I want to learn how to install and configure different Linux distros, and practice this hands-on. I was wondering if there was any free cloud (or other online) storage services you can recommend for doing this? I'm based in the UK if that makes any difference.

  • 35
    The problem you're going to run into with cloud services is, most of them only support loading up a prebuilt image which has to be bootable. So the installation step is normally taken care of for you. If you really only care about configuring then that's not an issue. If you really want to do the installation then you're likely better off with a local hypervisor (like VirtualBox).
    – M.Babcock
    Jan 30, 2018 at 16:41
  • 7
    Politely look at non-cloud options. If you have a spare physical box then that is easiest for test installs on bare metal. If its a capable box then look at installing xenserver or similar, and create virtual machines that way (downside is a lot of manamgenent requires a windows only client.) I'm sure VMware will have some free solution too.
    – Criggie
    Jan 31, 2018 at 0:39
  • When I want to do stuff like that I usually just install it on its own partition on my hard drive (without touching the one for my usual OS). Or, I might install it on a flash drive or external hard drive. Why would you want to do it through the Internet? Operating systems are often very large (so, it would take a long time to upload those to a cloud service for installation). Feb 2, 2018 at 12:42
  • 2
    Is there a reason you can't use Virtual Machine tools tools like VMWare, Virtual Box, Parallels, QEMU, Virtual PC, etc?
    – WernerCD
    Feb 2, 2018 at 13:35

7 Answers 7


You can do it on your own current operating system.

Use Virtual machines (Virtual Box is good) and install any number of machines(which are called guests). Try them, test them out without harming the stability of your main system(which is the host).

Most virtualization software is available for Linux as well as Windows hosts.

Hope that's a better solution than a cloud service. Most people use virtualization to accomplish testing and trying.

  • 11
    This would be my preferred method if learning about Ubuntu/Linux is the end goal. Local and easy to use, expand and remove. Google cloud would be my preferred choice if you also want to show the world something. Like create a website while you learn to use apache, mysql, python, php, javascript, html, css etc. So it is more of a personal choice.
    – Rinzwind
    Jan 30, 2018 at 13:46
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    However, you can already do local development using something like XMAPP, so using cloud for just a website is overkill.
    – Nelson
    Jan 30, 2018 at 19:44
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    Does all hardware support virtualization now? A few years ago, some lower end hardware didn't. And even with higher end, it often (usually?) had to be enabled explicitly.
    – jpmc26
    Jan 31, 2018 at 0:53
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    Just about any modern laptop or PC will support virtualisation. You need a relatively powerful machine to do it WELL - but you don't need that (yet). For just installing / configuring / removal, you just need to ensure your hard drive is big enough to hold the virtual images you create. Even there, you can get a cheap USB HDD to help you out. Jan 31, 2018 at 4:22
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    @jpmc26 even without hardware VT-x you can easily run a 32-bit virtual machine without problem, and even x86_64 VMs with an emulator like Bochs or qemu
    – phuclv
    Jan 31, 2018 at 6:22

Google Cloud Platform Free Tier:

The Google Cloud Platform Free Tier is your opportunity to learn and use GCP for free. It has two parts: a 12-month, $300 credit free trial and Always Free. The 12-month, $300 free trial allows you to use any GCP product. Always Free allows you to try participating products for free up to their non-expiring usage limits, making it easy for you to test and develop with these products.

Basically you get a 300 dollar credit and that credit does not end so you have a free cloud setup. For a test and trial more than enough.

2 small issues:

  • you must have a valid credit card to register
  • it is easy to "up" the cloud instance and getting charged (though they do warn you extensively if you do).

But they do have the latest Ubuntu LTS and all the normal versions after that LTS (Plus Debian and Gentoo).

I do agree with Yaksha: you can do this on your own system using virtualbox or vmplayer. Google cloud though has the benefit of you learning Google cloud. Something that you might benefit from in the long run.

  • 1
    Nice to know about this! I never thought there would be some such thing since it is bandwidth hungry considering ISO files and so on. This is interesting!
    – Yaksha
    Jan 30, 2018 at 13:53
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    But in that, I don't think you can install OS, pre installed images are available though (including all major distros)
    – remedcu
    Jan 31, 2018 at 4:20
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    @asterisk it is not custom but you can create your own bootable disks. We create our backup clouds by using the live cloud install. He specifically asked for a cloud solution and I agree that doing it locally virtual is better for learning about installing. But there is not much to learn there. Learning about how to install a cloud based OS might be worth more as experience. We are no longer looking for admins to maintain local system. We need people that can set up and maintain clouds from google, amazon, microsoft and alibaba ;)
    – Rinzwind
    Jan 31, 2018 at 7:20
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    This answer should get more attention than mine...
    – Yaksha
    Jan 31, 2018 at 11:31
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    @Yaksha oh I so understand how you feel now ;-) Been there. I have several high rep answers that are so not worth the rep :-D Just shows you people love virtualbox. And it IS one of the best tools we have on Linux.
    – Rinzwind
    Jan 31, 2018 at 11:57

For this, you can use virtualisation. I use VirtualBox for this.

enter image description here

To keep explanation very simple for the beginning, you just run a virtual computer "in a window". Changes to this won't affect your main operating system, you can restore older states, and run different os at the same time.

As networking is also very important for learning, you can create virtual networks between your virtual systems, but I would start with one system.

Just install ubuntu from an iso, and you can begin!

  • +1 for the image and for intuitive explanation!
    – Yaksha
    Feb 1, 2018 at 10:34
  • how is this any different from Yaksha's answer?
    – phuclv
    Feb 2, 2018 at 2:53
  • I did not see his answer. Feb 2, 2018 at 23:11

Continuing on the answer from R.., at Vultr you get the possibility to upload an ISO file and install the operating system yourself, if you don't want to use one of their prepared OS images. This may be useful if you want to experience the installation procedure.

  • I've heard reports that DigitalOcean now supports the same, but I have never checked that out.
    – jornane
    Jan 31, 2018 at 23:56
  • DigitalOcean's UserVoice for custom iso suggests it's not yet implemented. Another plus of Vultr custom ISO is it can boot from custom ISO after deployment, so in the event of non-bootable or locked server, recovery is still possible.
    – Martheen
    Feb 1, 2018 at 2:55

While not quite free, most good vps providers use per-minute pricing, and can be under $10/month, meaning you'll literally just pay a few cents for the kind of practice you probably want to do. A year or two back I had one I just experimented with and cancelled, and when the bill was well under the minimum their payment system allowed to be loaded by credit card, their support team just cancelled the bill entirely (making it effectively free).

  • 2
    With VPS you usually select a pre-built OS image when creating a VM, you can't actually practice installing the OS.
    – Sergey
    Jan 30, 2018 at 21:54
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    Any good one lets you upload or provide a link to an iso to boot. Jan 30, 2018 at 23:20

Use Amazon free tier. It can offer you 2GB RAM and 30GB storage maximum. 100% free unless you increase the storage space and use more bandwidth.

  • 5
    Amazon EC2 or Lightsail will give you a VM with a pre-installed base image. Figuring out how to undo that in the AWS environment such that you can install Linux onto a blank slate is harder than learning to install Linux itself. Jan 31, 2018 at 20:00

i suppose you could just get a beater computer and try to simulate the cloud through Remote Desktop Connection on a localhost

usually you can build or buy a 2nd hand beater for about 50-80 bucks that should be sufficient for your needs

and hey think about it like this if you can successfully install it on a beater computer thrown together from random parts you can probably install it on anything XD

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