Installation of the operating system: ubuntu 20.04 homeserver/nas, part 2

First, the operating system Ubuntu Server 20.04 (Focal Fossa) installed. This version introduced a new installer, so the installation is different from previous versions.

The chapter on partitioning hard disks is divided into two parts. Depending on whether you use a system with internal hard drives and software RAID, or whether you use an external RAID enclosure, partitioning works differently. With a RAID enclosure, the installation is even easier, as the setup of the software raid is completely eliminated.

Ubuntu 20.Download 04 for server

The operating system can be downloaded and used for free. I recommend the download from the german site

On the download page of you choose the server edition, which can be downloaded as ISO file via the direct link.

ISO file transferred to a USB stick for installation

The operating system is later installed from a USB stick on the home server. Therefore, the ISO file must first be transferred to a USB stick. However, you can’t just copy the file to the stick. Instead, a program is needed to create a bootable USB stick from the ISO file.

For this I recommend the program Balena Etcher. Etcher is free, open source and available for Linux as well as Windows and MacOS.

For Linux, the program is available as an AppImage. After the download you get a ZIP file which you have to unpack first. From this you get an AppImage file, which you can start directly with a double click.

If the program does not start, you may have to allow the file to run as a program. Under Ubuntu or Linux Mint, right-click on the AppImage file and select "Properties" from the context menu. Here one changes to the tab "Access rights" and sets the hook at "Allow the file to run as a program". Afterwards Etcher should open with a double click on the file.

Run file as program

If Balena Etcher does not open after a double click, it must first be allowed to run as a file.

The transfer of the ISO file to the USB stick with Etcher is then self-explanatory. After the copying process is finished, you can remove the stick and plug it into the home server to start the installation.

Create USB stick with Balena Etcher

Installation of Ubuntu Server 20.04 start

Now the operating system can be installed on the home server from the USB stick. To do this, the computer must be booted from the stick. How this works is unfortunately different for each computer.

  • Often the computer recognizes a bootable USB stick and boots it automatically.
  • Otherwise, shortly after booting, the boot screen will show which key to use to select the boot medium. Often this is the key F11 or F12, which must be pressed when starting the computer.
  • Sometimes the boot medium must also be set in the Bios/UEFI. How this is started is also displayed in the boot screen. Mostly the Bios, resp. Call UEFI with the delete key (DEL).

If this has worked, one is welcomed by the Ubuntu installation program.

First the language selection is started. Here one selects the desired language, in this case "German". Possibly now the reference follows that a new version of the installation program is available. Here one selects "Update to new installer". If the installation program is already up to date, this query does not come up.

The next step is to set the keyboard layout and language. With a normal German keyboard one selects here accordingly both with allocation and with variant "German" from.

Then the configuration of the network interface follows. If you are unsure here, leave the settings unchanged and go directly to the button "Done". If you want to assign a static IP address for your server and you already know which IP address is free, i.e. not assigned by the DHCP server of the router, you can assign a static IP address directly here. The configuration in the installer is easier than the subsequent configuration via text files.

The now following query for a proxy can be done in a home network simply with the button "Done" can be skipped.

In the next step you can change the servers from which the system gets software and operating system updates. This step can also be done with "Done"Skip directly.

Partitioning of the media

Now follows the partitioning and formatting of the data media. This differs depending on whether you use the classic variant with built-in hard disks and software RAID, or whether you use an external RAID enclosure. Here you have to choose the option that fits to your own setup.

In this tutorial, the operating system is installed in both cases on a single separate data medium. For example of a small, internal SSD. The actual data, such as pictures, videos, documents are stored on a RAID system, so that these data are protected against a hard disk failure.

The installation of the operating system on a separate data medium simplifies the setup clearly, because in this case the automatic partitioning for the system hard disk can be used. This is an enormous advantage, since the manual partitioning of the system disk differs from system to system, so that a generally valid instruction can hardly be written for it. The partitioning differs, depending on whether the motherboard has a UEFI, a UEFI in Bios compatibility mode or still an old BIOS. Sometimes only the setup of a master boot record (MBR) is supported, or only the GUID partition table (GPT).

The automatic partitioning recognizes independently which settings must be made for the system disk, so that the steps described here should function on all systems.

I think the lower reliability for the system is acceptable. On the system disk there are no important data, as videos, documents, pictures etc. be stored securely on the RAID. Thus in case of a failure of the system disk only the installation of the operating system must be repeated. Hopefully a backup of the configuration files exists, so that the configuration files only have to be copied. In case of doubt, this is even faster and easier than rebuilding a defective RAID on the command line.

Option 1: Internal hard disks, software RAID

With this option the operating system is installed on a single separate disk. Additionally a software RAID is set up from two further, likewise internal volumes. The data on this RAID is always mirrored on both hard disks, so no data is lost if one hard disk fails.

First the automatic partitioning for the system disk is used. For this one selects the option "Use a whole disk". Use the arrow keys to navigate downwards. With the Enter key a menu opens, which lists all available disks. Here you select the disk on which the operating system should be installed. The easiest way to recognize this volume is by its size. The two hard disks of the same size are used for the RAID. The third disk with a different size is used for the system.

With the button "Done" one confirms the selection. This completes the setup of the system disk. Now an overview of the available disks and their partitioning is displayed.

Above you see the system disk, which was already partitioned automatically. This may look different from the screenshot below depending on the system you are using. Below you can see the two unused disks for RAID.

To create the software RAID under Ubuntu Server 20.04 to create, one selects now the menu option "Create software RAID (md)".

In the following step a name can be assigned if desired. However, you can also leave the default "md0. In any case you should use a simple name without spaces.

As RAID level one selects "1 mirrored". This mirrors all data on both hard disks. So all data is always present on both disks.

Under "Devices you can activate the two unused hard disks and then select "Done".

One arrives now again at the overview with the available disks and partitions. Under "Available devices" now a new volume is created. The just created RAID system. The next step is to define how the system should use the RAID.

To do this, use the arrow keys to scroll through the list until the RAID system (md0 new) is activated. Pressing the Enter key opens a new menu. Here one selects the option "Format" from.

Now the window with the formatting options opens. At Format you can leave the option "ext4" unchanged. This is the default file system of Ubuntu and many other Linux operating systems. Ext4 has proven itself over many years.

Under "Mount" the folder is specified, over which the RAID system is later merged into the operating system. Drives do not have letters under Linux, as under Windows, but are mounted as folders. Here one should change the Mountpunkt absolutely. First select the option "Other" and then specify a path. In this series I use /mnt/storage. With "Done" the settings are taken over.

Now you come back to the summary of the file system configuration. Here one should see now on the one hand the partitioning of the system disk and the RAID system under /mnt/storage. If everything is correct here, the partitioning can be started with "Done" can be completed and the installation of the operating system can be continued. In the next step you have to confirm that the settings you have just made should be applied. Here it is pointed out that all possibly existing data on the hard disks are lost. Confirm this with "Continue".

Option 2: External USB RAID enclosure

Also with this option the operating system is installed on a separate disk, for the reasons mentioned above. However, the important data, such as pictures, videos and documents do not end up on an internally installed software RAID, but on an external RAID enclosure that is connected via USB.

This setup simplifies the installation and the later maintenance again clearly. With this method you don’t need to set up or monitor a RAID system. This is done automatically by the RAID enclosure. If a hard disk fails, you only need to replace it in the case (be sure to read the manual, the procedure varies depending on the model). For the computer it looks like a normal USB hard drive.

First the disk for the operating system is set up. To do this, select the option "Use a whole hard disk". Use the arrow keys to move down and press the Enter key to expand the list of available disks. Here you select the internal hard disk, which can be recognized by the storage space. With the button "Done" the settings are taken over.

You now get to the overview of all existing disks and partitions. Above you can see the automatically created partitions of the system disk. At "Available devices" the external RAID system connected via USB is displayed. Use the arrow keys to select the operating system and press the Enter key to open the other options. Here one selects the menu item "Format".

In the following window, select the file system under "Format" Ext4. This is the default file system of Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions.

Under "Mount" the mount point for the external RAID system is specified. Under Linux drives get no letter assigned, like under Windows. Instead they are mounted as folders in the file system. This folder is the so-called mount point. Here you first choose the option "Other" and then assigns its own path. In this article series I use /mnt/storage. With the button "Done" the settings are taken over.

Now you get back to the overview of available disks and partitions. Here you can see the automatically created partitions for the operating system and the external RAID system, which is mounted under /mnt/storage. With "Done" the partitioning and formatting will now be done automatically based on the settings made.

In the following step you have to confirm that you want to apply the settings you have just made. Here it is pointed out that all possibly existing data on the hard disks are lost. Confirm this with "Continue".

Continue the installation of the operating system

The following steps are again identical for all hardware configurations. In the following step the account of the main user/administrator is created, as well as a name for the server is assigned. You can change these settings as you like. But the server name must not contain any spaces or special characters.

Then the installer offers to install an SSH server directly. You should activate this option, because the SSH server will be needed later for remote maintenance anyway.

Now a further overview with additionally installable software appears. Nothing is selected here. All required programs will be installed and configured manually later. Therefore the step with the button "Done" is skipped.

Now the actual installation of the operating system takes place automatically, based on the settings made. This also downloads and installs existing updates directly.

Once the installation is complete, you will see the "Reboot". Pressing it restarts the computer and loads the operating system you just installed.

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