I've been thinking a lot about this lately and haven't been able to find any good documentation online that explains this:

When installing Ubuntu Server, I can choose between Minimal system and Minimal virtual machine by hitting the F4 button at the install screen.

Why should I choose one over the other?

  • 1
    What will you use the server for? – N.N. Aug 16 '11 at 15:33

You choose virtual machine if you want to install this server inside a virtual machine (ie. Virtualbox, VMware Player) and that install is optimised for usage within a virtual machine.

Otherwise you are installing on a system itself and should choose for minimal system

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  • 7
    So what differs between minimal system and the default install then? – Industrial Aug 16 '11 at 15:45
  • Minimal does a bare install of the OS (so you need to install servers yourself) and default install a set of servers – Rinzwind Aug 16 '11 at 16:19
  • what is a set of servers? Webserver like nginx? or something else – BigSack Aug 23 '13 at 4:14
  • How many do you want? Webserver, mailserver, fileserver, DNS server, SSH server, print server @BigSack – Rinzwind Aug 23 '13 at 5:30
  1. Default server = Server kernel + "Basic Ubuntu server" task packages
  2. Minimal system = Server kernel + no additional packages
  3. Virtual machine = Virtual kernel + no additional packages

Virtual kernel is a more lightweight version of the kernel with several modules like audio and SATA left out. In VirtualBox you need to modify the guest VM settings first if you want to use a "minimal virtual machine" (otherwise the Ubuntu guest will crash):

  • Enable PAE/NX
  • Delete the SATA Controller and use SCSI Controller to add the hard disk. Enable host I/O cache.
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  • Not to mention if you have a fully paravirtualized machine, you NEED the virtual kernel and cannot boot with the generic one, plus I bet (havent tested) it will use the ext3 format instead of the ext4 one by default (Cannot boot with pygrub from ext4 formatted virtual machine) – Programster Jan 18 '13 at 10:15
  • I came to this answer when my 12.04 LTS virtual machine install was already under way, and it worked just fine with the default SATA Controller. I am running VirtualBox 4.2.0 on a Windows host. – Dmitry Leskov Apr 20 '13 at 10:12
  • +1 for the right answer. If you want to see which packages are included in the "Basic Ubuntu Server" task you can run tasksel --task-packages server – STW Oct 27 '15 at 15:46

Using 'minimal VM install', I found that it has a vm-related modules loaded by default:

$ modinfo vmw_balloon
filename:       /lib/modules/3.2.0-29-virtual/kernel/drivers/misc/vmw_balloon.ko
license:        GPL
alias:          vmware_vmmemctl
alias:          dmi:*:svnVMware*:*
description:    VMware Memory Control (Balloon) Driver
author:         VMware, Inc.
srcversion:     D9F701E37D1BF118F0537DE
intree:         Y
vermagic:       3.2.0-29-virtual SMP mod_unload modversions 686 

so it looks like such install option is more suitable to work under VM environment.

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