Have sort of a weird question. I'd like to create my own custom Ubuntu load, install specific software, change the interface and theme, then take that and create a live USB from it.

I'm making it for some people that are not computer smart, so I want to make it non-persistent, so if they mess it up, they can just reboot and have the exact same desktop from which they started. I was thinking maybe there is a way to convert a VirtualBox Ubuntu, or something like that. I'm not the best at the terminal, and I'd like to test it as I go to make sure that everything is working.

Any ideas?


2 Answers 2


Create a custom .iso

Graphical way to customize a clean iso (recommended)

  1. Install the latest Ubuntu Builder from here
  2. Choose "Select ISO > From local disk"
  3. Choose 'Synaptic' to customize packages or 'Desktop' to run easily a VM with the ISO to make changes
  4. Click 'Build ISO' to save your customized ISO somewhere

Guide here

To customize a clean .iso from the command line

  1. You can use the 'Ubuntu Customization Kit' which can be installed like this:

    sudo apt-get install uck
  2. Launch it from the dash

  3. Follow the instructions
  4. Eventually, you will be given an option to run the console of the iso to install/remove packages and make customizations

You will need a pre downloaded ISO to be the base for your customizations


To create a copy of your existing Ubuntu installation

You can use the tool System Imager, available from here

System Imager is a tool that images your running system and allows you to make a image of your running machine and install it on another. System Imager is based on the work of Remastersys.

This is probably easier if you aren't familiar with the command line. It'll be easier to make customizations

To test the ISO without writing to USB

  1. Install qemu with

    sudo apt-get install qemu
  2. Run it with the command

    qemu -cdrom /path/to/your/.iso -boot d -m 256


To write the iso to a USB and make it non persistent

  1. Run "Startup Disk Creator" from the Dash
  2. Choose your .iso and target USB drive
  3. Set "documents and settings" option to "discarded on shutdown"

NOTE: This is only non persistent when booting from the USB, not in the final installed system

  • From what I was reading, it sounded like this was all command line to setup. Is that true, or not? Thanks for the help!
    – jjmil03
    Sep 1, 2013 at 0:55
  • @jjmil You do need to use the terminal to customize the iso (1st method) but you can try one of the other solutions in my post.
    – kiri
    Sep 1, 2013 at 4:32
  • 2
    Ubuntu Builder was discontinued in 2014; Ubuntu Customization Kit installs but doesn't work and was discontinued in 2015; System Imager was discontinued in 2016. This answer really needs to be updated. Is there an offiically supported method in 2019? Jul 4, 2019 at 23:34

Update: As of 2022, it appears live-build has been replaced by Debian Live.

Original answer:

Look at this, live-build contains the scripts that build a Debian Live system image from a configuration directory.

# apt-get install live-build

# mkdir -p /usr/src/live

# cd /usr/src/live

# lb clean

# echo "Configure:"

# lb config noauto \
        --bootappend-live toram \
        --package-lists minimal \
        --package aufs-util \
        --linux-flavours clean \
        --binary-images usb-hdd \
        --bootloader grub \

# echo "Building..."
# lb build --verbose

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