I am a tech support technician and I am using the shred function in ubuntu to securely wipe company laptops. I am currently using the desktop version and clicking "try" in order to run this command and then move onto the next laptop without needing to install. I want to use a version of Ubuntu that just boots to command line to make this more efficient. I have tried ubuntu server but I cannot find any "try" option. Can anyone help?

  • You could edit the generated grub file in the USB directly to add the text parameter
    – muru
    Jan 24 at 11:27
  • Can you try this on a desktop install that usually boots to the GUI and if that works then someone here might be able expand on it. Open a terminal and type sudo systemctl set-default multi-user.target then reboot. The machine should now boot to a terminal (works from 16.04 onwards in my experience). Jan 24 at 11:40
  • Ill give it a go hold on
    – Aidan Tang
    Jan 24 at 11:46
  • I gave it a go and it still booted to gui due to it booting from a live usb. Is there any install of ubuntu which is set up to boot to text?
    – Aidan Tang
    Jan 24 at 11:52
  • 1
    You can do a full install and choose minimal. Then change /etc/grub to GRUB_TIMEOUT_STYLE=menu to get terminal by default. With full install you can also install other repair tools. While possible to have both BIOS and UEFI on one, eventually they can with grub updates get out of sync. I just have multiple flash drives. But recently updated older M.2 SATA SSD to NVMe. I put M.2 SATA SSD into USB adapter & it boots almost as fast as internal SSD or about 12-15 sec.
    – oldfred
    Jan 24 at 14:47

5 Answers 5


"I want to use a version of Ubuntu that just boots to command line"

The Ubuntu Server (20.04 and newer) install image includes a Live shell environment.

It's under the "Help" menu.


The Ubuntu Server is [also] distributed as a compressed image file. When extracted to a drive, it is an installed system that can boot PC computers both in UEFI mode and BIOS mode. You can find more details about it at this link to the Ubuntu Forums.

This system boots into text mode alias command line when extracted and cloned to any drive that is big enough for the extracted image, also a USB pendrive or USB SSD.

As long as it is supported (until April 2027), you may prefer the Jammy version, alias 22.04.x LTS, found via



Any bootable USB should work, though you might want to preinstall shred. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LiveUsbPendrivePersistent explains how to install a "persistent" bootable USB stick where you can store stuff you want on the stick along with the live bootable Ubuntu.


While all Ubuntu installers support live booting (try the "Help" menu), you probably want a lightweight USB boot system. Maybe try SystemRescue.

(I still remember the days of tomsrtbt, which crammed a great utility collection onto a floppy disk. When Knoppix, the first notable live CD, came out, I remember being astounded. Then Ubuntu came out and set the new norm: nearly all modern desktop OS installers are now also live CDs.)


You say you're using company laptops and using Linux to shred the data. I'm assuming these are Windows machines that you're completely wiping to reinstall the OS onto. If that's the case, I would recommend: Darik's Boot and Nuke: DBAN. This will boot into an OS that will allow you to securely destroy/shred all data on whatever drives you choose. After this, you'll be able to reinstall Windows and go about your day. Take caution when using this as it is designed to make your data unrecoverable for the most part.

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