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I am looking for a way to prepare an image of an Ubuntu machine which would be bootable and installable in the easiest way possible.

I'm actually preparing an Ubuntu machine for someone living far, and not computer savvy. If he ever has troubles with his installation, he could just put a USB drive in, boot the machine and everything would be resetted for him.

I know there are many methods of creating/loading an image of a drive, but the ones I've found so far have complicated menus with several options to choose from, etc. Ideally, perhaps only asking a Yes/No question such as "Would you like to reinstall?" would be great.

Does such a tool exist?

Thank you in advance!

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As at first glance it seems to be a good idea to have a key that resets a machine to a "factory" state, there are some major issues we have to consider before we proceed to do so.

  • User specific settings are stored in /home/user/.
  • Updating or restoring the OS will not touch or restore these.
  • Erroneous user settings are the most frequent cause of trouble, but these will not be repaired by reinstalling.
  • Resetting or deleting /home/user/ is not an option as we will lose important user data (including passwords).
  • Replacing the OS by a stored version from USB will restore it to a rather outdated state where many security updates will not be included.

Therefore I would like to recommend you to teach the remote user how to make frequent backups of their HOME, and install an easy or eventually automatic backup solution that would make restoring to a previous state easy. Test this for ease of restoring the backups before you give away the machine.

If the person you give the machine to agrees then the most convenient additional approach would be to set up the machine to enable remote root access via SSH for administration. I have successfully done so with my 75 years old mother's machine (which was her first computer). By this we are able to solve all minor and even most major problems remotely. The time needed for solving issues on a SSH session could well be less than explaining a computing layman how to successfully operate an USB stick to reinstall.

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Actually, I have also installed remote SSH access, a no-ip account so I don't need know the IP address, a FreeNX server, and TeamViewer, so the USB key would really be as a last resort, if the machine simple refuses to boot. I will be taking care of the updates remotely. Your suggestion for /home backups is good, thank you! – David Jun 8 '12 at 3:40

I don't know whether it is possible in one go by a tool and could be done in an easy way.

I would suggest, use remastersys to create a live image from your current system.(must not be more than 4GB). In this way all required software will be pre installed.

Modify this ISO for unattended installation. This will reinstall without any user interaction.

A tutorial is here →

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Thank you, I will try this and let you know! – David Jun 8 '12 at 3:44

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