If you’re a Linux user (which is likely if you’re a reader of this blog), you probably know that Linux dominates the server market. The servers that power the internet, store data backups, and stream your favorite online videos, are all highly likely to be running some flavor of Linux. While the usual flavor of choice for these ventures is typically Red Hat Enterprise Linux or it’s less expensive cousin CentOS, Ubuntu Server has also carved out its own territory in data centers around the world.
However, servers aren’t just for the data center. Today’s modern home user may find a personal server at home to be quite useful. Whether it be a Media Server utilizing Plex or Kodi for your Home Theater PC needs, data storage for storing and syncing all of your irreplaceable family photos and financial records, or even running your own homelab just because you can (or even all of these!), a personal home server may be quite the valuable tool.
Enter Ubuntu Server, the server counterpart to the ever popular Ubuntu Desktop. If you’re already familiar with Ubuntu Desktop, the installation of Ubuntu Server should be essentially the same, but for the newcomers, we’ll walk you through the installation step-by-step. Much of the installation process is more or less automatic, so prepare to stare and quite a few progress bars.
Of course, the first thing you’ll want to do is download the Ubuntu Server ISO and create a bootable USB flash drive using a tool like Unetbootin, or Rufus if you’re on Windows. Once the bootable drive has been created, of course, we’ll boot into it and begin the installation.
Upon booting into your newly created USB drive, we’ll see the boot screen. There are some advanced options here, but for now, we’ll select the obvious “Install Ubuntu Server” option:
Next up is Language and Location settings, pretty self-explanatory:
Next up is the keyboard layout. For some reason, Ubuntu Server offers to detect your keyboard layout based on your typing of a select few keys, but it seems much easier to decline the auto-detection and simply select your keyboard layout from the list. Your use case may vary:
After a few seconds of progress bars, we’re once again prompted for some more information, this time we need to input the hostname. If you’re not already familiar, the hostname is just like it sounds, the “name” of your computer on the network. It can be literally anything you want it to be, it’s your server after all:
After hostname comes the user setup. In a similar fashion to Ubuntu Desktop, Ubuntu Server will have you create a non-root user account to use in your day-to-day tasks that don’t require administrator privileges. If you don’t understand what this means, don’t worry, just keep going through the guided installation steps.
On the first prompt, you’ll want to enter the user’s actual name. This is most likely you, so just enter your own name. Or whatever you want to enter, it’s up to you:
Next, you’ll create a username to go with the Real Name you just entered. Again, you can make this whatever you want:
And of course, you’ll create a password for the user account that you just created:
Ubuntu Server will then ask if you want to encrypt the user’s home folder. This is entirely up to you, and doesn’t really make a difference of user-friendliness or performance, so the choice is yours:
Next, you’ll be asked to confirm your Time Zone:
And now we reach the Disk Partitioning part of the installation. If you’re already familiar with how to partition disks in a Linux system, go ahead and partition to your heart’s content. If not, just go with the guided automatic option:
Next, you’ll need to choose which disk to actually partition. If you only have one disk, the choice is pretty simple:
And then confirm your automatic guided partitioning selection:
Next prompt is for configuring a Proxy Server. If you need this, you already know it, so if you don’t need this or don’t know what it is, just leave it blank and keep pressing forward:
Then you’ll be asked about updates. If you prefer to handle your updates manually you can go ahead and select that option, but this author prefers to automate as much as possible, so we went with the automatic security updates:
Next comes the extra software packages that Ubuntu Server makes available. If you need any of these, you likely already know it (and probably don’t need this walkthrough in the first place), so just stick with the standard system utilities and hit Enter to continue:
Next, you’ll be prompted about the GRUB Bootloader. Yet again, if you need anything other than the default options, you likely already know it, so just hit Yes to install GRUB:
At last, after progress bars abound, the installation is finally complete. While the prompt mentions ejecting any optical drives, this doesn’t pertain to you if you chose the bootable USB route mentioned at the beginning of this guide.
So once you reboot, the installation will finally be complete and you can now spend hours learning how to configure your new server...but wait! It’s all text-based command line! Where’s the desktop?
Not to worry, the desktop simply hasn’t been installed yet. Typically servers are “headless”, meaning without a Graphical User Interface (GUI), to save system resources and improve performance. This isn’t really important for home use though, so you’ll probably want to install the actual graphical desktop.
First, log in to your new text-only machine:
Now we have to simply install the Desktop. Enter the following command:
sudo apt update && sudo apt install ubuntu-desktop
The sudo command tells Ubuntu to run the following command(s) as an administrator, causing the terminal to prompt you to enter your password once you enter the command. update tells Ubuntu to check the online Ubuntu software repository for any possible newly updated software (upgrade to update any packages that are already installed that have updates available). The && combines two commands together into one line. apt install ubuntu-desktop is the command to, as you probably guessed, install the Ubuntu Desktop.
If everything went well, the terminal should spit out a huge block of text and will prompt you to confirm the installation:
Now the installation will begin, and you’ll see even more text scrolling by on the screen. If you look in the bottom left corner of the screen, you’ll see the Download progress percentage for the installation. Now might be a good time for a coffee break.
Once all the necessary files have been downloaded, they will have to actually be installed. You’ll see another progress bar at the bottom left corner of the screen:
Once the installation completes, all you’ll have to do is reboot and your desktop environment should now be running. At last, we made it to the end! You now have a freshly installed Ubuntu Server to play with and configure to your exact specifications and use case. Enjoy!
Now that you’ve got your new Ubuntu Server up and running, it’s time to put it to work! Check out Plex or Kodi for media server functionality, Syncthing for file sync across all of your devices, install VirtualBox or other hypervisor software to experiment with virtualization, or even install Apache and make your own web server. If you’re feeling altruistic, you could install folding@home and help fight cancer (this doesn’t even require a server, you can do this on your desktop devices too). You’re only limited by your own imagination and the hardware you have under the chassis. And of course, stay glued to LinuxAndUbuntu to stay up to date on the latest Linux tips, tricks, and news. Thanks for reading!