CSAIL Ubuntu Installation

We offer an automated installation process of CSAIL Ubuntu using iPXE and preseed.

  1. Back up any data you’ve got on your machine’s hard drive (if you want to keep it). The installation will take the first hard drive that it finds, and erase everything before installing.1

  2. Before installing, your machine must have a static IP address, configured and active in WebDNS ( CSAIL Login required) and dhreg ( CSAIL Login required), and propagated and available on the network. (From another CSAIL Ubuntu machine, you need to be able to type host hostname.csail.mit.edu and get the correct IP address back, and the host needs to automatically get that correct IP address at boot time from the DHCP server.) Otherwise, you’ll encounter problems during and after installation.

    • First, create a hostname in WebDNS ( CSAIL Login required). Then, register a static DHCP lease with dhreg ( CSAIL Login required) and select “Ubuntu Desktop” for machines located in your lab, or “Ubuntu Server” for rack mounted computers located in one of the machine rooms, from the “Operating System” dropdown menu.

    • Note that WebDNS changes only take affect once every hour. dhreg won’t know what your machine’s IP address is unless you either wait an hour after changing WebDNS or manually enter the appropriate IP address in the appropriate text field in dhreg. Yes, this is a bug.

  3. After network registration is complete, boot your computer off of its network card (PXE/Network booting must be enabled in the BIOS, and can usually be selected as a boot device by pressing F12 at boot time), and you’ll be greeted by the CSAIL Ubuntu PXE Boot screen. You’ll be given a choice to install the current CSAIL Ubuntu LTS release. There are additional options under the ‘advanced’ menu, such as custom disk partitioning and serial output (if you are installing remotely over IPMI).

    • If you need sudo access on your newly-installed machine, you can add your username under the ‘advanced’ menu for whichever distribution you are installing. Enter your CSAIL username in lower-case. If you need sudo post-install, please contact TIG at help@csail.mit.edu
  4. Once that’s complete, you’ll find yourself at the login manager, and should be able to log in with your CSAIL username and Kerberos password. Your home directory will be your AFS home directory.


  1. In-place upgrades are not supported by TIG. Please reinstall if you wish to move to a newer CSAIL Ubuntu release. **Dual-booting CSAIL Ubuntu and another operating system is not supported. The installation will repartition and claim the entire first hard drive that it finds in your computer. [return]