How to install Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server in VirtualBox

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How to install Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server in VirtualBox

How-to written and screenshots taken on 2020 March 67 min read

In production I would normally use an EC2 or Lightsail instance on AWS to run Ubuntu, but for testing I install Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server in VirtualBox. This guide show you (and me) how to do that.

1. Setup a VM

  1. I assume you have installed VirtualBox. This is pretty straightforward through the Ubuntu Software dashboard. Search for VirtualBox and press install. When installed, open VirtualBox. Not much will be visible as you haven't configured any virtual machines (VM's) yet. Let's create one: click New.

    VirtualBox with 6 running VM's. 3 of them have Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server installed. 2 run Ubuntu Desktop and 1 Windows 10.

    You can see in the screenshot I already have 6 VM's running.

  2. Give the VM a name, for example Ubuntu 18 LTS joeplaaDock (I reused the image from the Docker installation manual). Choose Linux as Type and Ubuntu as Version. These are probably already selected by VirtualBox based on your VM name.
    Depending on what you want to do, give the VM at least 1 GB (1024 MB) of memory. This can be increased or decreased later if needed. Now select Create a virtual hard disk now and click Create.

    Set the basic VM settings: name, OS and memory amount.

  3. Click Settings to open the VM's settings. On the left select System and in the Motherboard tab deselect Floppy (who needs that nowadays?). On the Processor tab increase the number of Processors if needed.

    4 of 8 vCPU's selected on the Processor tab in the VM System settings screen.

  4. In the Storage screen we select the Empty disc drive and browse to the Ubuntu server iso-file. You can download it directly from the server (visually through your VNC connection) or save it to a Samba share as I did. Don't forget to select Live CD/DVD, so it will be used as initial boot-drive. Also click the virtual hard drive and increase the size to at least 16 GB.

    Add the Ubuntu server iso file as disk drive in the Storage section of the VM settings.

  5. Next I disable audio, but you don't have to. In the Network settings I select a dedicated Network Adapter. That gives me the possibility to have my router assign a fixed IP address to this VM later. To do that, select Bridged Adapter and select the Adapter. Just for testing you can leave it at NAT.

    Select a specific adapter for this VM. Choose Bridged Adapter and select which one.

  6. All other settings are optional and can be left at the defaults. Click OK to close the settings and press the Start button to launch the VM.

2. Install Ubuntu

  1. VirtualBox will boot the VM from the attached .iso file and the Ubuntu installer will start. The first question to answer is what language you want.

    List of language for Ubuntu. I'll choose English

  2. Next we can select the Keyboard configuration. You can have the installer Identify your keyboard or select it yourself. I know I have the English (US) layout and the ...euro on 5... variant.

    Select your keyboard configuration.

  3. Now select the Network connection. As I want to use a fixed IP address, I'll go into the router now and link this mac-address to a fixed IP. You can accept the defaults if you only want to setup a VM for testing.

    Select the network device if you added multiple to the VM.

  4. In the next screen you can set your proxy settings. I have never done that, so I'll skip this and continue.

  5. Ubuntu then asks you if you want to add a mirror for downloading software. I never did it, but you can if you know there is a fast one nearby. Like on the same network.

  6. Next we come to the Filesytem setup screen. Here we select Use An Entire Disk.

    Select to use the entire disk for Ubuntu installation.

  7. Now we can choose the disk to use. We only have the virtual disk we created earlier, so not much to choose from.

    Choose the volume to install Ubuntu on. We only have the VBOX_HARDDISK

    Yes, I forgot to increase the disk size to at least 16 GB. That's going to hurt later.

  8. The installer will show you an overview of the changes it's going to make to the volume. Which is fine for us, so let's do it.

    Proposed formatting of the filesystem by the installer.

  9. Enter your Profile setup: name, server name, username and password.

    Enter a lot of names to define your servers profile.

  10. We definitely want to use SSH to log into the server through a terminal later, so we want to select Install OpenSSH server.

    Select Install OpenSSH server.

  11. Now we can select some Featured Server Snaps. These are pieces of software that will be installed with Ubuntu. We don't want any, so select none of them. You can however select docker if you only want to use basic functionality, as most documentation isn't written for snaps yet.

    A list of featured server snaps.

  12. The installation will now start.

    Installation running, showing installation feedback.

  13. When the installation is done, the bottom "button" will now say Reboot. That is what we'll do.

    The installation is done. We can now press Reboot.

  14. The snext creen will now say "Please remove the installation medium, then press ENTER:". Remove the image from the virtual drive by clicking on the cd icon in the bottom bar below the virtual screen. Now press ENTER.

    Installation done: remove installation medium notification.

  15. After reboot, the VM will show the machines SSH keys. We can ignore them, but obviously copy and store them if you need to secure your VM.

    The VM shows SSH keys and fingerprints.

    Normally you'd never share these keys in a screen or otherwise, but this VM will be destroyed anyway.

  16. Open a terminal (PuTTY in Windows) to the VM. It will show a warning that the server and terminal key don't match. Somehow you can do something here to make sure the keys in the image above match the keys in PuTTY. I don't know how, but as I'm confident I'm connecting to my own VM, and not a hacked server, I'll press Yes to continue.

    PuTTY terminal showing unknown fingerprint warning.

  17. Ubuntu will ask for my password and after entering it successfully I'm connected.

    User connected to Ubuntu server in terminal.

  18. Run the update commands after which the installation is finished. To do that either enter:

    sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade


    sudo -i
    apt update && apt upgrade

    Both will ask for your password again, but be very aware that with the second option you can easily do a lot of damage to your system. Only use when you know what you are doing.