[nSLUG] Installing debian without systemd (was Re: Proposal for tomorrow's HCC meeting)

Jack Warkentin jwark at bellaliant.net
Mon Dec 2 17:49:05 AST 2019

Hi Dave

First attempt:

I made up a pdf file with the instructions and have attached it to this 
message. Hopefully, the listserv's will include it when they distribute it.

Second attempt:

Well it seems that the listserv's don't like attachments, so I will 
convert it to a text file and include it, inline, as follows.

Installing Debian Without Systemd

     1. Download the 'net install' version of Debian buster.

     2. Install as normal, EXCEPT take care during the 'software
        selection screen':


        You can install things later with apt, but systemd must be "gone"

        I can't stress this enough.. ONLY 'ssh' and 'standard utils'

     3. Once the install is complete, and the system reboots, log in as

     4. At this point you have a working command line system.

        But in order to install the additional packages you need, you
        need to configure your Internet access. I use ifupdown, which is
        included in the ‘Standard System Utilities’. After that, since
        the Debian Installer sets up your sources.list file, you can use
        apt-get to install additional packages.

        You need an init system to replace systemd.


apt-get install sysvinit-core sysvinit-utils

        Sysvinit should now be installed.

     5. *Reboot*, wait for the system to bootup, remove systemd:

dpkg -P systemd systemd-sysv

        Verify that systemd is indeed gone:

dpkg --get-selections | grep -e systemd

        You should only see

libsystemd0:amd64                             install

        If more systemd packages show up, purge them as well, but keep

     6. Prevent any systemd packages from ever being installed:

        Create/modify file


        using a text editor, to add

# this is the only systemd package that is required, so we up its
# priority first

Package: libsystemd0
Pin: release buster
Pin-Priority: 700

# exclude the rest
Package: systemd
Pin: release *
Pin-Priority: -1

Package: *systemd*
Pin: release *
Pin-Priority: -1

Package: systemd:i386
Pin: release *
Pin-Priority: -1

Package: systemd:amd64
Pin: release *
Pin-Priority: -1

The above will prevent systemd from ever being reinstalled.

     7. You are now systemd free.  You can try to install systemd,
        but it should complain/balk now. That preferences file tells it
        to 'never install' systemd.

        So, here are the caveats

        As the above preferences file prevents systemd installs, anything
        that absolutely requires it will complain and refuse to install.

        Note that Debian has 'recommends' and 'depends'.  A recommend
        might desire, but not require, systemd. A ‘depends’ is a hard

        So for recommends, the above makes life easy.  Systemd won't
        accidentally get pulled in. For packages with hard depends? It
        will balk, and you cannot install.

     8. You can install everything up to and including X without needing
        systemd, but desktop environments like KDE and Gnome require
        systemd. I do the following.

     9. Install the xorg packages that you need to support your video
        card. These do not seem to depend on systemd.

     10. Add lines at the beginning of the sources.list file for the
         Devuan archives.



         It is very important to install the devuan-keyring package
         before installing anything from devuan, otherwise apt will
         complain about security issues. It can be downloaded from


         and installed using dpkg.

         Instead of ascii in their sources.list, I use beowulf,
         which corresponds to Debian’s buster.

     11. Install a suitable display manager. Devuan recommends slim,
         which I use.

     12. Install a minimal XFCE desktop environment as per the Devuan


     13. Install additional packages as desired.

And that's it. Hope it helps,



Dave Flogeras wrote:
>     On 2019-11-26 8:21 p.m., jwark at bellaliant.net
>     <mailto:jwark at bellaliant.net> wrote:
>      > Hi everybody
>      >
>      > Ever since systemd became the default init system for Debian
>      > Gnu/Linux, I have wanted to be able to install and use it without
  >      > systemd.
>      > Not long ago someone responded to my request on the Debian AMD64 mailing
  >      > list re how to do this.

>      > I followed his instructions successfully on two different machines.
>      >
>      > If attendees are interested, I can go over his instructions with
>      > you at tomorrow evening's HCC meeting.
> Hi Jack,
> If it's not too much a bother: for us lurkers, would you mind sharing 
> the ML post and/or any notes you have on this process?
> Best regards,
> Dave

Jack Warkentin, phone 902-404-0457, email jwark at bellaliant.net
39 Inverness Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, B3P 1X6

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