NetbootCD: Install Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian & More From One CD [Linux]

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Tired of burning a new CD every time a new version of your favourite Linux distro comes out? Then stop. Use NetbootCD to download and install your choice of Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Mandriva, CentOS or Slackware from a single disk.¬†This handy disk downloads and runs the net installation tools for several distros, and is always capable of finding the latest version of your Linux operating system. Burn this tool once and you’ll never need to burn a Linux distro to CD again.

Using NetbootCD isn’t necessarily easy. You’ll need to learn to use text-based installers instead of the GUI versions found on live CDs. To me though, this is a small price to pay to contain my steadily-growing pile of Linux CDs.

Getting Started

First things first, you’ll need to download NetbootCD and burn the ISO to CD. If you’re really old-fashioned you can also grab the floppy drive version of NetbootCD, but for most people the CD is what you’re looking for.¬†Whatever version you use, boot the disk and you’ll see a menu like this:

You’ll need to use the arrow keys to browse the menu, because your mouse will not work here. Before you start installing anything I highly recommend you run the “download” option. This will ensure you are using the most recent version of the NetbootCD script, and as such have access to the latest versions of your distro.

Once you’ve updated, click “install” to see your choice of Linux distros:

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Pick the distro you want to run and you can pick which version of that distro you want. For example, here are the Ubuntu choices:

Generally you’re going to want the latest released version, but the choice is entirely up to you. Pick what you want and the download process will begin:

Note that your wireless setup may not play nicely with NetbootCD. To keep things simple, plug your computer directly into your router or modem with an ethernet cable.

Net Installations

Eventually your computer will load the net installation tool for your distro. Install the way you normally would, following the prompts and answering any questions. Since every package needs to be downloaded before it is installed, this will take longer than usual.

Depending on your distro, you may need to pick which desktop you want installed. For example: Ubuntu users will be given a choice between the Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu desktops, to name a few (why are there so many versions of Ubuntu?)

Be sure to choose something or you may end up with a command-line-only system. Note that the spacebar selects your option and enter continues to the next step of installation.

Once you’ve got everything the way you want it, you’re ready to boot into your Linux distro of choice.


I really like the idea of only needing one Linux installation CD around for my favorite versions of Linux, as well as future versions. If you like not to waste CDs but still use GUI installation tools, I suggest you check out Unetbootin or Linux Live USB Creator. Both of these tools make it possible to boot Linux from a USB drive or an SD card.

How do you like to install Linux? Let us know in the comments below, along with any tips for first-time users of NetbootCD.

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19 Comments - Write a Comment



It looks good. Maybe I try it. :)


Jesse Niou

I’ve been a big fan of YUMI. It allows you to have multiple distributions on a flash drive. I have a 8GB drive filled with Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, UBCD, and loads of assorted recovery and diagnosis tools. It also comes with its own bootloader to avoid the bootup problems that Ubuntu tends to have with Windows Vista or Win7.Other alternatives include the popular Unetbootin, and Universal Boot Installer. Note that these can only install a single distribution.



Thanks a lot. Didn’t know such tool exists. I’m writing it on CD. Wow! I haven’t used my CD-RW for 1 year, 1.5 maybe. I think it’ll prove to be¬†useful on other machines I might encounter. As for me I install¬†the gnus from flash.¬†


Andrei Deic?

Does it work PPPoE connection  Рuser and password authentication Рfrom that download menu ?


I honestly have no idea, but I haven’t found a specific mention of this…


Iam Bheèélaät

can I use it in virtual box?


You sure can. In fact, all the above screenshots happened in VirtualBox. 


Dennis Primm

I was just about to ask the same question as Iam (above).  It would be really neat to use with Virtual Box!!!


Brandon Brown

Wow, this puts a big load on networks :/ Downloading an ISO EACH time you do an install? I’ll stick to my booklet of LiveCDs for now until we get fiber installed up to our towers.


That’s true, which is why I recommend using this only if you install your versions of Linux with each new release. Those with many computers will prefer local disks.¬†

Jan Kardell

I’m a openSUSE user, and I prefer to download the whole FTP distribution to a local fileserver. On that server I have network boot vith BOOTP and TFTP, so I can start the openSUSE installer from there. No more CDs or floppies!


Pat H

I’m a big fan of Remastersys. Not only is it easy to use but it preserves all your installed packages and conf files into a burnable ISO. Great for replicating desktop or server installations so you don’t have to waste time ‘tweaking’ the install. Won’t do network installs though.



NetbootCD looks nice, Justin, but can it help me with a distro like PCLinuxOS, that originally was based in Mandriva?.


 Sadly it only works with the distros listed above. Sorry!



YUMI is OK if you spend the time to download the distros ahead of time and store them all on your USB key. NetBoot is good if you want to get a distro you haven’t downloaded yet. That way you have a lot more distros available than can fit on your thumb drive.

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