When we talk about Linux distros, the main and best known one that we can refer to is Ubuntu. This distro, based on Debian and controlled by Canonical, offers a perfect balance between Linux philosophy and ease of use, a perfect gateway for new users, and a great system for the more experienced. However, one of the things that advanced users complain about is the large number of packages and programs that it installs by default, many of them unnecessary. And to solve this problem, Canonical launched a special installation mode, the «minimal installation«.
First of all, indicate that we should not confuse the minimal installation of Ubuntu with the MinimalCD. The latter is a super-shortened version of the distro that only includes some basic Linux tools, but nothing else. Everything that we want to grow will have to be installed by us using commands, so it is only recommended for advanced users.
What is the minimum installation?
The normal Ubuntu installation includes a collection of packages and programs selected by Canonical to provide the best possible experience for users. In this way, as soon as you install the distro from scratch, it will be ready to start working with it and perform all kinds of tasks.
With the arrival of Ubuntu 18.04, in April 2018, Canonical added a new type of installation to the program, the “minimal installation”. This type of installation, as the company describes, brings us the smallest installation of the system, without sacrificing its functionalities. Includes a Web navigator, the basic tools of the system, and nothing else. Total, remove more than 80 packages (and all its dependencies) with respect to the normal installation, also removing programs like Thunderbird, Transmission and LibreOffice, among others.
With these changes we managed to change the system from occupying about 4 GB in its normal installation to occupying «only» 3.5 GB. It is not a great gain, and we are not going to notice any improvement in system performance either. We will simply have a somewhat cleaner system without standard tools that we do not need.
Can we work with minimal Ubuntu?
As we have explained, although up to 80 different packages are removed, these are optional packages. At first, they do not affect at all for a basic use of the operating system. We can surf the Internet without problems, and use the typical Linux tools and the GNOME desktop. What we can miss is an office suite, since it eliminates LibreOffice. But it’s nothing we can’t fix by installing the suite from scratch using the APT package manager.
Therefore, if we are advanced users with experience within Linux, we can perfectly install this minimal version, and thus we will have a somewhat more minimalist system without sacrificing other functionalities. On the contrary, if we are taking the first steps within Linux, and we do not want to complicate ourselves, then the normal installation is better. There will be no performance difference, and the space we gain (or lose, in this case) is only about 500 MB.