Customize a Distro with Remastersys

Remastersys is a complete system backup tool, but it can also be used to create your own customized remix of an Ubuntu or Debian installation. Basically, you customize a running system and create an install disk that will recreate it. If you've ever wanted to create your own distribution, you won't believe how simple this is to use. Mikebuntu, here we come...

These examples all presume that you are basing your personalized remix on Ubuntu 10.10, as there are a few extra steps involved in the creation of a Debian remix.

The approach is very simple: you install a Linux system, alter it, run Remastersys and then deploy a customized installation disk that will recreate that altered system. The installer works in the normal Ubuntu way, so any files that were lying about in your original home directory, for example, won't be copied across. This also means that each program will be installed with clean, unaltered settings. There are, however, ways of including customizations, if you need to.

One handy way of working with Remastersys is to use it with a VM such as VirtualBox. This way, you install Debian or Ubuntu within a virtual machine, customize it, and Remastersys creates the installation disk for you. There is currently a 4GB limit to the size of the ISO file that it can create, which should be sufficient in most cases.

Once you have a fresh install of Ubuntu ready, begin by adding the Remastersys repository to the file /etc/apt/sources.list

# Remastersys
deb karmic/


Then refresh the package list by either clicking on reload in Synaptic or by typing

sudo apt-get update

You can now customize away by adding and removing packages on the system. When you've got things how you want them, run Remastersys. Once you've installed it, using the package manager, it's located under the the Gnome system menu.

Here, you will be presented with a set of options to fine tune the installation disk. When you are ready, click on the “dist” option, and after much churning, an ISO file is created. Note that the default target location for the ISO is /home/remastersys/remastersys/, rather than in the personal home directory of the main user.

If you have carried this out within a VM, you will have to establish some sort of file sharing in order to get the ISO file back onto your host machine so that you can burn it to a disk. Boot from the disk in the normal way and you'll be presented with a fairly typical set of install options. The installation itself uses the standard Ubuntu installer.

The boot screen of a Remastersys installation disk.

This has been a quick overview of what Remastersys can do in terms of creating custom installation media. It's also a full system backup tool, and there is quite a lot of scope for further customizing the set of files that are copied during installation. Check out the Remastersys website for more details.


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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xiaojiektty's picture

SalineOS Remaster

Tony Brijeski's picture

lagenda - SalineOS has customized his setup of remastersys including the installer and I have nothing to do with it. I've asked the developer of SalineOS to create a fork for himself with a different name so folks don't get confused as I don't support the changes he has made.

Thank you for reviewing remastersys Michael. One of my long time users posted the link to this on my forum.

Some things to look for in the future:

1 - I have the remastersys ppa on launchpad now and will be putting the files up there on the ppa for ubuntu as soon as I can

2 - working on setting up a signed repository for both the ubuntu and debian versions of remastersys

3 - Some fixes are coming to both the debian and ubuntu versions in the next week or so to take care of special case issues that have come to my attention

4 - I have been thinking about including my personal scripts for copying the relevant information needed to populate the /etc/skel folder making it easier for folks to create a distribution with their own settings.

SalineOS Remaster

Michael Reed's picture

No problem. It's a pleasure to cover a great piece of software. Hopefully, I'll be able to cover it again in more detail in the future.

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


lagenda's picture

ISO created by remastersys ask for login and password. I know the login. What is the password ?

BTW Saline OS ( made using Remastersys tool.

I believe the password on the

angelsguitar's picture

I believe the password on the Live CD in blank (I mean, no password - just press enter)


lagenda's picture

ISO created by remastersys ask for login and password. I know the login. What is the password ?

BTW Saline OS ( made using Remstersys tool.

username password

Amol's picture

There is a configuration file - /etc/remastersys.conf where you can set things like the name of the livecd/dvd, the live session username, other files to exclude from the cd/dvd, etc.

Remastersys on Debian

JMR's picture

I always get it working just fine in Ubuntu or Ubuntu-derivatives

However, Debian is another beast. So far haven't had luck getting Remastersys working on pure Debian

What are the additional steps needed? I did visit the Remastersys site, but to be honest with you got all confused :-(

I got confused too

Michael Reed's picture

I got confused too. According to the site -

it seems that you need some kernel modules, that may or may not be present by default. It also sounds like the installer might not be the standard Debian installer either.

Sorry I can't be any real help. Personally, if were to attempt it, I'd try it out in a VM, see what errors crop up with recourse to the website when needed. It looks to me like the maintainer has limited resources and he's decided to put more work into the Ubuntu version.

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

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