SEARCH

How-To Geek

How to Create Your Own Customized Ubuntu Live CD

We love Live CDs, but it’s a hassle installing the same packages every time you need to do a virus scan or recover accidentally deleted data. We’ll show you how to roll your own Ubuntu Live CD, with all the packages you want, and even more nice customizations.

The tool that we’re going to use is called Reconstructor, which is a free webapp that lets you roll your own Ubuntu and Debian CDs.

sshot-1

Getting Started

The first step, as noted above, is to sign up for an account. Click the Sign Up link and fill out the form that appears.

sshot-2

Confirm your account by clicking on a link that will be emailed to you, and then log in.

sshot-3

You will be greeted by Reconstructor’s main interface. To create your customized Ubuntu CD, click on the Create Project button in the left column.

sshot-4

Fill out the basic information about your project. In our case, we’re going to customize an Ubuntu 9.10 Live CD, to include some useful utilities that we’ve covered on How-To Geek in the past.

sshot-5

Customize Your CD

In the main project screen, you will be given a number of options to modify. We’ll start off by adding in some packages that are not included in Ubuntu by default.

Click on the plus icon next to the Packages label.

sshot-6

Type in the name of the package you want to add and click Search. All Ubuntu repositories are enabled, so no need to worry about enabling universe or mulitverse. When you’ve found the package you want to add, add a check to the checkbox at the right and then click Add.

sshot-7

Reconstructor also offers a number of other customizations, like changing the default wallpaper or adding a splash image – you can even add a Gconf key if you want to move the window buttons in Ubuntu 10.04.

These customizations are found in the Modules section. Click on the plus icon next to Modules to see all of the options.

sshot-8

One module that we’re going to use allows you to install a deb package. We want to include the avast! virus scanner to our live CD, but it’s not in any repository.

Add a check to the Install deb Package 0.1 module and click Add.

sshot-9

In the main project page, click on the Install deb Package link under the Modules header. From there, you can select the deb package and upload it.

sshot-10

If you would like to collaborate with another person, you can add them in the Members section, and the project will show up in the Shared Projects section.

You can also tag your project, though at the moment the tags do not do much. There are also some advanced things you can do with the Post Script Editor, if you’re so inclined.

In the end, our Boot CD’s project page looks like this.

sshot-11

Download Your CD

Once you’re finished customizing, it’s time to create an .iso that you can burn and try out! In the main Reconstructor screen, click on the gear icon in the set of icons near the top of the screen.

sshot-12

This starts the build process. It will take some time for the CD to be built (around twenty minutes for us). In the meantime, it will be added to the Jobs section of the interface. You can click on the label to see how the build process is progressing.

sshot-13

However, there’s no need to keep clicking and checking – when the build process is done, you’ll receive an email at the address that you used to sign up for the Reconstructor service.

sshot-14

The Project link starts an .iso downloading, which you can then burn and try out.

Putting Your CD On a Flash Drive

However, if you don’t want to burn a CD, or just prefer to use a USB flash drive, you can make a bootable flash drive easily using the Universal USB Installer (on Windows). We’ve covered this tool in the past, as it’s a nice and easy way to make persistent and non-persistent bootable flash drives.

If you want to create a non-persistent bootable flash drive, then in the Universal USB Installer window, choose “Try Some Other Live Linux ISO” from the dropdown box, and browse to find the .iso you downloaded from Reconstructor.

sshot-16

If you want to make a persistent flash drive – one that will remember the options you set and the additional packages you install in the Live CD environment – you can do so with a little trick.

In the Universal USB Installer window, choose the version of Ubuntu that you used as a base for your project in Reconstructor. Rename the .iso that you downloaded from Reconstructor to match what Universal USB Installer asks for. Then choose how large you want the persistent partition to be!

sshot-15

Don’t worry, your flash drive will still boot up like a normal Ubuntu Live CD.

sshot-17

And when you get to the desktop environment, you can see that the additional customizations you made through Reconstructor are there.

sshot-18

Reconstructor is a great free webapp for making your own custom Linux CDs. If you’re not comfortable with using webapps, then you can also download the open-source Reconstructor Engine by itself. You can even export projects made on the webapp and use the engine locally so you don’t have to download a big .iso file!

Links

Make you own customized Ubuntu CD with Reconstructor

Download Universal USB Installer from Pen Drive Linux

Trevor is our resident Linux geek, but always keeps his eyes open for neat Windows tricks too.

  • Published 07/15/10

Comments (17)

  1. septentriones

    Thank you, this is great. I only have a 4 GB usb to work with right now and this will make it a lot easier to make only the programs I want fit and have extra space.

  2. Nathan Gray

    Great article! I am using it now.

    In the Avast article, your instructions mention to run this via terminal:

    sudo sysctl –w kernel.shmmax=128000000

    and then enter the registration key on Avast’s first run.

    Since this is a Live CD, is there way to do this from within Reconstructor? Otherwise, I’d have to enter the command and the reg key each time.

    Thanks for the article

  3. Spydeyrch

    This is a great tool!!! I am excited to try it out once I get home this evening. One quick question, what if I want to add some ppa that aren’t in the ubuntu repos. i.e. medibuntu, ubuntu tweak, virtualbox, playdeb, bisigi themes, etc. Is there a way that I can add them to the reconstructor image prior to spinning it? Thanks.

    -Spydey

  4. Trevor Bekolay

    @Nathan Gray

    Yes, I believe you can just add that line in the Post Script Editor.

    @Spydeyrch

    Yes, there’s a Module for adding PPAs and other Apt repositories.

  5. Josh

    every time i click on the link i get a 502: Bad Gatway error. i had already made an account and built an image so not sure what is going on….

  6. Cory

    since I am new to all of this what is ubuntu and what is it used for on this site i see it every where is there a way i can recover my lost windows key it has been a very long time with out it please and thank you i dont want to pay for a new one is there a way to up grade to windows 7 without paying thank you

  7. ubuntubuzz

    valuable ibnformation there, thanks for writing this ..

  8. DavidPL

    I was able to create a custom CD just like the one shown here. But the image is 777 MB, which is too big to fit on a CD, (that holds about 700MB). I tried removing all of the packages, just keeping the Avast module, that I need the most, but the resulting image is still too big, at 755 MB.
    Then I tried adding the postscript line, to uninstall OpenOffice, but that wasn’t relevant since it’s not included in the live CD. I would be much interested if there is a way to delete some features, to get to 700 MB, so the image will fit on CD. Any suggestion much appreciated.

  9. Gary

    This is no longer free. They require $5 to activate your account which must be paid monthly through paypal. Thats a shame because i tried to do this a little too late.

  10. asd

    try UCK ubuntu customization kit…

  11. 6205

    Pendrive linux has never worked for me under Windows 7. I cannot create working bootable live USB at least not from my Kingston Data Traveller 4GB USB key..

  12. Nav

    It is not possible now…………. we’ve to pay $5…

  13. Dragan

    The service is not free.You need to pay $5

  14. mcurran

    6205, it’s a lot more reliable to download the gparted live iso for setting active partitions, which make your partition/usb (bootable). PendriveLinux is an awesome utility, as long as you understand what it is actually doing. You should partition, format, and flag your USB appropriately before running PendriveLinux, although, I don’t think flagging your main partition as active/boot is necessary (I think there is an option in the PendriveLinux GUI).

  15. spiderman2011

    I’ve managed to make my own customized ubuntu 10.04. Renamed it Ricbuntu (for my Suzuki 1411 hks Laptop – 256MB 9300M GS Nvdia). Used Karmic’s (9.10) Grub2 Kernel to fix my blank screen issue during boot up and installed it without any flaws. Also with pre-installed applications such as Ubuntu Tweak, Grub Customizer, AptOnCd, Gparted and others. Don’t know exactly how but I just used Remastersys and did some updates to do it. Install feature also available from boot on live mode. Problem is it’s about 3.3 GB. Follow my vid on
    youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvemWx0qqII and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6dDNVSWxgM

    Lastly on my Wonder how to post :http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to-upgrade-ubuntu-9-10-karmic-koala-10-04-lucid-lynx-0125268

  16. arash

    The service is not free.You need to pay $5 :-(

  17. PSR

    Why can’t you ppl try the Free and Open Source Ubuntu Customization Kit provided by Ubuntu ..

    It very easy to use and customize the CD whichever application we want..

Get Free Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 134,000 newsletter readers

Email:

Go check your email!