I am trying to build a minimal vmware image to use for private browsing (also called a browser appliance). I have tried using images for other small linux distros, most of them are either too heavy (I do not want any other functionality than browsing and downloading) or outdated (DSL, various browser appliance images at vmware official site).

I have downloaded the minimal Ubuntu install image (12MB) and was hoping to select only the needed pakcages while installing but it was not asking for my choices anywhere.

I am new to the command line installation and I would be thankful if someone could point out how to install only needed packages, and what are the bare-minimum packages to browse internet (I plan to use only firefox and transmission)

  • Remember that the "privacy" you get from doing this is very limited...
    – JanC
    Nov 6, 2010 at 1:00
  • can you please elaborate? if its on my usb key im storing the vmware image, and the memory file (which i believe is something like a page file. I'm not sure of finer details, but i get a file with exactly the size of the RAM of the VM in the same folder of the image), i think nothing else is getting stored to the hdd and the host OS. correct me if I'm wrong.
    – dbza
    Nov 6, 2010 at 14:10

5 Answers 5


I recommend ubuntu-vm-builder Install ubuntu-vm-builder (see documentation), which is really a large wrapper around debootstrap Install debootstrap which will create about as minimal an image as you can possibly use.


I am not sure if the "minimal" CD provides the minimal install option, you can do a minimal install using either the alternate CD or the server CD. The minimal install will install only core components (no GUI). Then you can install the packages just as you need, from the terminal: sudo apt-get install packagename

  • 2
    you should use apt-get install with --no-install-recommends, to really only install the necessary packages.
    – david
    Nov 5, 2010 at 8:03
sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends firefox openbox leafpad pcmanfm gwget xterm

then follow this guide to add firefox to your openbox session if you need it to autostart.
I added the extra applications because you might need them to actually work with your new "distro", but you don't need them and you can replace them with better alternatives.

NB: to get a menu in openbox, right-click.


I believe you can download an Ubuntu web-browsing appliance direct from vmware's marketplace (free)

  • but all those images there are outdated, updated in 2006 or before. i did a searah there first :), and if u read the question fully, i had mentioned it there.
    – dbza
    Nov 6, 2010 at 14:06
  • It is better if you add instruction to do this
    – Anwar
    Aug 1, 2012 at 17:34

Well, sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends firefox should install the bare minimum requirements to run Firefox. Somehow I doubt you want to go that minimalistic though (e.g. I'm pretty sure it won't start the graphical interface by default).

If you don't have the experience to install a usable system from scratch yourself yet, you could also install one of the more lightweight Ubuntu remixes or derivatives, and remove whatever you don't need afterwards. Once you get more experienced with Ubuntu (e.g. by removing too much while following the previous suggestion ;) ), you can always rebuild an even more minimal system yourself...

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