This information is useful for first time users of VirtualBox, Debian Linux, and some other utilities such as Dropbox and compilers on Linux.
Personally, I like Debian and the LXDE desktop manager. For a different
Linux distro, most of the instructions in step 3 will be different. For
Debian-based distributions (e.g. Ubuntu), the instructions in step 4
should be similar with respect to
apt-get. Instructions in
step 5 should be applicable to all Linux distros.
- Install VirtualBox:
- Visit the VirtualBox download page.
- Download the correct installer for your system. You only want the platform package and most likely the one for either Windows hosts or OS X hosts.
- Run the installer and use all the default options.
- Download Debian installer:
- Install Debian:
- Run VirtualBox.
- Select New.
- It does not matter what you select for Name, but make sure Type is Linux and Version is Debian (32-bit).
- For memory size, the default is fine.
- Select Create a virtual hard disk (default option).
- Select VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image) (default option).
- Choose Fixed size.
- On the next screen choose an appropriate hard disk size. The default may be something low like 8 GB, but I highly recommend making this in the 20-30 GB range.
- After some time your virtual machine will appear in the list of machines on VirtualBox, double click on it to start it.
- VirtualBox will ask for a start up disk. Click the folder and select the file location where you downloaded the Debian installer. Next, click start.
- Choose Graphical Install.
- Choose the options for (defaults in parentheses):
- Language (English).
- Location (United States).
- Keyboard (American English) (some processing happens after this step).
- Configure the network (debian) -- you can name this whatever, but the default is fine.
- Domain name () -- leave this blank.
- Root password -- this is your system admin password. You will also create a user account later. Both passwords can be the same.
- Real name for a user -- You can put anything here, even the same name as you use for your username in the next step.
- Username -- Create some user -- note that this is case sensitive, so if you pick the name steve and later try logging in as Steve it won't work.
- Password for user -- again, this can be the same as the root password if you like.
- Time zone (Eastern) -- You will probably want to change this to Pacific.
- Partition disks (Guided - use entire disk) -- select the default.
- Select disk to partition (there should be only one option and it should be selected).
- Partitioning scheme (All files in one partition) -- leave this on the default option.
- Finish partitioning and write changes to disk.
- Write the changes to disk (No) -- Change this to Yes and continue (some processing happens after this step).
- Scan another CD or DVD (No) -- default option is fine.
- Configure package manager (United States) -- default is fine.
- Debian archive mirror (ftp.us.debian.org) -- default is fine.
- HTTP Proxy information () - leave blank (some processing happens after this step).
- Participate in the package usage survey (No) -- either option is fine.
- Choose software to install -- select LXDE and unselect print server (some processing happens after this step).
- Install GRUB boot loader? (Yes) -- Choose yes.
- Device for boot loader installation (Enter device manually) -- Select the other option, it should be something like /dev/sda.
- Installation is complete at this point, so select Continue and the system will reboot.
- Run Debian & install compilers:
- Once the device reboots it will ask you what system to boot -- select the first option (it's fine to just let it autoselect & boot).
- Login with your username & password that you selected during install.
- Some message may pop up about ClipIt -- select either option and continue.
- If there is any issue with the screen not fully showing up, select View (in VirtualBox) and change options -- try full screen or scaled. If you need to disable, hit right-ctrl + c.
- Note that within VirtualBox, right-ctrl is a special key used to control VirtualBox and not the system within. You may want to change this to
another key -- I like left-ctrl. To change this, in the menu of the session you are running, go to Input -> Keyboard -> Keyboard Settings and change the
Host Key Combination.
- Once you are comfortable with your screen, click the icon in the lower left of the screen and go to System Tools -> LXTerminal.
- If you do not like the grey-on-black setup, go to Edit -> Preferences and adjust.
- In the terminal, type
su and enter the root
you chose during install -- su is short for "super user" and allows you administrator access which we need to install software.
apt-get update -- this updates the known
versions of software -- if it asks you a question, just select yes.
apt-get upgrade -- this upgrades the software on the system -- if it asks you a question, just select yes.
apt-get install build-essential to install relevant compilers on your system (this will take some time) -- say yes to any questions.
exit to exit the root account -- you generally do not want to do things (like write code) as root as the file permissions & ownership will be messed up.
- If you intend to use nano as your editor, type
set smooth in the text editor.
- Hit ctrl-x, hit y, and hit enter to save the file.
- Install Dropbox (a good idea to backup & sync your files automatically between computers/installs):
- Sign up for a Dropbox account (on any computer). If you'd like to help me get some free space, use this link.
- In your Linux user account, at a terminal type
cd to return to your home directory.
cd ~ && wget -O - "https://www.dropbox.com/download?plat=lnx.x86" | tar xzf - to download Dropbox. Don't forget the dash at the
end of the line!
- Enter your login details and Dropbox will begin syncing.
- It is highly recommended that you do selective sync (also available in the settings once you click the icon) with your Dropbox folder as your Linux install is limited in space.
- Your Dropbox folder is located in your home directory (type cd Dropbox to get to it -- it is case sensitive!).
- At some point shortly after the install process Dropbox may shut down & restart -- this is due to an automatic update. Sometimes Dropbox installs
an older version and then updates itself.
- You may want to create a shortcut on your desktop to launch Dropbox. Do so by executing the file located at
- You may want to auto-launch Dropbox on system startup. You may be able to do this by going into the Dropbox settings (clicking the icon once
running) and then enabling this feature, although I have seen it be touchy on different systems/desktop managers.