With so many Linux distros out there, you are probably wondering why someone would want to create their own distro instead of getting a ready-made one. While in most cases a ready-made distro is fine, if you want to have a distro that is 100 percent tailored to your needs, you may have to create your own.
With the right tools, creating your own Linux distro isn’t as hard as it seems, though it takes time for sure. There are many tools for the purpose – some of them are universal, and some of them are distro-specific. Here are a few of them.
1. Linux Live Kit
Linux Live Kit is a tool you can use to create your own distro or back up your system. It prefers Debian but fortunately can be run on other distros as well, provided it supports aufs and squashfs kernel modules. Linux Live Kit has a very short and sweet wizard on how to build a distro – just follow the steps and you are done. The entire process happens within the confines of a bash script that grabs all your system files and plops them into a bootable ISO, recreating whatever you're running into a live image.
If you want to take your entire system with you on a USB stick, you won't need to scroll down any further. Linux Live Kit is probably the easiest tool to do this with.
Also read: What is Void Linux and How to Install It
2. Linux from Scratch
If you want to have absolute control on what is included in your distro and have lots of free time, you can have a look at the Linux from Scratch project. LFS has very extensive documentation and is a great learning resource about Linux in general, not just about how to create your own distro. Linux from Scratch allows you to build your own customized Linux system entirely from source code.
LFS is not exactly a tool like others on this list, but you can still use it for the same purpose – to create your own Linux distro (and to learn a lot about Linux as a whole).
Also read: How to Test Various Linux Distros Online
Customizer isn't under active development anymore, but that, according to its developer, is because it is considered stable. It is another tool with which you can remix Ubuntu, and it also supports different Ubuntu flavors, like Xubuntu and Kubuntu. A critical restriction, though, is that the host system under which you are using it should share the same release number and architecture as the guest system you are remixing.
4. MX Snapshot
If you're looking for an in-distro tool that can easily reproduce your entire system from a GUI, look no further than MX Linux's own MX Snapshot. Although this locks you into using MX, you just might find switching to this distro worth it (check out our review of MX Linux here) if an easy-to-use snapshot ISO creator is that important to you.
In a few clicks and with some patience, MX Snapshot automates the entire distro packaging process for you, dropping your custom distro into an ISO file for you on your Home directory. Convenient!
Although MX Linux is based on Debian, unfortunately, you will not be able to use MX Snapshot for other distros because it looks for files that are specific to this one.
If you're an avid Arch user, you may have used snapshotting tools and might even be using the BTRFS file system to back up your data. But did you know that all Arch-based distros have access to a nifty little tool for creating ISO files?
Known as archiso, this command line tool will create a complete ISO of Arch Linux including any custom extras you'd like to add in its configuration files. The Wiki in the link provides a wealth of information on how to properly configure archiso to do what you want.
Although the tool doesn't just plop your system into a bootable image, its features allow for an incredible amount of customization, including the installation of applications your system doesn't currently have. It even includes a portable virtual machine to test your image!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are so many of these Linux creation tools command-line based?
In this list, most of the tools require some use of the command line, which may be a bit intimidating for newer users of Linux. Archiso is an especially difficult one, but if you're used to Arch Linux, it may not be a surprise.
At the same time, you might notice that the two GUI tools here (Customizer and MX Snapshot) are essentially one-stop shops that don't offer a significant amount of flexibility from the interface itself. In general, command-line tools offer far more advanced features and personalization, making the process of learning how to use them well worth it for some people.
Which of these Linux creation tools is the easiest to use?
From a pure ease-of-use perspective, MX Snapshot takes the cake. However, if you want something that doesn't lock you down to one distro or even one family of distros, Linux Live Kit is hands-down the most usable.
How do I install these custom Linux distros on a new system?
If you're looking to re-base your personal Linux distro on another machine, all you have to do is format its boot drive and clone the entire USB stick onto it. You may have to reconfigure "/etc/fstab" and other configuration files to properly reflect the configuration of the new machine, but if you're accustomed to working with your system files, it shouldn't take longer than a few minutes.
Image credit: © Esan br / Share Alike 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)
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