First, back up any existing data or documents on the hard disk on which you plan to install 64 Studio. It is a wise move to back up all essential information that is on the target machine before you do anything else. It is likely that you will need to re-partition your disk to make room for 64 Studio. Changing your partitions around can result in accidental data loss, no matter what program you use to do it. This doesn't mean that we think there is anything wrong with the installation software, just that if you delete the wrong partition, it could be impossible to get your data back. Making proper backups is such a sensible idea that we will recommend it time and time again. Even after backing up, be careful and think about your answers and actions. Two minutes of thinking can save hours of unnecessary work.
If you are creating a multi-boot system, make sure that you have the installation media of any other present operating systems to hand. It is possible that you will need to re-install all or part of your old system in order to get it to work properly again if the install doesn't go smoothly. Better safe than sorry.
Information is power
You will benefit from gathering as much information about your computer as possible and any needed documentation, before you start the installation. Make sure your hardware is set up correctly and that everything you are going to want to use (network, printers etc) is all properly connected. In many cases, the installer will be able to automatically detect your hardware, but it is worth knowing a few details, such as:
This information can be obtained from a variety of places; the manuals or documentation that came with your hardware, the BIOS setup screens accessible during the power on self test (POST) at boot time by pressing the DEL, F1 or sometimes CTRL+ALT+ESC key combination. The System window in the Windows Control Panel or separate diagnostic utilities. You should also check with your system administrator or Internet Service Provider for the settings you will need to set up your networking and e-mail, these may include;
If a DHCP server is available, you probably won't need this information. If you use a wireless network, you should also find out the ESSID of your wireless network and WEP security key (if applicable).
While you are at it, you may want to check whether your hardware is supported by Linux drivers. Most types of hardware should work out of the box, but there can be problems with hardware that is Windows-specific and some very new models for which Linux drivers have not yet been written. Check out the Hardware-HOWTO for further information. It may be worth checking over your BIOS settings to ensure that you don't encounter unexplained problems during installation.
It is commonly said that you only need to install a Debian system once. It is increasingly rare to ever find yourself in a situation that actually requires re-installation of the entire system, indeed it is much more likely that your system can be repaired rather than replaced if things go wrong. Upgrades certainly never require a wholesale reinstall, it is always possible to upgrade a running system. Similarly, most configurations do not require rebooting, and it is rare that rebooting will ever solve any problems - in fact, sometimes it can make things worse. Generally speaking, you should expect to perform repairs, upgrades and configurations on a running system once you have completed the initial installation.
A word about partitions
You may need to create some extra space for 64 Studio on your hard disk. If you already have another operating system installed, you may want to split the disk up, which will involve resizing your existing partition and creating a new one. Tools like Fdisk or PartitionMagic are usually recommended for this task, you may also find suitable tools in collections such as the Ultimate Boot CD. If your machine has more than one hard drive, it is a good idea to install 64 Studio onto the second drive. As a general rule, Windows cannot cope with multi-boot installations very well, so if you want both Windows and 64 Studio installed on the same machine, you should install Windows first, and let 64 Studio's boot loader launch Windows for you.
The partitioning tool that comes with the 64 Studio installer is powerful enough to handle resizing FAT or NTFS partitions, so it is entirely possible that you may be able to avoid this step altogether. You should certainly let the installer create any further partitions that are necessary for the 64 Studio install, as the Linux partitioning tools will generally do a better job. For this first step, you just need to make sure you have some free space for the installer to work with.
Download the installer
Now it is time to get the install disk and any specialised driver files your machine requires. Go to the download page and choose either an amd64.iso or i386.iso depending on the architecture of your machine. The amd64 image is for 64-bit x86 compatible chips from both AMD and Intel, which include the Opteron, Athlon 64, Turion, newer Sempron, Core 2 Duo and newer Xeon CPUs. The i386 image is for all older and low-power CPUs, including the original Athlon, the older Sempron, nearly all the Pentiums, the Via C3 and the AMD Geode.
You can download the image using your web browser or use a command line tool like wget; but it is usually faster to use a download manager, such as bittorrent or jigdo. Be sure to download the files in binary mode, not text or automatic mode. Next, burn the downloaded ISO on to a fresh CD. I used K3B, but you can use whatever CD burning software you have to hand, so long as it lets you burn an image directly on to the CD. This isn't data or an audio file, we want the burning software to make an exact bit for bit copy of the ISO onto the CD without adding anything or taking anything away. If you have problems, check that you have downloaded the image without any errors, by comparing the md5 sum of your download with that published on the 64 Studio site. If you still have problems with the installer, try burning the CD at a slower speed.
Minimum system requirements
You will need at least a Pentium II or equivalent to run the 32-bit build of 64 Studio effectively. It is possible to install on older hardware, but the machine will struggle to run the more CPU-intensive programs. Here are some suggested hardware minimums for music production work, which depend on the kind of applications you want to run:
If you have less resources than this, try using an external MIDI device to generate audio instead of a soft synth, or on a low budget, a Sound Blaster type card that supports on-board soundfonts. A good video card is also reckoned to be an advantage, as the on-board video chipsets use up system RAM.
AMD chips are preferred to Intel CPUs by some 64 Studio users. AMD invented the 64-bit extensions to the x86 architecture, so these AMD64 chips have been supported under Linux for longer than their Intel equivalents. For maximum performance, a dual CPU or dual-core system is a great choice, although it may use more energy, require more cooling, and therefore be noiser than a single-core system. Some audio problems have been noted with cheaper VIA and SiS motherboard chipsets in the past.