When there are so many Linux distros out there, you are probably wondering why someone would want to create their own distro instead of getting a readymade one. While in most cases a readymade distro is fine, if you want to have a distro that is 100 percent tailored to your needs (or your mum or dad’s needs), you may have to create your own custom Linux distro.
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 eight of them.
1. Linux Respin
Linux Respin is a fork of the now discontinued Remastersys. Years ago, Remastersys was one of the most popular tools to create your own Linux distro and/or a backup of your OS. Linux Respin doesn’t offer as much as Remastersys used to, but still it does a great job if you are using a distro it’s available for. Linux Respin is available for Debian, Mint and Trisquel only, which kind of limits its popularity. What I don’t like about this tool is its almost nonexistent documentation.
2. 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.
3. Ubuntu Imager
Ubuntu Imager is a good tool to create your own Ubuntu-based distro. It’s not the only such app for Ubuntu, but since it’s a good one, I chose to mention it on this list. I am not going to review it in detail because we already have a very detailed how-to with instructions for installation and operation.
4. 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 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).
5. Slax Modules Tool
If you are looking for an easy-to-use tool and like Slax – a lightweight distro based on Slackware, you are lucky because they have an online tool to pick the modules you would like included in your distro. I’ve used this tool in the past numerous times when I wanted to create a lightweight live system for friends of mine, and it works like a charm. Browse through the categories of software, pick the apps you want and add them to the build. Don’t worry if you miss a thing or two, as you can always add more apps after you build and run it.
Note, though, that this approach is considered old and deprecated, and for newer versions of Slax it’s suggested you use
apt to install software instead of relying on modules.
6. Live Magic
Live Magic is one more Debian tool for distro creation. It can create CDs, USBs, and netboot images. It’s much simpler to use than some of the other apps on this list, such as Remastersys, but it does not use your running system to build the image. Instead, follow a wizard and choose your configuration options as you go. The program will pull the packages from your repositories and install them into your image.
Another great tool with which you can create your own distribution, Revisor allows you to put your own spin on Fedora. It was initially intended as a GUI to release build tools but evolved to enable users to create customized distributions.
Revisor allows the creation of Installation Media for permanent installation of the distribution on a computer, live media, from which you can boot and use the distribution without making permanent changes to the computer, virtualization media, for use in virtual guests in Xen or KVM, and utility media, that can incorporate programs to help recover data or deal with problems in the operating system.
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, but it also supports its different 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.
These tools for creating your own custom Linux distro should help you. Their level of complexity (and power) varies, but we’ve tried to include both easy-to-use apps and apps that give you more power. For more Linux tips, see our guides on how to repair a corrupted USB drive in Linux and how to install .deb packages in Arch Linux.