Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've been looking around for a Linux variant which will install only the software I need rather than everything Ubuntu (for example) puts in by default. This is to create a virtual machine in Virtualbox which has bash, apache, python, perl, SQLite, openssh and a few other programs but nothing else. I'd prefer to go with Ubuntu if possible but another modern distro would do as well (I like using apt-get and yum rather than downloading/compiling etc).

So far, I've tried:

  •, which is probably the best so far.
  • Ubuntu 9.10, by pressing F4 to get the boot options on the install disc, but there is no minimal installation (oops! had the alternate disc instead of the server disc).
  • Arch Linux, slightly confusing install procedure but I might go back and try again.
  • Gentoo, started well but fairly soon the HD on the virtual machine went to 2Gb, even before the installation had started in earnest (I'd partitioned the disks is all).

I realise there are various "small" Linuxes around like Puppy, Feather, DSL, etc, but they seem to be aimed at desktop users or as a techie's toolkit, and I want a small-as-possible server distro which can be managed with tools like apt or yum or similar.

share|improve this question

migrated from Mar 31 '10 at 11:22

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

There is a minimal installation in Ubuntu 9.10 - I've done about 10 of them. It's on the server disk. – Andy Shellam Mar 31 '10 at 10:43
Thanks Andy. How do I invoke it? I pressed F4 at the boot screen and it had options like "Command Line install" but nothing for "Minimal install", afaict. – user32853 Mar 31 '10 at 11:14
@user32853: are you sure you have the Server ISO? not the liveCD or alternate ISO. i've just run through the i386 server ISO and the "minimal install" is under the F4 menu on the boot screen. – quack quixote Mar 31 '10 at 11:38
Yeh, I had the alternate. Got the real deal now. Many thanks for everyone who commented. – user32853 Mar 31 '10 at 11:40
if you want to build this vm programmatically, jeos and vmbuilder are good tools. – yanokwa Mar 31 '10 at 12:33

Um, I'm curious why you haven't looked at Debian? It's what Ubuntu is based on, and it can be installed with a minimal install.

share|improve this answer
Well, I didn't try it because I didn't know it would fit the bill, which is why I asked the question :-} But thanks, I will give it a try! – user32853 Mar 31 '10 at 10:44

If you want a minimal Ubuntu install, try the Ubuntu Server edition. You don't even have to install X if you don't want to.

The server install is yet another disc from the Live CD or the Alternate Installer disc.

share|improve this answer

You could always try JeOS I've been using it for a network monitoring VM.

share|improve this answer

You can install Arch Linux core or netinstall, then add packets that only you want it's not so hard how can look at first time. There are very well written guide for that.

share|improve this answer

Okay, I don't know how much space you've got but, I think installing Ubuntu completely will not hurt. I just installed ubuntu on a 10GB hd partition using virtualbox.

Also your Gentoo got stuck because you did not create the right HD for the install in VirtualBox.

You can Always go to File -> Virtual Media Manager and add remove HDD as you please. You also have the option for the virtual HDDs to increase as you use them so their actual size is very small.

BTW, on an unrelated note, if you didn't know you can use Deamon tools to mount your iso file as a drive and boot/install from that(you'll need to specify that in the settings of your os install in virtualbox).

share|improve this answer
  1. Download the Ubuntu server ISO.
  2. During boot, press F4 and use "Minimal virtual machine".

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.


share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.