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.
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:
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.
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.