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Setting up a Minimal Ubuntu VM on Windows and Mac

Nabeel Ahmed
Living life learning as much as possible.
Updated on ・7 min read

How to install Ubuntu on a Virtual Machine

Author: Nabeel Ahmed

Please scroll down to the operating system you use. (Windows or Mac).

Windows 👾

It is much easier to set up a CLI (Command-Line Interface) environment for Windows as Microsoft has already implemented a Ubuntu subsystem virtual machine that is built onto Windows. Follow the steps below to install the subsystem:

  1. Open the following link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/ubuntu/9nblggh4msv6.
  2. Click on the Get button and it should redirect you to the Microsoft Store app on your machine.
  3. Install and wait for it to finish.
  4. Once finished, type Ubuntu into the Start search box, and the app should pop up- click on it.
  5. Once a Terminal is opened it should automatically begin the installation processes.
  6. If you are prompted with the following message: The Windows Subsystem for Linux optional component is not enabled. Please enable it and try again. Complete the following steps to fix this else move to step 7:
    1. Open Powershell as Administrator (right-click Powershell in Start and select Run as administrator).
    2. Paste the following command into it: dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart.
    3. After the previous command is done running, paste the following: dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart.
    4. Finally, paste the following: wsl --set-default-version 2.
      1. If you run into the error of wsl is not recognized, paste the following command instead: Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName VirtualMachinePlatform
    5. Once complete close Powershell and the Ubuntu Subsystem App and reopen the Ubuntu Subsystem App.
  7. You will now be asked to fill in some details such as a UNIX username (pick anything you will remember your first name all lowercase should be enough) and a UNIX password (pick something you will remember because you will be using it a lot).
  8. You are done! 👏

macOS 🍎

It is a little bit harder to install a Linux virtual machine on macOS as you have to create the Virtual Environment yourself. Follow the steps below to install the Virtual Machine:

  1. Head over to the following URL and download VirtualBox, a free hypervisor that allows you to create virtualized environments on your machine. Make sure to click OS X hosts to start the download: https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads.
  2. As VirtualBox is downloading, install the Ubuntu Minimal disk alongside it, which will give us the CLI (Command-Line Interface) version of Ubuntu. Link for the download. Scroll down until you see your computer's architecture (64bit or 32bit) and click the latest version of Ubuntu within the list. The latest version should be number 1: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/MinimalCD.
  3. Once VirtualBox has finished downloading, open the VirtualBox .dmg file. Double click on the .pkg icon in the VirtualBox drive folder to open the installation wizard. Once you complete the installation steps, close the drive window, and eject the drive.
  4. Open System Preferences on Mac. Can be located by the following steps: Apple Logo (Absolute top-left of the screen) > System Preferences.
  5. Open Security & Privacy and switch the tab to General.
  6. Unlock the Lock that is located on the bottom left of the window. You will be prompted to enter your password.
  7. Click Allow beside the blocked software warning (This is a security warning because VirtualBox enables virtualization onto your computer).
  8. Finally, open the VirtualBox app. This can be located by simply typing VirtualBox into the Spotlight Search (which can be open by pressing cmd + space).
  9. After opening VirtualBox, you should be prompted to a window that has an image of a Penguin with building tools.
  10. Click the New button and complete the following steps:
    1. On the window presented to you, type CS Ubuntu Machine into the name field- or whatever you'd like as long as you can remember the particular virtual machine.
    2. For the Machine Folder, it should default to /Users/[your_username]/VirtualBox VMs, which is fine. If it doesn't default to that, make a folder called VirtualBox VMs in the Home directory and select that in VirtualBox.
    3. For the Type field select: Linux.
    4. For the Version field select: Ubuntu (64-bit) or Ubuntu (32-bit) depending on your computer's architecture (64bit or 32bit). Once done, click Continue.
    5. For Memory Size drag the slider until it says 2048 MB or type 2048 into the input box on the right. (2GB is a healthy amount of RAM for Ubuntu Minimal). Once done, click Continue.
    6. For Hard Drive click Create a virtual disk now. Once done, click Create.
    7. For Hard disk file type click VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image). Once done, click Continue.
    8. Select Dynamically allocated. Once done, click Continue.
    9. Do not edit the text input that has the location to the .vdi file. The allocated drive space should be set to at least 20.00 GB (You can always change this later if you require more space). Once done, click Create.
  11. At this point, you should have an empty machine on the left with the name: CS Ubuntu Machine or whatever you named it.
  12. From here we need to add the .iso file of Ubuntu Minimal we downloaded earlier. This can be done by right-clicking the machine on the left and selecting Settings... from the drop-down menu.
  13. Navigate to the Storage tab on the top menu and click the Empty CD/DVD icon under the Controller: IDE on the left.
  14. Beside Optical Drive make sure it says IDE Secondary Master. Also, click on the checkbox that says Live CD/DVD if it isn't checked already.
  15. Click on the CD/DVD icon beside Optical Drive and select Choose a disk file... in the drop-down menu. Navigate to your Downloads folder, select the mini.iso file (this is the Ubuntu Minimal Disk), and press Open.
  16. Press OK in the settings menu and you should be brought back to the home page of the VirtualBox program.
  17. Then, go ahead and select the machine on the left and press Start on the top menu above. This should pop up a window that has Ubuntu Minimal booting within it. If you are presented with a screen that asks to choose your virtual optical drive just press start as mini.iso should already be selected. If mini.iso is not appearing in the input box, you might have to restart steps starting from 12.
  18. At this point in your virtual machine window should be presenting you with the Installer boot menu. If you accidentally click the screen and a message pops up asking You have clicked the mouse and to capture it, select cancel. If you pressed Capture by accident press the left cmd button to uncapture your mouse.
  19. If the screen is too small, solve this by clicking the display option on the bottom row (The row should be filled with icons. The display icon is between the gray folder icon and the film camera icon). In the drop-down menu select: Virtual Screen 1 > Scale to 200% (autoscaled output).
  20. From here select Install on the Ubuntu boot menu by pressing return on your keyboard.
  21. Below are the steps to setup Ubuntu:
    1. For language, choose English. Press the up arrow key or down arrow key to highlight an option and press return to select it.
    2. For the country, select United States.
    3. Select No to Detect keyboard layout?.
    4. Select English (US) for Country of origin for keyboard.
    5. Select English (US) again for Keyboard layout.
    6. Wait for installation.
    7. Leave hostname as ubuntu by pressing the down arrow key and selecting Continue.
    8. Select United States for Ubuntu archive mirror country.
    9. Select us.archive.ubuntu.com for Ubuntu archive mirror.
    10. Do not enter HTTP proxy information leave it blank. Just press return.
    11. Wait for further installation (this might take a minute or two).
    12. After installation is complete, type your full name into the text field. Enter your first name with the last name; separated by a space. (e.g Nabeel Ahmed). Select Continue once you are done.
    13. The next menu should automatically type your first name in lowercase as a username, which is fine. If you don't see anything in the input field, type your first name only in lower-case only (e.g nabeel) (You can technically write any lowercase username but it is better if you can remember it so you can log in with ease). Select Continue once you are done.
    14. For the next menu type a password for your system. Make sure it is rememberable as you will be using it often. Select Continue once you are done.
    15. Re-enter your password for the next menu for verification. Select Continue once you are done.
    16. Select Yes if Ubuntu is properly displaying your timezone. Select No if it isn't and complete the steps it prompts you with fixing that.
    17. Wait for more installation.
    18. For the Partitioning method make sure to select Guided - use entire disk.
    19. For Select disk to partition, you should only have one option as we only created one drive. Select the only option. If you see multiple drives you might need to delete your virtual machine and start back at step 10 (close the Ubuntu virtual machine window by pressing the close button and selecting Power off the machine. Once you are back to the VirtualBox's main page, right-click the virtual machine and select delete and then select remove then Delete all files).
    20. Finally, select Yes to Write the changes to disks?
    21. Wait for further installation (this might several minutes).
    22. Once the installation has completed, select No automatic updates.
    23. Wait for further installation.
    24. For choose software to install do not select anything. Just press return.
    25. Wait for further installation.
    26. Select Yes for Install the GRUB boot loader to the master boot record?
    27. Wait for further installation.
    28. Select Yes for Is the system clock set to UTC?
    29. Wait for further installation.
    30. Finally, select Continue for Installation complete.
    31. Once the virtual machine brings you back to the Installer boot menu, close the virtual machine window and select Power off the machine. The window should be gone now.
  22. Once you return to the VirtualBox homepage, right-click your virtual machine on the left and select Settings...
  23. Switch to the Storage tab and select the mini.iso below Controller: IDE.
  24. On the right, click the CD/DVD icon beside the Optical Drive and select Remove Disk from Virtual Drive from the drop-down menu.
  25. Press OK on the settings menu located at the bottom right of the menu.
  26. Finally, click Start on the virtual machine.
  27. Once a prompt for ubuntu login comes up type in your username (this should be just your first name lowercase).
  28. For the Password prompt type in the password you chose.
  29. If you did everything correctly, you should be logged in now and presented with a Linux shell.
  30. You are done! 👏

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