I have read the official page but still cannot figure out the difference between Raspbian Light and Debian.

The difference between Raspbian and Debian or between Raspbian and Raspbian Light can be easily found by googling and Raspberry Pi's website, but my concern is about the difference between Raspbian Light and Debian.

As far as i can tell:

  1. Raspbian = Debian + desktop + some preinstalled programming langauges.
  2. Raspbian Light = Raspbian - desktop.
  3. Raspbian Light = Debian + some preinstalled programming languages?

Is there any reason to install Raspbian Light instead of pure Debian in my RPI if I just want a Debian without desktop?

  • 1
    I don't think it is useful to think of "Debian" as a singular distro; you can install that from a minimal version as well, although Raspbian lite is not parallel to that. I.e., equation #3 up there is fallacious; Raspbian - desktop != Debian (standard Debian comes with a desktop too, but it is not the one used in Raspbian). Closer: Raspbian = Debian - desktop + other stuff + different desktop.
    – goldilocks
    May 19, 2019 at 11:45
  • "Is there any reason to install Raspbian Light instead of pure Debian in my RPI if I just want a Debian without desktop?" -> Yes, because you want to use the Raspbian repositories, not the Debian ones. Although the later is possible (if you use an ARM based version), it will be hassle for you (e.g., you will still need to manually install the custom Pi kernel, format the image properly with the boot partition, etc.).
    – goldilocks
    May 19, 2019 at 11:48
  • related though not a dupe: raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/q/39932/19949
    – Ghanima
    May 19, 2019 at 11:48

1 Answer 1


Debian is a popular Linux/GNU distribution (Linux is the base operating system, GNU provides applications software packages).

When the Pi first came out there was no Debian variant to support hardware floating point for the old CPUs used in the Pi.

Raspbian was created to allow for hardware floating point and is based on Debian.

The Foundation distribution downloaded from the raspberrypi.org site is based on Raspbian with additional packages created by the Foundation (i.e. packages specific to the Raspberry Pi and not part of Debian or Raspbian).

The Foundation full distribution includes a desktop GUI.

Once the Foundation distribution was too large to install on a reasonably sized SD card there were complaints that it was too bloated.

The Foundation produced a Raspbian Lite distribution to address this "bloat" and the simplest thing to remove was the desktop GUI.

  • Also, since Raspbian seems to be coming out about when Debian releases a new version, it's not like you're missing out on anything by sticking with the custom Pi distro.
    – Sawtaytoes
    Jul 12, 2019 at 21:43
  • 1
    Can you point to a source for this info? Also, do you know why they couldn't just put their float stuff in a package? Nov 20, 2020 at 12:18

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