I realized the other day, based on repeated questions, that many people don’t know which CD is the best to download. When looking at a list of CD options from a download page the options can be very overwhelming. I thought I would break things down for everyone today. Hopefully this’ll help new users find the right CDs, leading the fewer installation problems, better hardware support and a better overall experience.
First you need to decide whether you want the Desktop, Alternate or Server CD. After you’ve made that decision you’ll need to make sure you get the right architecture for your machine. Here is a breakdown:
The Desktop CD
The Desktop CD allows you to preview Ubuntu before you install anything. It’ll boot into a LiveCD with full functionality with an option to install during this preview. This installer seems to install things more quickly than the Alternate (below) and walks you through the installation in just a few steps. This is the suggested method for most new users. If you want to see what Ubuntu has to offer with no strings attached you’ll most likely want the Desktop CD.
The Alternate CD
The Alternate CD can be a bit intimidating to some users, although many of the options are the same as the Desktop CD. This installer is completely text-based and does seem to take a bit more time to install the system, but it has a few better support options when compared to the Desktop CD. A few things that I have found better supported on the Alternate CD are things such as RAID, LVM and boot-loader functions such as bypassing the grub installer or working with other boot loaders such as Acronis. I, personally, prefer using the Alternate CD installer.
The Server CD
The Server CD is for installation on server machines such as web or mail servers. It has a server-specific kernel, smaller memory footprint and only takes about 500M for a full installation. This website is hosted on an Ubuntu run web server based on this Server CD. To give you an idea, the server is a Pentium III 500mhz with 256M total memory and the Ubuntu Server CD keeps it running like a champ! If you need a home or office based server this would be the right CD for you.
Now for the architecture. You need to make sure that you’re installing the CD that best supports your computer architecture. Whether it is a Mac (old-school or Intel), Intel based PC or AMD based PC. You’ve got to make sure you’re getting the right version for your hardware for best support and performance.
Here is a quick breakdown of some of the major machine types that are best suited for the i386 download. This is generally the most widely used / most popular hardware type. If you’re not sure what you have this is probably the safest guess.:
Intel Pentium (1-4)
Intel Pentium M
Intel Mobile Pentium 4
Intel Celeron M
Intel Core Solo, Duo (Not Core 2)
AMD Geode (GX, LX, NX)
AMD K6/K7 (Duron, Athlon)
AMD Sempron models without AMD64 support
Here is a quick breakdown of some of the major machine types that are best suited for the AMD64 download:
AMD Athlon 64
AMD Turion 64
AMD Sempron models with AMD64 support enabled
Intel processors that support EM64T: Intel Core 2 processors, Pentium D, Pentium Extreme Edition, some versions of Pentium 4 and Celeron D
This architecture is best for those of you with the old-school Mac machines. Anything pre-Intel on Mac hardware is best suited for this installation. These are usually referred to as G3, G4 or G5. Note: This architecture is still available for download but will not be available or supported in future Ubuntu releases.
I hope this helps people find the right fit for the right machine. I want to make Ubuntu a pleasant experience for everyone and I believe making sure you know the right installation options for the right machine is the basis of it all. If you have any hardware or installation type suggestions please leave a comment and it may be added to the post.