Installing ancient Debian (Sarge) on a modern Virtualbox

Here are some steps I had to do to install an old Debian Sarge (3.1) using Virtualbox:

  • Find the actual CDROM ISOs (debian.archive.org does not contain all versions, so I downloaded the CD images from http://mirror.debianforum.de/debian-iso-archive/);
  • Setting Virtualbox to use an IDE hard disk instead of the default SATA, to avoid the "No partitionable media were found" error (as indicated here).
  • Prevent apt-get from connecting to the network (e.g. by disconnecting the VirtualBox "cable"), or rejecting the use of security-updates; otherwise, you will end up with unsatisfiable dependencies which will prevent even basic tools such as sudo from being installed:

In text form, here's what you see when trying to install the sudo package after accepting security-updates:
Source package: sudo
--\ Depends
  --- libc6 (>= 2.11) (UNAVAILABLE)
  --- libpam0g (>= (UNSATISFIED)
  --- libpam-modules

While this is probably done for security reasons, anyone wanting to install such an old Debian in 2015 should know it has more security holes than a Swiss cheese skimmer, and so it should not be publicly accessible. But for those of us who just need it for local usage, this makes no sense.

Here's what you get when you reject APT's security-updates:

This time, it simply works.

  • You have to manually add each ISO image so that apt knows which programs may be installed from them; if you have not done it during the installation, you can use apt-cdrom add for each CD image.
The main inconvenient of this method is that you often need to change the ISO image in the CD drive to be able to install new packages. But at least it works.