The Ubuntu Text Install Demystified

The Ubuntu Text Install Demystified
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Old School Text Install for the Masses

I still remember the days when the only way to install Linux was using a text-based installer. I fondly remember the days of sitting at my computer for hours (days) watching the gentoo installer compile my operating system and programs from source code. Linux has come a long way since those days but there are still some situations where a text-based installer is the best option. Whether you are looking to install Ubuntu on an ancient computer, a computer that requires additional configuration post-install in order to run the desktop or want to have full control over what is installed on your Ubuntu system, the Ubuntu text installer is your best option.

A text-based Ubuntu installer is available on 3 different ISO images, -the alternative ISO, the server ISO and the minimal ISO- which you choose will depend on your specific needs…

The Ubuntu Alternative Installer

The first step in installing Ubuntu using the alternative ISO text installer is to download and burn the it. This alternative ISO does not include the graphical installer and is designed specifically for one of the scenarios we discussed above. If a user is using a graphics card, on-board in many cases, that is not supported out-of-the-box by Ubuntu (needs further configuration post-install) this is the ISO for them.

If you haven’t done so already you need to visit the download page, download the image and burn it to CD, DVD or USB stick. If possible I suggest using the bittorrent option to download this ISO image (and any other ISO image when the option is available) as you will generally achieve better download speeds and complete your download sooner. Bittorrent is a peer-to-peer download network that, as mentioned, will more often than not allow you to complete your download sooner and is known to be more reliable for large file downloads. In order to use the bittorrent option you will need to install a bittorrent client and open the torrent with the client.

Once the image has been downloaded burn the image to CD, DVD or USB stick, adjust your BIOS, boot the image and follow the install instructions (see the section “The Exciting Text Install” below)…

Real Geeks Resurrect Old Hardware

Ubuntu Text Install - Select and Install Software

While the title of this section is not necessarily true, using the Ubuntu Server text installer may just make you feel a little like a geek. It’s not pretty, it’s not flashy but it gets the job done with minimal hardware requirements. Speaking of hardware requirements you will need a minimum of 32MB of RAM in your system to achieve the best results from the text installer. If these minimal requirements are a concern for you, congratulations - you are trying to resurect a PC that would otherwise end up in a landfill. These old computers that many of us have sitting in the attic or closet are perfectly capable of serving many roles (still) in a computing environment. Web servers, file servers and firewalls are just a few of the valid uses for these “garbage” computers. There is no reason these computers should end up in the landfill in this day and age…

Once the image has been downloaded burn the image to CD, DVD or USB stick, adjust your BIOS, boot the image and follow the install instructions (see the section “The Exciting Text Install” below)…

Regain Control of Your Operating System

Lets be honest… not every program installed by default on an Ubuntu system is needed or even the best option available. Don’t get me wronge, the folks at Ubuntu do a good job of providing the user with a program for every common task, but in many cases these programs are not needed or much better options are available. As an example, the first thing I do after a default Ubuntu install is to remove Firefox, Banshee and the LibreOffice office suite. I do not use these programs and never will so there is no reason to keep them on my Ubuntu system. What if I could do an install where I pick my software and only install the programs I know I am going to need? Well, luckily with the Ubuntu minimal image I can do just that. When you install using the minimal ISO image you end up with a barebones install, lacking even a desktop environment, that you can then personalize using the APT system, downloading packages as needed. Add the desktop environment of your choice, your favorite web browser and the -much better than banshee or rythmbox- music player, Clementine with ease. An operating system installed from the Ubuntu Minimal ISO will contain much less bloat than a default install because you are installing only the programs you know and love.

That being said, once the image has been downloaded burn the image to CD, DVD or USB stick, adjust your BIOS, boot the image and follow the install instructions (see the section “The Exciting Text Install” below)…

The Exciting Text Install…

Ubuntu Text Install - Finishing Installation

No operating system install is overly exciting but this is especially true of any text-based install. Visually the experience is much different but the basic setup of the operating system is more-or-less the same. When you boot an Ubuntu text install CD you will be greeted with a screen asking you to choose your language. Following this the prompts are what you would expect depending on which text-based install image you decided to use. The alternative image will install all the same files/options as the standard Ubuntu image but in a text environment, the server image will give you the option of setting up a LAMP server and does not include a desktop environment by default and the minimal image will install the basics only and then use your network connection to download and install any additional software you may require.

All these installers are underused and often misunderstood, if you have experience using any of these installers let us know in the comments section below.


  1. Author’s own experience
  2. Screenshots provided by the author
  3. Ubuntu Alternative ISO Image
  4. Ubuntu Server ISO Image
  5. Ubuntu Minimal ISO Image