The 9w installer

The 9w (debian) installer is uploaded as hybrid iso files, which can be used from CD, DVD and USB drives.

9w can run in text mode and graphics mode. It works with very low RAM in graphics mode and with extremely low RAM in text mode.

The original 9w system is based on debian wheezy (version 7) with a non-pae 32-bit kernel, but it can install any system that is portable enough to be installed by cloning or flashing an image into a drive. In this case (and so far), 9w is used to install Ubuntu based systems. It is not limited to installing debian systems.

9w does not work like standard linux installers. Instead 9w 'proper' installs/flashes/clones from a compressed image file to the target drive using the shell script mkusb. This means that the partition table will be overwritten and the whole drive will be used.

OBI-9w runs the One Button Installer from the 9w system. It installs from a tarball to the target drive. This means that all the features of the OBI are available. OBI-9w can create dual boot systems. 9w installs only in BIOS mode (not in UEFI mode).

See also the following links,



Target system size for '9w proper'

The current compressed images expand to 4 GB (3 999 268 864 bytes) and can be installed into drives of at least that size. If the target drive is bigger, it is highly recommended to grow the partition and file system with gparted (while still running the 9w installer).

It may help to get or at least view some other files (for example the help file and md5sum file) from


9w iso files


Use md5sum to check the downloaded file iso

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS text non-pae 'Trusty-npae124-text-9w.iso' and 'obi_Trusty-nonpae-txt5-9w.iso'

A 9w installer using a compressed image file. This method uses the whole drive (overwrites the partition table).


OBI-9w installer

An OBI-9w installer using a tarball (One Button Installer). This method can install dual boot systems.


These iso files can install a system with a non-pae kernel for old CPUs based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS mini.iso and an Ubuntu community non-pae kernel developed by phillw. They are uploaded for users with old computers, where a generic pae kernel will not work. But it can used in any Intel/AMD computer where standard 32-bit kernels work, and can be a good alternative for a portable 'installed system' on a USB pendrive. This system can run with 80 MB RAM in some computers. The exact level depends on how much RAM is pre-allocated for example to run the graphics, so 96 MB RAM is 'on the safe side'.

The intention is that this re-spin with the non-pae kernel will follow the updating/upgrading cycle with point releases of Lubuntu 14.04 LTS. See this link.

Desktop environment, window manager or server package

After booting into this installed Ubuntu mini system with a text interface, if you wish, install

  • a desktop environment, lubuntu-desktop or xubuntu-desktop or the minimal lubuntu-core or
  • only lxde or
  • only openbox or fluxbox.
  • You can also install server packages and create an Ubuntu Server (in text mode).

RAM and disk usage

This link shows details of RAM and disk usage /RAM_&_disk_usage for the desktop environments and window managers offered for installation.

Trusty beta 1 versions

These versions are older, but can be updated and upgraded after installation.


Small 9w iso file with guidus and gparted installed


New: Tool to help migrating from Windows to linux

Small iso files with guidus and gparted installed are uploaded. The intention is that they can be downloaded and installed by cloning: in Windows installed for example with Win32 Disk Imager, and in MacOS installed with a cloning tool. It is best to use a built-in GUI tool with some security. (Otherwise, if no other alternative is found, you can use the dangerous dd and double-check that everything is correct before you press the Enter key).

The iso file works in CD/DVD drives and memory cards too. The iso file is only 230 MiB, and it uses the LXDE desktop environment. There are some networking tools, and the extrememly light Links2 browser with two dedicated desktop files to find Ubuntu and Debian iso files quickly.

  • Used by people who have already downloaded an Ubuntu iso file, and do not want to do it again, which would be the case, if an image of a persistent live system is installed.
  • But in linux it is better to install mkusb, mkusb-nox, guidus and dus from the Launchpad PPA. See this link: mkusb/gui#Installation

Compare with the following posts in a thread at the Ubuntu Tutorial Forum: #512 with Ubuntu and #519 with Lubuntu. These are installed in a two-step procedure in Windows. On the other hand you get a working persistent live system, not only the guidus installer.

The early versions are based on Debian Wheezy (version 7). A version introduced 2017-06-07 is based on Debian Jessie i686 (version 8). This version has newer hardware drivers and works better with newer computers and hardware components, for example graphics and network devices.

Download source 1

You get these small 9w iso files with guidus and gparted installed 9w-dus...iso via these links,

9w-dus based on Debian Wheezy

9w-dus-486.iso for very old computers without pae capability

9w-dus_i686_2017-06-01.iso for most 32-bit computers and 64-bit computers (not UEFI mode).

You get these corresponding 9w [compressed] image files via these links,

9W-DUS_i686_2017-06-01.img for most 32-bit computers and 64-bit computers (not UEFI mode). This image is not compressed and can be cloned as it is (without extraction). You can create a second partition after the existing one, and it is possible to store data on that second partition.

9w-dus-i686-persist-live_2017-06-01_4GB.img.xz for most 32-bit computers and 64-bit computers in BIOS mode and UEFI mode (but not with secure boot). This system has problems with some middle-aged HP computers. It will be extracted to 4 GB, so the target drive must be at least 4 GB. If the drive is bigger, the persistence partition and/or the usbdata partition can be 'grown' to use the whole storage capacity of the drive.

Finally a self-extracting file for Windows with the same system as the previous compressed image,


The sizes and md5sums are:

$ ls -lL 9w-dus-i486.iso *2017-06-01*|tr -s ' ' ' '|cut -d ' ' -f 5-
241172480 dec 8 19:52 9w-dus-i486.iso
251920384 jun 1 21:36 9W-DUS_i686_2017-06-01.img
242221056 jun 1 14:21 9w-dus_i686_2017-06-01.iso
272813450 jun 2 18:53 9w-dus-i686-persist-live_2017-06-01_4GB.exe
265865376 jun 2 17:55 9w-dus-i686-persist-live_2017-06-01_4GB.img.xz

$ md5sum 9w-dus-i486.iso *2017-06-01*
34b0f8faec016623e13e9d9ede52076d  9w-dus-i486.iso
14b2ca32beb1b796f69e24b481cfebdd  9W-DUS_i686_2017-06-01.img
cb7e735869c3ba90c18b8cfe23064d6f  9w-dus_i686_2017-06-01.iso
64e5b50de012748a7e2b10c6e12a3992  9w-dus-i686-persist-live_2017-06-01_4GB.exe
a367a417b0727b5714a6c6fc0bff4164  9w-dus-i686-persist-live_2017-06-01_4GB.img.xz

9w-dus based on Debian Jessie

9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07.iso for most 32-bit computers and 64-bit computers (not UEFI mode), better [than the wheezy version] for newer hardware; cloning the iso file creates a very reliable but read-only drive (DVD, USB pendrive, 'CD' in VirtualBox ...)

You get these corresponding 9w [compressed] image files via these links,

9W-DUS_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07_512MB.img.xz extracted live system in a FAT32 partition; the rest of the drive (after the first 512 MB) can be made into a data partition; to be used in linux; for most 32-bit computers and 64-bit computers (not UEFI mode)

9W-DUS_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07_512MB.exe contains the same system as the previous link, but in a self-extracting file for Windows

9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686-persist-live_2017-06-07_4GB.img.xz persistent live system for most 32-bit computers and 64-bit computers in BIOS mode and UEFI mode (but not with secure boot); this system has problems with some middle-aged HP computers; the persistence partition and the usbdata partition can be 'grown' in order to take advantage of the whole drive

9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686-persist-live_2017-06-07_4GB.exe contains the same system as the previous link, but in a self-extracting file for Windows

The sizes and md5sums are:

$ ls -lL *2017-06-07*|tr -s ' ' ' '|cut -d ' ' -f 5-
349244371 jun 8 08:00 9W-DUS_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07_512MB.exe
347700008 jun 8 07:47 9W-DUS_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07_512MB.img.xz
352321536 jun 7 13:17 9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07.iso
386552233 jun 7 21:31 9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686-persist-live_2017-06-07_4GB.exe
379335524 jun 7 20:59 9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686-persist-live_2017-06-07_4GB.img.xz

$ md5sum *2017-06-07*
3ccef9c323d582997eb7357c60423309  9W-DUS_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07_512MB.exe
c3acc2365396fef827d1b49e554bdc1d  9W-DUS_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07_512MB.img.xz
39d8bf61be42b7c2c1713058999527b4  9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686_2017-06-07.iso
3c402cd5efea641039f04c471b08bb86  9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686-persist-live_2017-06-07_4GB.exe
c60b2e547832a33e24091632c964eba3  9w-dus_debian-jessie-i686-persist-live_2017-06-07_4GB.img.xz

See all files at http://phillw.net/isos/linux-tools/9w/

Download source 2

You get 9w with dus versions packaged in different ways via the following link


You find

  • the i686 iso file,
  • a compressed image file and
  • a self-extracting exe file (to be extracted in Windows and cloned to a USB pendrive or memory card).

There are corresponding torrent files for the old versions.

Running in VirtualBox

See the following screenshot (running in VirtualBox). It is tested in a few computers too. Notice that these are minimal 32-bit systems, that run only in BIOS mode. Wired network (ethernet) should work well, but maybe not wifi.

  • Notice that one file has a minimal 32-bit i486 non-pae kernel that runs also in very old computers.
  • The other file has a 32-bit i686-pae kernel, which is better to manage more than 2 GiB RAM - recommended for most users.


Installing a persistent live Lubuntu system in a laptop computer

I tested 'the small iso file with guidus and gparted installed' in a Toshiba laptop with an Intel i5 CPU. I used the usbdata partition of a persistent live pendrive to show, that it works to mount an NTFS partition with an iso file, and access the file from there to create a persistent live drive.

So this 'emulates' a case, where you have downloaded an Ubuntu family iso file but failed to create a persistent live drive with tools in Windows.

  • Clone the small iso file with guidus and gparted installed into a USB pendrive or a CD disk or DVD disk or a memory card, whatever device you can boot from.
  • Boot into this cloned system.
  • Mount the partition, where you have an Ubuntu family iso file, or where there is space enough to download and store an iso file and download it.
  • Check the md5sum.
  • Start guidus and let it guide you through the necessary steps.

See the attached screenshot.


Update and dist-upgrade

All program packages were up to date when each system was created. The file modification date in the server can display the original date (unless restored from a backup, that rewrites the dates).


Target processors

Examples of non-pae CPUs

  • Early Pentium M with 1.2 GHz clock frequency. The later Pentium M CPUs have PAE capability even if they lack a PAE flag. This non-pae kernel works, but also the generic PAE kernel works with the boot option 'forcepae'.
  • Old ViA-processors around 1GHz
  • Transmeta Crusoe
  • (Pre Pentium II CPUs are too old and weak to be tested for this purpose)

You can test for the PAE flag with the following command

grep --color pae /proc/cpuinfo


See this manual page for more details how to use the 9w installer



How to use other compressed images or tarballs

It is not straight-forward to install systems that are not contained in a 9w iso file. But it is possible according to this link.

This happens to the 9w project idea

The 9w system was developed two years ago. After that there was a long pause But the idea is still alive: to install linux systems via tarballs (instead of iso files with squashfs file systems (and debian installers or live systems with ubiquity)).

The original One Button Installer

The original One Button Installer is still developed with bug fixes and new tarballs for current versions of Ubuntu flavours and ToriOS. You can also use it as a convenient tool to port or backup small Ubuntu and Debian based systems by making a custom tarball with zmktbl.

ToriOS - an ultra-light installed operating system

The concept with an iso file containing a live system, that can boot from a CD drive (within CD size) and install a system contained in a tarball is developed by the ToriOS project. It is made to work well in old as well as new computers. It installs only in BIOS mode like the other systems with the One Button Installer.

The current version of ToriOS is working well and released as ToriOS 1.0. It is based on Debian Jessie and uses the JWM window manager for the desktop environment. The OBI-installer in ToriOS has an own system, which serves the same purpose as Ubuntu's OEM system.

There are also Ubuntu based ToriOS systems, that can be installed and tested. Read more at the following tutorial thread at the Ubuntu Forums,

ToriOS - ultra-light, based on Debian Jessie, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and JWM

9w (last edited 2017-06-08 17:56:52 by ister-kokos)