With my new Acer Aspire Netbook, it occured to me that it had been a long time since I’d installed Linux on a system without a CDRom. This post outlines some methods you can use to get it installed
External CDRom install
The easiest method. Plug in the USB CDRom, and install as normal. Perhaps this is a no brainer but to be honest, I forgot about it when I first got my netbook so its worth a mention.
If you don’t have an external CDRom drive laying around you can use a USB Stick. The easiest way to get Linux installed via a USB key is too use a handy tool called UNetBootin.
Network installs are actually easier than people may think thanks to PXE and open source software. Basically you set up a TFTP server, and a DHCP server. The machine wanting to boot gets an IP and downloads the install image from TFTP. There you continue as a normal installation except download the packages from a web server rather than installing from the CD/DVD.
Resize and install
Perhaps you don’t happen to have a USB Key, external drive and don’t feel like going through the hassle of a network boot. Not to worry it is possible to resize the partition of your currently booted system (Probably Windows) and either use a downloaded CD image mounted with something like Daemon Tools or copy the installer to the new partition in a fashion similar to the network boot. While this is possible, it could get tricky and I personally wouldn’t attempt it on any netbook that had data I cared about on it. But, hey, that’s just me.
Serial Port Install
This one doesn’t really count and I couldn’t recommend it at all since most netbooks aren’t equipped with serial ports, but it is possible to install via a serial port. Technically you need a floppy drive though. Here’s some really old documentation on this topic for the curious.