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Ubuntu on the Asus Eee PC: Part 1 (or How to run a functional Ubuntu install off a USB drive)

Ubuntu USB pen drive on the Asus Eee PC
I’ve been combing over various guides and instructions online for installing Ubuntu on the [[[Asus Eee PC]]], and I ran into a few kinks along the way since I don’t have a USB CD-ROM to install from and opted for a USB flash drive instead, so I thought I’d write the process out in this post in the hopes of helping those of you out there who are thinking about taking the plunge, but unsure of how it’s going to work. All of this information is available elsewhere, but I found it somewhat scattered, so I’m documenting it all here for my future self.

Step 1: Make a bootable Ubuntu USB Pendrive—First thing I did was follow all the instructions over at Pendrivelinux.com for installing Ubuntu 710 Gutsy Gibbon to a USB flash drive. I recommend printing out the full page and checking off each step as it is completed. The really great thing about this USB pendrive installation solution is that the install remains persistent. You can make changes to it, save changes, and it can always serve as a backup drive for your Eee or as a fully functional Ubuntu install that you load from time to time. To take full advantage of that we’ll activate the WiFi on the Eee PC for this pendrive install in a few steps.
Step 2: Make sure you have an active Ethernet connection—With the completed USB pendrive install completed, plug the USB drive into one of your Eee PC’s open USB ports. IMPORTANT: Make sure your Eee PC is plugged in to an active Ethernet connection via the Ethernet port. The WiFi doesn’t work right away (we’ll fix that in a few steps) and the Ethernet connection needs to be present at boot for Ubuntu to have an active internet connection.
Step 3: Boot into Ubuntu Live Persistent mode—Start up the Eee and hit the Escape key (ESC). This will bring up a dialogue asking which drive you want to boot from. Choose your USB pendrive and hit enter. It will take very little time to boot to the Ubuntu Live option page. Select the first choice (Persistent mode) and hit Return. Ubuntu will start unpacking the kernel and this can take a few minutes.
Step 4: Make those windows draggable—The most important tweak to do is to make sure all the windows in Ubuntu are draggable, so that windows that default to a taller size than the Eee PC’s default screen can be moved into a useable position. Fortunately, there are some pretty useful instructions for doing this on the Eeeuser wiki that I found via this helpful blog post. Launch the Terminal by navigating to Applications—>Accessories—>Terminal via the menu bar at the top of the screen. At the command line type in gconf-editor and hit Return. This will launch a GUI window with a long list of items in the left side bar. Follow this path:


Then uncheck constrain_y
As soon as you do this, you should be able to hit the Alt key while clicking on any window to drag it wherever you like. Since we did this on persistent mode, your USB pendrive will remember this setting whenever you use it again, however, you will need to repeat this step after you install Ubuntu onto the Asus Eee PC itself.
Step 5: Enable the WiFi—To enable WiFi on the Asus Eee PC running Ubuntu, you simply need to follow the instructions found here:

sudo apt-get install build-essential

wget 'http://madwifi.org/attachment/ticket/1679/madwifi-ng-0933.ar2425.20071130.i386.patch?format=raw'

wget http://snapshots.madwifi.org/madwifi-ng/madwifi-ng-r2756-20071018.tar.gz

tar zxvf madwifi-ng-r2756-20071018.tar.gz

cd madwifi-ng-r2756-20071018

patch -p0 < ../madwifi-ng-0933.ar2425.20071130.i386.patch?format=raw make clean make sudo make install reboot

After rebooting repeat step 3 above to get ready to install.

This post was getting pretty long, so I decided to split it up into sections. This above post includes all the introductory steps. If you stop at this point, then you already have a pretty nice Ubuntu alternative to your default Xandros installation that you can boot to via USB whenever you like.

Update: For instructions on installing Ubuntu to the internal drive see Part 2.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andrew Wickliffe 12/9/2007, 4:20 pm

    Thanks for putting this up. Been following the drama in your twitter feed and as one (also based on your twitter feed) interested in an Asus Eee… this might be useful some day

  • Brad Linder 12/9/2007, 5:52 pm

    I did the Pen Drive Linux thing as well, and managed to get WiFi working with ndiswrapper…

    Once Ubuntu was up and running, it was pretty snappy and responsive. But it literally took 6 minutes to boot. And for some reason, even though I used the persistent option, my changes didn’t stick. So I had to reenable the wireless drivers every time I booted.

    I think I’ll stick with Xandros for now. But I’m curious, does the bootup get faster the second time you boot from a working persistent USB installation?

  • c.k. 12/10/2007, 2:16 am

    Odd that your settings didn’t stick. Sounds like it wasn’t set up entirely right. It gets faster, but it is still insanely slow on the live USB stick. In the next step of this I’m going to blog about performing the full install onto the internal drive. I’ve finished setting it up nicely now, and Ubuntu boots on the Eee in about 53 seconds (without cutting any corners).

  • Brad Linder 12/10/2007, 12:05 pm

    53 seconds ain’t bad. It takes about 35-40 seconds to boot Xandros once you enable the full desktop (because it sort of half boots into easy mode first).

    Damnit, now I’m going to be tempted to install Ubuntu to the SSD. I’m already resisting the temptation to install XP. It’s funny how every time a new Windows device comes out people try to figure out how to get Linux to run on it. Now that there’s a popular Linux device, people are all excited about the fact that you can get Windows to run on it.

  • Richard Chechik 12/14/2007, 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the tags! 1st things 1st. I needed to update my flash drive, it was bootable with Ubuntu 7.04. Now its Gutsy 7.10, I’ve run your 1st steps, and everything looks great on my Eee PC. If I’ve got time you’ll see me on Part 2 tonight.

  • ls3337 12/24/2007, 11:19 pm

    Been thinking of installing another OS in the eee, hope I have the courage to do it.

    A reflection of lame ideas

  • Steve Anderson 1/6/2008, 1:35 pm

    Wow, excellent article, great step-by-step instructions… scrapped-off Xandros and installed Ubuntu no prob! Thanks man!

  • Pete Howe 1/9/2008, 11:20 am

    Thanks for the article. I’ve got Ubuntu installed, but wired ethernet isn’t working (network manager has networking enabled but the “wired network” option on the menu is greyed out. I have booted with the ethernet cable in.) Any ideas?

  • Anonymous Coward 1/10/2008, 2:42 am

    I had the exact same problem.
    I just downloaded the wifi driver and the patch onto my bootable USB ubuntu installation from another internet enabled PC, then stuck it in my eee, booted up, and installed it just fine.

    You do not have to be connected to the internet to install the build essentials. Those are already on the ubuntu live cd that you copied to your USB flash drive.

    I’m not sure yet how to fix the ethernet connection, but I’ll post back if I find a solution.

  • phredi 1/11/2008, 2:12 am

    I too had a problem with my wired ethernet not working. Check step 2… I think that fixed it for me.

  • phredi 1/15/2008, 3:34 pm

    re-built my bootable USB and now the wired ethernet doesn’t work…. I guess step 2 didn’t fix it.

  • John Cummins 1/24/2008, 11:50 am

    Thanks for putting this together.
    So Far I have two issues
    1) I don’t see how to start in persistent mode, I just get
    a boot: prompt and some F keys can’t find anywhere to
    put persistent
    2) after I’ve shutdown in ubuntu eee won’t boot again
    until I’ve disconnected the power supply and
    removed the battery.

    Any Ideas

  • John Cummins 1/25/2008, 2:14 pm

    I have now gone through the entire two posts and have ubuntu working with wifi on the Eee.
    Only additional issue was I could not get the manual option for the partitioning to work as suggested and ended up using the Guided option which worked fine.
    I’m sure this is just my ignorance, but perhaps some greater detail could help others equally ignorant.
    Of my earlier two issues #1 is now moot as the
    installed version is persistent and #2 I solve
    by after shutting down it goes to only the green led
    lit if I hold the on off button for 5 seconds it
    switches off completely.

    Very helpful post. Thanks again

  • alessio 2/1/2008, 12:25 pm

    Hey Guys!

    do you know there’s a special version of Ubunto for the eee pc?? It’s name is eeeBuntu and fixs the problem you were talking about!!

  • Eran Mahalu 3/5/2008, 2:16 am

    Hey there, and thanks for the article. I followed the exact steps of Pendrivelinux.com, created a boot flashdrive (actually a 8GB SDHC card), stuck it in the eee’s usb slot and booted with it – all i get is a blinking white cursor at the top of my screen. Any clues?

  • schmildo 3/17/2008, 3:25 am

    For the problem with the wired ethernet not working.

    I spent two days trying to fix it, and then today I found the answer on the eeeuser forums.

    Just pull the battery out for a couple of seconds and put it back in.

    I swear, after all the work-arounds I tried, and swearing etc.. I nearly cried with relief.

  • Ben 3/31/2008, 12:04 am

    I would like to confirm that the battery fix worked for me too. Thankyou very much Schmildo. Previously I had to install another network card driver to fix the problem, very ugly fix.

  • aaron 4/9/2008, 11:16 pm

    when i insert cp -rf casper disctree dists…..ext it and then it dosnt do anything, does anybody have suggestions

  • Stacey 4/16/2008, 12:41 am

    Thank you so much for posting this. It works much better than the very simple OS that it came with. Your instructions are perfect.

  • midnightcomm 4/29/2008, 11:02 am

    Have you tried eeexubuntu?

  • c.k. 4/29/2008, 9:50 pm

    midnightcomm, I did try it briefly, but I found it limiting compared to customizing my own Ubuntu installation.

  • gneap 5/20/2008, 10:01 pm

    Has anyone tried installing Ubuntu 8.04 on the eeePC?

  • pivi 5/31/2008, 5:45 am

    can some one can explain me how install ubuntu with a usb cd-rom drive with a live cd ,and with an external hard disk of 160 GB ?
    thanks for answer


  • bulitproof 6/18/2008, 8:29 am

    i run ubuntu 8.04 on my epc (on its ssd) it works perfectly, after removing the original xp installed on it when i bought it.
    i was jus wandering whats that xandros like? is it really that superfast? afaik can anyone tell me where to download it? i want to give it a go.

  • mike 7/7/2008, 10:54 pm

    xandros can be found on the xandros website. 2 problems tho, it wont be the mod asus made for the eeepc, and its not free. the price tag explains why asus put it preinstalled on the eee, to avoid complications that companys like dell are having for preinstalling ubuntu and selling it. violation of the GNU free software licence i guess…

  • Timothy Tuck 7/15/2008, 6:54 am

    Mike, just to correct you. There is no complications or violation in selling a Linux Distro reinstalled as Dell is doing. The GPL specifically allows you to charge for it if so you wish. Which is why Best Buy is able to sell copies of Ubuntu for 20 dollars.

    The Second paragraph of the GPL v2 specifically says.

    When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for them if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs, and that you know you can do these things.

    I would venture to guess if Dell is having any issues what so ever, its more a support issue in regards to have knowledgeable support staff.

    In fact there is nothing in the GPL that would prevent you from doing exactly the same thing as Best Buy is doing, going onto ebay and doing a search for linux distro’s would bear that fact out.

    Ethically my feelings is if your making money off of selling it and your not even buying it yourself you had better be contributing somehow back to the project, either with support in the forums or better yet with your wallet and donating back to the Distro itself.

    Just so the facts are straight, With the popularity of the Eee PC many new people are getting exposed to linux for the very first time.
    Personally i would rather pay for linux than be getting windows for free.
    Long live the Penguins!

  • Oyunlar 7/17/2008, 10:16 pm

    I have three comptuer using in my office and home. One of them installed kubuntu 7.10 others are ubuntu 8.

    I really love using them.

  • Lida 9/28/2008, 7:59 am

    thanks 4 ppost

  • Erling 11/4/2008, 8:29 am

    I have just installed Ubuntu on my EEE using a USB-pen, following the instructions on top of this page. But I cannot get the Wifi to work. When executing the line ‘wget http://snapshots… the reply is ‘permanently moved’ – and I am stuck. Where do I find that code posted now? Or an alternative route?

  • c.k. 11/4/2008, 8:35 am

    Erling, ah they must’ve moved it. I’d search wiki.eeeuser.org to see if anyone knows where it is now. Sorry!

  • Magnus 11/8/2008, 10:26 am

    When I boot my eee i can’t get to the menu to select where to boot from… When do i have to hit esc ?

  • c.k. 11/8/2008, 10:36 am

    Hey Magnus,

    Right after the BIOS screen pops up.

  • sohbet 11/11/2008, 7:18 pm

    Erling, ah they must’ve moved it. I’d search wiki.eeeuser.org to see if anyone knows where it is now. Sorry! Thank you very much for this information.


  • raymr 11/17/2008, 6:51 am

    Hi, I have an Eee 1000 with Xandros that I got a week ago. I created a bootable ubuntu eee 8.04.1 usb stick several times, but each time it gets to the drive selection screen, then the unetbootin screen, then nothing. None of the menu selections do anything. The BIOS has been upgraded to the latest version.

    I formatted and loaded the Cruzer 1GB usb stick from my windows 2000 machine, since Xandros doesn’t have the correct glibc version. I also ran syslinux on it and tried 2 different versions of unetbootin. So far, no boot.

    What are my options besides buying an external CD drive?

  • Graham Watkins 11/20/2008, 12:33 pm

    For those who have complained that their bootable pendrive does not save changes. I’ve found that if you create a new user and log in as that user, you can then save changes. I have no idea why this is necessary but it seems to work.

  • WS4 12/27/2008, 1:24 pm

    Line wget 'http://madwifi.org/attachment/ticket/1679/madwifi-ng-0933.ar2425.20071130.i386.patch?format=raw&#39; is not working because of wrong server so this is not enough.

  • madaerodog 4/27/2009, 4:24 am

    the newly launched ubuntu 9.04 desktop remix works out of the box for the eeepc 1000h that I have

  • cksthree 4/27/2009, 6:16 am

    Nice find! Thanks!

  • Steve Mills 1/23/2010, 4:57 am

    I bought my Asus Eee PC 1000h to learn Linux but I find that the installed Debian/Xandros hybrid does not conform to many of the Linux basics. Standard packages won’t install because their libraries are incompatible with those already on the m/c, after setting up a DB service I find that standard mechanisms for setting up a swap partition or swap file don’t work, if I boot straight into KDE then it never asks for a login, printing didn’t work properly, and many other annoying things.

    So inspired by this article I decided to wipe the machine and install Ubuntu 9.10. Fortunately it was helped by the fact that I have a USB CD drive. Anyway it all went very well and everything works a dream.

    So I would say (if asked) that it was the best thing I’d done with my Eee PC.

    The only problem that remains is that if I connect it to my hi def ASUS screen, it detects the screen and offers the full range of resolutions, but anything other than the same resolution the Eee PC uses doesn’t work. If I choose 1024×768 then the monitor has not top or bottom to it – just the desktop with those bits trimmed off. If I choose 1920×1080 then both laptop and monitor screens go dark, the USB mouse stops working and everything dies. Power off is the only thing that works.

    So I’m looking to fix that. If and when I find the fix then I’ll post it here.

    Wifi, Bluetooth, Printing, Sound – just everything else worked “out of the box”.

    Kind Regards