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This is tricky. I would like to install Ubuntu on a machine that is intended to work as server, and for some reason I do not have an option to connect a screen to it.

I expect this may be similar to remote installation. However, there is currently no OS on that machine, so I will have to set up everything from scratch.

On the other hand, I do have a physical access to that machine. Therefore I can get it to boot from a CD/USB. But that's not enough.

Is there a way to do such installation remotely? Is there a version of Ubuntu image that comes with a SSH server preinstalled, and starts it once booted, so that I can boot the machine with such image, connect to it via SSH and process the installation from a different computer?

If not, what other options do I have?

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You could pull out the hdd, use another machine to install and configure everything the way you like, and then move the hdd back. It's not too hightech, but is simple enough. –  mikewhatever Feb 3 '13 at 12:56
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@mikewhatever That's a useful tip, but that technique caused me lots of configuration troubles. Ubuntu learns about the hardware during installation, and when it's moved to another machine it has severe troubles even with finding the networking device, which makes me unable to access it remotely. –  Rafał Cieślak Feb 3 '13 at 14:17
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The method mentioned in the comment above with installing Ubuntu on a different computer to just move the hard drive to the headless machine certainly is an elegant and probably the fastest method to get Ubuntu installed. In most cases hardware will be recognized and drivers will be provided on boot (not on installation). This makes installation of drivers unnecessary unless we do need proprietary drivers (e.g. for some very special network cards).

But there is another way we can install Ubuntu unattended by creating a custom CD-ROM, USB or from a network solution (Preseed). See this rather complete guide on the steps and tuning procedures involved:

You may also find the following related questions helpful:

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