Now that various Ubuntu ISOs has been folded into the regular desktop ISO, how do I install the minimal version which featured in the erstwhile alternate and the minimal ISO?

Minimal CD

Regarding minimal CD, it can install minimal Ubuntu but requires net connection to download even the basic that basic set of Ubuntu packages. And therein lies the problem: I don't have a LAN connection I can use and, even if text-based installers did support wireless connections (they don't, IME), my wireless hardware is a little too new and requires manually compiling and installing drivers.

If you do have net connection and want to install minimal Ubuntu, Minimal CD is the way to go.


10 Answers 10


Install minimal Ubuntu from Ubuntu Server 12.10 USB/DVD

You can achieve a 12.10 minimal (no GUI) install via the Ubuntu Server installer image downloadable from the Ubuntu Server page or the alternative downloads page.

The minimal install option has been made available via different modes as detailed on the following screen shots.

  • Opt to install a minimal system

Choose minimal system installation mode Press F4, and you will be able to choose minimal system installation mode.

  • Skip or choose manual package selection

Skip this step without selecting anything Going further, you will eventually be asked if you want to install more packages on top of the minimal system. If you want a pure command-line system, skip the step without choosing anything. Or you can select the last "Manual package selection" option to preemptively select any packages you were planning to install to build your custom environment.

Manual package selection using Aptitude Upon choosing manual package selection, you will be greeted by a standard interactive instance of Aptitude if you chose manual package selection. If you're unfamilar with operating Aptitude, refer to this guide to navigate and select packages. Do note that the selection of packages you will find are only those available on your installation media; an internet connection will be needed to install anything else at install time.

Server Minimal vs Minimal CD

While the minimal system installed using the Ubuntu Server image is undoubtedly a genuine minimal system as known and loved by minimalist lovers, there is a slight differences in the package package selection compared to the Minimal CD. In fact, Minimal CD pulls in 7 extra packages during installation, which I (@Oxwivi) personally deem them to be all but redundant. But for the information freaks (like myself) who will have nagging doubts if the details are not known, the seven in question are: daemon, dictionaries-common, discover, discover-data, language-pack-gnome-en, language-pack-gnome-en-base, libdiscover2, mpt-status, wamerican and wbritish.

Using the Lubuntu Alternate Installer, as this answer originally suggested, also worked and resulted in the same package list as installing Ubuntu Server. To use the Lubuntu Alternate Installer, minimal system mode must be chosen the same way as Ubuntu Server by pressing F4.

  • Hey, this does not apply as of 14.04; requires Internet connection even after choosing minimal. Any thoughts?
    – Oxwivi
    Sep 10, 2014 at 16:17
  • Scratch that. For some reason, it didn't ask me for internet connection last time I tried. But every other time since 14.04's release it wouldn't let me do anything without. I don't get it.
    – Oxwivi
    Sep 11, 2014 at 13:55
  • Excellent write-up! -- The links to the seven extra packages are now out of date.
    – krlmlr
    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:33

Sadly it's gone:

The alternate installer, required when users want to configure cryptsetup, Logical Volume Manager (LVM) or software-based RAID arrays during installation, may disappear from Ubuntu as early as version 12.10. The idea is mooted in a proposal put forward by Steve Langasek, Engineering Manager at Canonical's Ubuntu Foundation.

According to Langasek, dropping the alternate installer image would represent a step towards reducing the number of Ubuntu installation images. The guided partitioner in ubiquity – the installer from the desktop live images – now contains extensions to set up cryptsetup for encrypting whole disks and to manage disks using logical volume manager. Both functions should, according to Langasek, also be available with manual partitioning soon. The changes are planned for Ubuntu 12.10, which is currently under development and due to be released in October.

The ability to set up software-based RAID arrays using mdadm will not, however, be finished in time and ubiquity is unlikely to support this before Ubuntu 13.04. Langasek nevertheless proposes dropping the alternate installer in 12.10. Users who want to use RAID can continue to use Ubuntu 12.04 or, alternatively, install 12.10 as normal, set up a software-based RAID array manually and migrate their data to it. The decision will only affect Ubuntu proper – Ubuntu variants such as Kubuntu will continue to offer the option of creating images using the alternate installer, which will continue to use a Debian installer-based installation program.


  • I know the alternate installer is gone, but are the features I seek are gone as well?
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 19, 2012 at 18:24
  • Well, what's your goal exactly?
    – SirCharlo
    Oct 19, 2012 at 18:28
  • Install a minimal, command line Ubuntu as I mention in the question.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 19, 2012 at 18:30
  • Perhaps you mean the server version of Ubuntu?
    – SirCharlo
    Oct 19, 2012 at 18:33
  • The server version is similar, but not the same. The minimal Ubuntu used all the desktop packages as opposed to the server-optimized binaries like the kernel.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 19, 2012 at 18:56

I think that for your minimal command line requirement, Ubuntu Core would suffice.

Ubuntu Core is a minimal rootfs for use in the creation of custom images for specific needs. Ubuntu Core strives to create a suitable minimal environment for use in Board Support Packages, constrained or integrated environments, or as the basis for application demonstration images. It is available for the i386, amd64, and arm architectures.

Ubuntu Core delivers a functional user-space environment, with full support for installation of additional software from the Ubuntu repositories, through the use of the apt-get command. —


Download: From here

  • 1
    I know about Ubuntu Core. But you do realize this is anything but an installer, right? Though I suppose I am going to go for this if I can't have any proper installers.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 25, 2012 at 7:03
  • Yes, i understand that it has only the bare minimum. All things needed has to be installed. but it still has got the command-line interface you asked for. So thought that this might help you.
    – saji89
    Oct 25, 2012 at 13:42
  • 1
    Looking at it from the perspective of a user who does not have a detailed knowledge of Ubuntu Core or how Linux systems work, this solution would be anything but an answer. Ubuntu Core carries a minimal system minus the crucial piece: the kernel. It is meant for devices like in-car systems where very specialized set-ups is required. After installing Ubuntu Core (which is essentially copying an entire root directory), you won't be able to use it. You'd need to chroot into Ubuntu Core, install the necessary kernel and related packages and then get the desired command line system.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 25, 2012 at 20:29
  • @Oxwivi, Regarding the information in the last comment, I have to say that I wasn't aware of that. Really sorry and also thanks for this information. Should I remove this answer?
    – saji89
    Oct 26, 2012 at 5:18
  • No, if, by the end of bounty, I do not get a better answer, I will choose this and edit it with the necessary info on getting Ubuntu Core running as a minimal command line system.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 28, 2012 at 9:18

This answer is more for the admin user, wanting to create an install CD. If you are just a desktop user and want to install Ubuntu this is probably overkill.

Check out Debian Live (Yes for Ubuntu!). Afaik. Ubuntu provides the live-build package (or similiar) from the Debian project which can also create Ubuntu live CDs. You can include an installer and packages with this CD. The entire process of building the live system is quite easy.

Create a directory "live", then cd live, Create a directry auto and a file "auto/config" with exec permissions. The file should look like this:

lb config noauto \
     --apt-source-archives false \
     --architectures i386 \
     --binary-images iso-hybrid \
     --debian-installer live \
     --debian-installer-distribution quantal \
     --debian-installer-gui true \
     --distribution quantal \
     --mode ubuntu \
     --system live \
     --win32-loader true \
     --package-lists ubuntu-cloud-desktop \

See the manual here: http://live.debian.net/manual/html/live-manual.en.html

Then run lb config and sudo lb build. Voila, there you get an image for CDs or USB sticks with a complete installer.



As stated here, this will not work because Ubiquity ignores some preseed components, like tasksel because "(...) they do not fit with Ubiquity's mode of operation".

I'm assuming what you are asking is a way to install the Ubuntu Desktop without the "desktop".

If you are using a USB device to install Ubuntu you can try to change the file pressed/ubuntu.seed present in your USB disk, replacing

tasksel tasksel/first   multiselect ubuntu-desktop


tasksel tasksel/first   multiselect standard

I haven't tested it, but it should create a basic Ubuntu installation without the "desktop".

Also, i've read somewhere that the only differences between Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server are at the kernel used and the IO scheduler (if someone could prove or deny this would be nice). If this is true you can just use a Ubuntu Server CD and after the installation install the "desktop" kernel and alter the IO scheduler.

  • Are you absolutely sure that it's that easy? Cause if it is, it'd be absolutely awesome. Damn if only I could use a virtual system to try.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 28, 2012 at 14:11
  • Refer to this comment on the answer @fossfreedom provided; this doesn't work. :(
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 28, 2012 at 17:18
  • It seems that Ubiquity ignores those intructions. Sorry
    – Salem
    Oct 28, 2012 at 18:25

There are two Alternative iso images to my understanding the network installers and the full image which you can get here Alternative Downloads you will need a bit torrent client to download the full iso which does not require a network connection

when installing it will auto try to setup a network connection it will fail as you are not connected to the internet it will then go to a screen where there will be a few options one saying to try again or to go the menu select to go to the menu and then select the next logical step in the setup i have tried this personally and it works to my best knowledge

  • I think you are missing the whole point of a minimal install.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 28, 2012 at 14:09
  • you can do a minimal install with the full alternative iso you chose it before you start to install and theres still no need for an internet connection like i said i did this before on my computer Oct 28, 2012 at 20:32
  • Oh, I thought you've seen the Alternative Downloads page you linked before posting an answer. Please read this answer. There is no Alternate CDs starting from Ubuntu 12.10.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 30, 2012 at 10:06
  • are you saying that there will not be any alternative installer after 12.10? Oct 30, 2012 at 16:46
  • Forget after, 12.10 itself has no alternative installers other than the Ubuntu Server flavor.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 30, 2012 at 20:18

I think you are stuck with the Precise images for the alternate installer. This is a shame, in my opinion, as it removes Ubuntu one step further from power users like yourself.

Now, after installing Precise from the CD, you will be, well, running an older version. My recommended course of action at this point would be to make a custom Quantal repo DVD and apt-get dist-upgrade from it. Here is a nice tutorial about making repo DVDs.

This approach has several problems, namely that you still have to download a ton of data. Second, I think Ubuntu frowns upon dist-upgrade as an update method; they have a special tool that does the update, so you'd have to download it and run it manually, assuming you could even make it use local repos...

In other words, Canonical has decided you're out of luck. I hate it, too.


I think that I understand your need.

You need that the installed ubuntu can be used for your compilation needs without having to use internet. Plus you need a minimal operating system installed.

If it's the case I recommend you the full DVD sets of Debian testing. http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/weekly-builds/

With those you'll be able to use your system being completely disconnected.

The DVDs contains all languages, binary and sources that debian officialy has. (so it contains the kernel sources, the compilations tools, etc).

I don't know about a ubuntu or ubuntu like that can do that much offline. Before you had alternative ISO of ubuntu ....

You can try with alternative ISO of Xubuntu or Lubuntu but I can't assure you that they'll have the sources (so you'll have to download them before). http://mirror.anl.gov/pub/ubuntu-iso/CDs-Xubuntu/12.04/release/

Best regards,


This is probably not quite what you're looking for but worth mentioning:

What about Lubuntu?

This gives some handy files and ideas.

  • That doesnt solve his problem. Why should that be worth to mention? Oct 22, 2012 at 20:13
  • This does not solve the solution indeed. If you're not going to answer the question, it's better to post a comment. And yes, I do know Lubuntu; I even had a minimal install Lubuntu. Even with the limited set of preinstalled apps, there are quite a few I don't use. Every byte mattered in the system with 4 GB HDD-though that's not the system in question this time.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 25, 2012 at 7:09
  • 1
    Sorry guys, i shall place these as comments in future. I knew that it didn't specifically answer your question but could have been a step towards the solution, and hopefully this community could have built off it. but i see your point. Thanks. Oct 25, 2012 at 11:12

There is Minimal CD project:


Quantal images:



Minimal CD boots to minimal CLI system where you're supposed to use tasksel to install what your want.

  • Please refer to the comments on question. The minimal in minimal CD is referring to the size of the ISO, not what it will install. I can select the minimal set of packages to install, but it will need an internet connection which I cannot provide at install time.
    – Oxwivi
    Oct 25, 2012 at 7:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.