I want to build up my own desktop environment (like an Openbox/i3 setup) from a base. I don't want any pre-existing DE since I want to learn about all the components required to make a running DE on my own. Now the only "flavour" that Ubuntu offers in this respect is "Ubuntu Server". Now, my question is whether the Ubuntu Server ISO comes with any server-oriented stuff preinstalled. As far as I understand it is supposed to be very bare, but the website isn't very verbose about what comes preinstalled. So does it have anything like Apache, Docker, network-management tools etc preinstalled that I'd have to remove? Also, could someone point me to where the preinstalled packages are listed?

Edit: Version which I am interested in is 20.04, the current LTS release. Also, the "minimal" install offered is standard Ubuntu with the DE, just stripped down to very small number of apps such as a web browser. That is not what I want. I want no preinstalled DE. I am fine with installing stuff from the Server ISO, I just need to know if there are really "server" stuff that I'd have no need for. Unless I know they exist and what they are, I can't remove them. Hence the question.

  • You haven't mentioned a release, some releases have a minimal option (ie. you start with enough to boot a system, plus packages you select). help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/MinimalCD or for later releases also see askubuntu.com/questions/1264128/…
    – guiverc
    Jun 10, 2021 at 12:11
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    Ubuntu server comes with some Ubuntu special stuff that you don't really need for a server. Have you had a look at Arch? It has a bare bones installer and a supportive community. I suggest you start with a VM install though. You will learn much about what it takes to make a server but the way is fraught. Jun 10, 2021 at 12:12
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    Does this answer your question? How to do a minimal install of 20.04?
    – guiverc
    Jun 10, 2021 at 12:15
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    If you want to see what's on an ISO, have a look at it's manifest... it contains a list of the packages included (plus version details; which you can look into further as required...)
    – guiverc
    Jun 10, 2021 at 12:16
  • Don't forget there are two minimals... the Desktop ISO offers a minimal option which is nothing more than full-install & a package-removal script run post-install (which is why it takes longer than full install; it does more work; it was added as users requested it). That is not the minimal install I was referring to which is a true minimal install
    – guiverc
    Jun 10, 2021 at 12:32

2 Answers 2


As it turns out each Ubuntu release has a .manifest file associated with it on its downloads page which, according to this question, lists the preinstalled packages. However, there are comments in the same source saying that it's the list of the live CD packages. As that is the closest answer I got, I compared the manifest files of Ubuntu Server 20.04 and Ubuntu Desktop 20.04. There are indeed a few packages which are present in Ubuntu server but not in the Desktop such as screen, tmux, eatmydata, curl and a bunch of python packages. Some packages have different versions. Nothing big is preinstalled though. Here is a link to the diff.

  • Ubuntu Server is designed to be a general-purpose server for general-purpose use. It's not designed to be lightweight and sparse. It's not designed to be bloated and super-featured. It's the base upon which you install the specific services you want.
    – user535733
    Jun 10, 2021 at 16:34

I might have misread your question initially, since you are asking about "preinstalled". My answer is more in the line of "what can be removed" and then "what can be installed".

By default, Ubuntu server is pretty minimal, and you normally shouldn't have to remove anything. However, there are a few packages and snaps that are safe to remove, but this is not really documented anywhere.

For reference, I consider the following packages safe to remove under all circumstances: (unless you really need them - I have removed all those on my server)

  • lxd-agent-loader
  • cloud-init
  • byobu
  • vim
  • xfsprogs
  • xauth (probably needed if you want a GUI)

One "official" place to get a list of packages available during installation (but not preinstalled unless you choose to) is the "Using the installer step by step" guide for Ubuntu Server.

In this guide you'll find this image, which shows packages that you are presented for during installation: (which also means these are not preinstalled, unless you choose to)

enter image description here

And now for the caveat: Since 20.04, these are all Snap packages. It seems Canonical are indeed pushing snaps in front of regular .deb packages.

However, to get an overview of available packages you can install afterwards (which are not snaps), you can consult the official Ubuntu Server Guide. This guide has installation instructions for many useful server applications and utilites, which you can find by navigating the left-hand menu.

Finally, for installing a desktop environment on a server, I find this existing answer most useful.

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    Yup. The pushing of snaps is why I'm leaving Ubuntu. Jun 10, 2021 at 12:21
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    There is a light graphical alternative for a server at this link
    – sudodus
    Jun 10, 2021 at 12:31
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    Please note that mini.iso is still available for 20.04 LTS. No snaps, no problems here :)
    – N0rbert
    Jun 10, 2021 at 12:32

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