Installing Ubuntu Server From Scratch

2015-09-30T19:00:00Z

This is the first in the "From Scratch" series of articles. Unlike the remainder of the Biscuit.Ninja articles I write which are very niche, this series assumes no prior knowledge.

There's a number of reasons for wanting to install and configure your own server. You may for instance want to host websites or run a minecraft server on a VPS (Virtual Provisioned Service). Perhaps you are looking to build your own home server that can be used for streaming media or storing documents.

In this guide I'll be setting up an Ubuntu Server, which will be the basis of some of the future articles in this series.

Prerequisites

Before you get started there's a couple of things you will need to.

  1. Installation media for Ubuntu Server. Visit The Ubuntu Server Download page and choose between either the latest version or the LTS (Long Term Support) version. I usually opt for the LTS version because I tend to favour stability over long cutting edge features.
  2. Critically, you will need some hardware on which to run Ubuntu Server. You might already be looking at a VPS hosting provider. Or you might have an old PC which would make an ideal test bed. Alternatively, if you have a fairly modern PC then you could download and install Oracle VM Virtual Box ready to create a virtual server. You don't need huge amounts of spare memory or CPU cycles for most purposes and for this guide, it's exactly what I will be doing.

There are many different flavours of Linux to choose from. I've opted to use Ubuntu as it's probably the easiest and also the one that I'm most familiar with. It is a widely used distribution, which means there's plenty of support for it when you come unstuck.

Creating a Virtual Machine

If you have a VPS or physical hardware that you are planning to run your server on, you can skip this section. I'll assume that you have already downloaded and installed Oracle VM Virtual Box. If not, do so now.

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At this point we've set-up our virtual hardware and we are almost ready to start installing Ubuntu Server. There's just one step left and that's configuring our Ubuntu Server virtual machine to boot from the Ubuntu Server ISO that we've downloaded.

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Congratulations! Your virtual machine is up and running with the Ubuntu Server installation media loaded. Continue onto the next relevant section to get Ubuntu Server fully installed.

Creating Installation Media

If you are planning to install Ubuntu Server onto physical hardware, you will either need to install it from a CD/DVD ROM or USB memory stick. In this section I'll explain how to create USB or CD/DVD installation media, at least for Windows users.

CD/DVD Installation Media

If you are planning to use a CD/DVD ROM, all you need do is:

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USB Installation Media

If instead you'd like to use a USB memory stick, then you will need to download some software. I recommend using Rufus. It's a tiny portable application that's fairly easy to use.

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Installing Ubuntu Server

If you have completed either of the last two sections, you are ready to install Ubuntu Server. You should hopefully see the very first screen loaded from the Ubuntu Installation media, either displayed on your virtual machine or a monitor attached to your physical hardware, in which case we can continue.

If you're using a physical PC, you may find that it boots from your CD/DVD/USB media immediately. If it doesn't, then you will either need to change the boot order in the BIOS settings or, during Power-on Self-test (POST), depress the correct function key to access the boot menu. On PCs with Gigabyte motherboards, it tends to be the <F12> function key. On PCs with ASUS motherboards, it tends to be <F7> or <F8>. If in doubt, use your search engine of choice and find out how to boot your hardware from your media. Many manufacturers tend to make manuals available on-line for their hardware, which can be useful when an internet search otherwise leaves you flummoxed.

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The install will now continue, creating partitions and then formatting them. It will then copy the base operating system into the appropriate parition. Then it's onto the next prompt. I promise there aren't many more before our new server can boot into it's newly installed operating system.

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The installation will now enter it's penultimate phase installing and configuring the default packages, including any you have just selected.

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It is worth noting that if you are running your Ubuntu server on a virtual machine, the installer will automatically eject the installation media. The same is true if you are installing Ubuntu onto a physical server using a DVD/CD-ROM drive. If you are booting a physical server from a USB stick, then you may want to try and remove the USB stick as your physical computer restarts. Otherwise, it will boot once again from the USB stick into the installer. Don't worry too much if that happens. Once you have selected a language, you will be able to choose the "Boot from first hard disk" option from the installer's boot loader option, and then remove the USB stick.

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That's it. Your Ubuntu server is installed and ready to be tweaked to your hearts content. The next article in the "From Scratch" series explains NAT or Network Address Translation Networking, the default Oracle VM Virtual Box network configuration. From there we will look at Bridged Networking and then start rolling up our sleeves when we learn about using SSH to remotely manage and connect to your server, using public/private keys instead of a password to provide a secure authentication mechanism.

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