archive; the 7.4 instructions are also shown below.

7.4 Instructions

This archive installs the 'wheezy' Debian system for the 'powermac' flavor of the powerpc architecture. This distribution can't be used for a floppy install; the instructions assume you have an existing Mac OS system so you can use the hd-media install.

The archive is derived from the hd-media debian-installer installation files:

However the iso-scan bug #640789 has been patched in the included initrd.gz.


You will need to partition your disk if you have a single-disk system, and that will entail backing up this archive along with everything else on your system, and restoring it after partitioning is complete. File locations referred to below are significant only after partitioning has been completed.

English versions of the Debian installation instructions are provided in the doc folder.

The html version is currently available at, as well as translations in these languages:

Within the installer after it launches, you can choose the language you wish to use.

These documents may provide valuable assistance should anything not go as simply as it should seem to here. The instructions here supplement the Debian instructions. Please read through and print them out, especially Chapters 4 through 7, so you can refer to them during your installation.

Disk partitioning is described in chapters 3 and 4. You must back up all files you care about on your existing hard disk before partitioning! Use the MacOS Drive Setup program or a commercial MacOS partitioning utility to create the needed placeholder partition within MacOS BEFORE starting the installer. Since most Macs come with several small driver partitions and one huge partition for MacOS, and because Drive Setup cannot edit individual partitions but only works by wiping the entire drive, you will need to have your MacOS CD in order to re-install MacOS. I am not aware of any free partitioning programs which can shrink an existing partition safely.

Don't bother creating different Linux partitions from MacOS; the installer's partitioning tool is specialized for Debian and yaboot, and will do a better job. From MacOS, you should just leave a block of free space which can be partitioned after the installer is launched. The Debian installation will require at least 500 MB for a console- only installation, but I'd recommend a full desktop for which you'll want at least 5 GB.

After re-installing MacOS (in a now-smaller partition), extract the provided debian-imac archive by double clicking it.

Starting the Installer

These instructions are for NewWorld Macs. This includes most Macs made between 1998 and 2005, including G3, G4, and G5, but does NOT include the Intel PowerMacs manufactured from 2006. For newer Intel Macs, you will need the Intel version of Debian, not the PowerMac version as provided here. You could install it similarly, though.

Open the Debian-iMac folder created by unpacking this archive, and the 'drag contents to disk icon' folder within. Drag the following files onto your hard drive icon. These files must reside at the root level of the partition to be loaded by the boot loader.

If you partitioned earlier, make a note of the partition number of the MacOS partition where you place these files. You will need to supply the partition number in the command you type at the Open Firmware prompt below.

You can use the pdisk L command to check for the partition number without changing the partition map. The pdisk utility is provided on all Mac OS X machines within Applications/Utilities/Terminal; type "sudo pdisk". There is also an older version of pdisk, which might run within MacOS 9 or earlier, provided here in the release folder. Extract from pdisk.20000516.hqx, and then double click on the resulting "pdisk" application.

Restart the Mac, and immediately (during the chime) hold down the Option, Command (apple/cloverleaf), o, and f keys all together. After a few seconds you will be presented with the Open Firmware prompt.

O >

At the prompt, type

O > boot hd:x,yaboot

replacing x with the partition number of the MacOS partition where the installation files were placed, followed by a return. In a few more seconds you will see a yaboot prompt


At the yaboot prompt, type

boot: install

followed by a return. (This is also the default if you don't type anything, you can see the other options using the Tab key.)

This should start the Debian installation program, at "Select a Language", and you can pick up in Chapter 6 of the installation manual to proceed.

If the installer stops very quickly, usually displaying something like OF-quiesce, then you probably need to change your boot command to send the video=ofonly option to the kernel. Just try re-booting from Open Firmware and at the boot: prompt, type

boot: install video=ofonly

Keep the 4 files you used to boot the installer around, for as long as you run this version of the Linux kernel; they will serve as your 'rescue disk' allowing you to boot back into the Debian installation system if needed. You just type rescue at the boot: prompt to put the installer into Rescue mode.

After this point, you are in the standard Debian installation, just read the fine manual and follow the online instructions, and you should be set. The final step in the Debian installation installs yaboot with a dual-boot menu so you can choose either MacOS or Linux at boot time.

We also have made available an Applescript which is convenient for burning floppies from Linux floppy images. Obviously this won't be any good for you if you don't have a floppy drive; it should be helpful to those with OldWorld Systems.