I'm trying to fix what I consider a bloated install of Ubuntu. When I install Ubuntu on a machine, I get things that I don't want - web browsers, office applications, media players, accessibility utilities, Ubuntu One, and so on. My goal is to create a way that I can have an install of Ubuntu that contains only the most minimal packages - the administrative tools and package manager, a GUI (my preference would be GNOME), a text editor, core drivers (video cards, network cards - wired and wireless, input devices), and anything else that I have to have to run a stable distribution. From there, I would like to pick and choose which packages I install to create my own customized system.

After playing around with other distros like Arch and Slackware, like how they provide a barebones install by default. However, I get trapped in a "configuration hell" - right now, I tried moving away from Ubuntu and to Arch, but after spending 6 hours with it, I still don't have a usable system. It's half configured and I don't have any usable software packages to enable me to work.

Is anything that can help me available? Either something like the OpenSUSE builder that lets you choose applications and packages for the CD, an advanced installation mode where I can choose the packages to install and which to ignore, or a guide on how to strip Ubuntu down to its bare bones?

And I suppose a natural follow up to this is once I have a stripped down Ubuntu, will this affect updating at all? When Canonical releases the next version of Ubuntu, I don't want any bloatware reinstalled. And yes, most of the applications that come with Ubuntu, I simply don't use. Ever.

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    I think you should expand your question to say something like "I want the base system, with Gnome, but without all the office-suites, games, etc. Aug 10, 2010 at 4:09
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    Bloat is defined as "unnecessary features that are not used by end users". The Ubuntu Desktop Team has the most thorough selection process, as set by their mission statement. It doesn't make it bloat because you don't find any of it useful. wiki.ubuntu.com/DesktopTeam/Mission
    – invert
    Aug 10, 2010 at 7:28
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    To me, if I don't use a feature or don't find it useful, it's bloat. Aug 10, 2010 at 9:41

10 Answers 10


Start from Ubuntu Server and build up. It uses the same repos as the desktop distribution and you can install various desktop configurations.

I just suggest you stay away from the big metapackages like ubuntu-desktop or you'll end up will the full blown distro.

If you only want to strip down (rather than building up) you're going to have to remove ubuntu-desktop (which depends on loads of things) and convert all the automatically met dependencies to manually installed. If you don't aptitude will nuke them as it (amongst other tools) will automatically clean up "obsolete" packages -- those are packages that fulfil no dependency or user choice.

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    No. You pick the packages, they'll come with the same defaults that the main system does.
    – Oli
    Aug 10, 2010 at 7:34
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    Because I want to maximize the available disk space by every megabyte and reduce RAM consumption as much as possible. Aug 10, 2010 at 19:31
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    Although I haven't done this yet (no time), it appears to be the best option for building a custom Ubuntu-based distribution from the ground up and achieving a minimal install. Aug 13, 2010 at 22:16
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    You could also use the minimal installation, just an FYI.
    – Thomas Ward
    May 30, 2012 at 12:46
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    @LordofTime I'm personally not that big a fan of -minimal. It's too bare and you just have to download all the packages, which, IMO, is slower than just downloading the -server ISO and picking sane additional packages. -server is a very sensible starting point.
    – Oli
    May 30, 2012 at 13:29

Use the Ubuntu Server media, and choose the option to build the minimal installation. People call this "JeOS", although I think the term "JeOS" may have been deprecated. The Ubuntu Server Guide says:

While installing from the Server Edition ISO (pressing F4 on the first screen will allow you to pick "Minimal installation", which is the package selection equivalent to JeOS).

  • The same concern that I've had with the other suggestions to do this comes up - will I get caught up in configuration hell like where I am right now with Arch? I have a half configured system that's running Gnome, but it has no wireless networking support, no applications to help me work, and I'm looking at several hours of installations and configurations to get me to a point where I can use the system. Aug 9, 2010 at 23:39
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    @Thomas : But isn't that what you mean by "stripped down"? Only Ethernet networking, no apps (Except the basics), no GUI, etc. Aug 9, 2010 at 23:55
  • I want to avoid apps that I don't want. Honestly, I don't know all of what I don't want because it's difficult to find out what packages are installed, what they do, and what depends on them. Synaptic is close, but not quite there. I want an install that comes with X, GNOME, wireless and wired networking, and a few other essentials. I don't want to deal with VPN clients, games, user experience, usability (on-screen keyboard, etc), web browsers, office apps, photo management, media playing... Aug 9, 2010 at 23:58
  • About two years ago I created a basic JeOS system and attempted to identify enough components to be able to run Xfce (Xfce is leaner then Gnome and has fewer dependencies). apt-cache depends xfce and apt-cache rdepends xfce were very helpful. I tried to do this with Gnome, and had moderate success with the 'desktop-base' and 'gnome' packages. I think it still installed more then I wanted, but it was better then the default install. However, my memory of this is vague... Aug 10, 2010 at 4:03
  • And for the most part, apt does a very good job at avoiding configuration hell. Yum does a good job on RH-based distros. Aug 10, 2010 at 4:10

Ubuntu has a mini.iso which is a totally stripped down version of ubuntu that you can use to build up yourself. It's about 28MB or so.

As of this reply the latest version is 12.04 Precise, so you can just replace the distro release name in the url to get the mini.iso for that release.

For 64bit: http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/dists/precise/main/installer-i386/current/images/netboot/mini.iso

For 32bit: http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/dists/precise/main/installer-i386/current/images/netboot/

You can then install your GUI/Desktop environment of choice using apt-get and so on with whatever packages you wish to install.

  • That's perfect for me. I don't want a gui and want to netboot.
    – hookenz
    Apr 17, 2014 at 4:13

Rather than stripping down, why not instead 'build up'?

As well as downloading Ubuntu JeOS (Just Enough OS), you can also find netboot images from the repository folders.

http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/dists/lucid/main/installer-i386/current/images/netboot/ Using mini.iso is probably recommended, as you use uNetbootin to copy it onto a pendrive.

  • Is JeOS part of Ubuntu Server? I do a search for "Ubuntu JeOS" and I end up at the Server page. I'm thinking about going that route... Aug 9, 2010 at 23:15
  • Also, a concern that I have with this is that I'll get lost in "configuration hell", where I am with Arch now. Everything is half set up and I just want to use my system, yet I can't because I still have hours of installations and configurations ahead of me. Aug 9, 2010 at 23:32
  • Don't wory to much about that... There souldn't be a lot more configuration than with a normal install, but if get stock you obviously know where to ask questions ;) Aug 10, 2010 at 7:31
  • Configuration should be a none issue, as all the "tried and tested" settings that you find in the stock Ubuntu install are actually part of the packages in the repository. I just had a look-up of JeOS myself, and indeed it seems to be part of the Server install now (this is different from Hardy), my only assumption is that you'll get a menu giving you a choice of what to install somewhere along the setup. This is usually always the case in the alternate CD installers.
    – ibuclaw
    Aug 10, 2010 at 7:49

Install the Ubuntu Server and ssh in. That is as stripped as it can possibly get.

  • That's too stripped. I'll edit my original post to reflect this, but I want the administration tools and GUI, just no applications. Aug 10, 2010 at 19:32
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    Then just figure out the packages that give what you want and install those on the minimal Ubuntu server with apt-get. Not hard. Aug 11, 2010 at 6:05

Here's what I did to remove unwanted default packages from a normal desktop install:

  1. Remove the ubuntu-desktop package. This doesn't actually remove any programs - it's just a meta-package that depends on the default packages. If you don't remove it you'll wind up with broken dependency errors.
  2. Check out its dependencies in a package manager (I like to use aptitude). Uninstall the ones you don't want.

I'm not sure how extensively you want to trim, but that should do it for the default GNOME apps. Upgrading has worked fine for me. If the new release includes new default packages you may need to install them manually if you want them - otherwise it seems to work okay.

  • Just to clarify your last point - if I don't have a package installed and I update my Ubuntu installation, then the packages I have uninstalled will not be installed? That was one of my concerns. Aug 11, 2010 at 10:10
  • That's correct.
    – Morgan May
    Aug 21, 2010 at 3:08
  1. Do a "minimal" install as many people suggested
  2. Install your required packages with:
    sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends package-name, where package-name is the package you want to install

The configuration requirements depends on which packages you select to install, keeping a minimal install depends on knowning "minimal" tools or rely on manual configuration. The more user friendly configuration tools which make Ubuntu great for most people usually have an high number of dependencies.


I'm not sure exactly what you mean when you say "bloatware", but it sounds like you might be interested in Xubuntu - it is also a GTK-based distro, but designed to be very lightweight. You can then install any apps or pieces you'd like on top of it as you would with the regular Ubuntu distro.

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    Bloatware is all of the applications that Ubuntu comes with that I never use. All of the games, a bunch of the utilities, the on screen keyboard, the screensavers, that sort of thing. There are also lots of random utilities I just never use - I don't even know what all of them are, I just see them in my installed packages. Aug 9, 2010 at 23:31
  • Well, a lot of those can be individually uninstalled through Ubuntu Software Center or with appropriate apt-get remove commands. However, most apps and utilities don't really impose much impact on resources other than the disk space they take up. They don't use memory, power, or cpu load unless you're actually using them.
    – Bryce
    Aug 9, 2010 at 23:46
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    Really, to trim up my system, I don't worry about what's installed but rather on what's running. And that's usually the services rather than apps. For instance, I may be trying to max out battery performance on a laptop. To do this, I use the most excellent 'power-top' to see what apps or services are consuming the most power and shut them down. For instance, I will disable ubuntu-one, pulseaudio, bluetooth, sometimes even network-manager. I've been able to as much as double the battery life of a netbook temporarily this way. To see what's running: service --status-all
    – Bryce
    Aug 9, 2010 at 23:52
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    That may be, but I still don't want them there. There are also pointless things, like random branding (ubuntufox or whatever it's called comes to mind), too. I would love to have a Ubuntu-based distribution that is extremely lean. Aug 9, 2010 at 23:52
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    "Very lightweight" is not exactly true. It is just a non-Gnome version. Aug 11, 2010 at 6:03

Install Synaptic Package Manager ( sudo apt-get install synaptic ) and go through the 'Installed' list and remove what you dont want, the descriptions are at the side and that way you can really streamline your setup without having to build it up from scratch...

As always just be careful what you remove, although first thing I always get rid of is 'mono-runtime' and it's dependencies as well as 'thunderbird' since my e-mail is mainly web-based...


You could use

apt-get remove "package"

until all of the packages that you don't want are gone, then use remastersys to create a livecd

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