Installing Ubuntu Core

Ubuntu Core runs on a large range of hardware, and pre-built images are available for amd64 and Raspberry Pi reference platforms.

Installation on a reference platform is easy and a great way to quickly get started with Ubuntu Core, or to explore Ubuntu Core’s features and evaluate its potential.

Below, we cover installing a reference image of the latest version of Ubuntu Core, UC20:

Note: See Supported platforms for more details on which images are available for which platform.


Alongside enough storage to hold the Ubuntu Core image, installation on a Raspberry Pi also requires a screen and keyboard to navigate a few installation prompts. These aren’t needed post-installation.

Additionally, you will need an Ubuntu SSO account, with associated SSH keys. This setup is required because, after Ubuntu Core has been installed, Ubuntu SSO is used to login to your device. For help importing SSH keys, see the Ubuntu community wiki.

When Ubuntu Core is up and running, if you want to access your device remotely, you’ll need an SSH client for your operating system. Linux and macOS both have clients built-in, whereas Windows users could use Ubuntu on WSL.

Installation steps

The typical installation procedure for UC20 as follows:

  1. Download the preferred Ubuntu Core image for your device
    See Supported platforms for links to device support and images.
    By default, images are compressed with xz and can be expanded with:
    xz -d <image-name.img.xz.
  2. Write the image to your device’s storage medium (eg. SD card for Raspberry Pi)
    We recommend using Raspberry Pi imager for Windows, macOS and Linux.
  3. Boot the device from the flashed storage and follow the on-screen prompts
    This step is version-specific, but the installation typically asks only two questions.

After installation, see Using Ubuntu Core for a quick overview of how to work within the Ubuntu Core environment.

Raspberry Pi installation

To install UC20 on a Raspberry Pi, for example, first download the image for your device from

Write the Ubuntu Core image to the SD card destined for the Raspberry Pi. As mentioned above, Raspberry Pi imager is a good tool for this.

Connect the Raspberry Pi to a screen and keyboard, insert the SD card and power on the device. After a brief initialisation period, “Press enter to configure” will appear on the display.

Press enter to continue. The display will update to show some Ubuntu Core introductory text and a prompt to set up the network and administrator account. Press tab or cursor down to highlight OK, and press return to move on to the next step.

The next step configures the network connection. The default options will configure the ethernet port to use DHCP to connect to your local network. Use the cursor keys to navigate to the network device and ‘Enter’ to change the configuration, or select ‘Done’ to complete the process and move on to the next step.

Finally, enter the email address for the Ubuntu SSO account. This will link the SSH keys registered on the account to the new device deployment and allow you to connect without any further device configuration. The connection details are shown on the next page, and with each successive reboot, alongside SSH host key fingerprints for the device. You can now connect using SSH with your Ubuntu SSO username and the IP address of the device.

Testing Ubuntu Core with QEMU

You can test Ubuntu Core without specific hardware from within a virtual machine.

To test Ubuntu Core with QEMU (, on Ubuntu, first install the qemu-kvm package and test it with kvm-ok:

$ sudo apt install qemu-kvm
$ kvm-ok

To ensure compatibility with the required UEFI features in Ubuntu Core 20, also install the OVMF package:

$ sudo apt install ovmf

The exact command to run will depend on your host hardware capabilities, such as available memory and CPU cores, but the following should work in the majority of cases:

$ qemu-system-x86_64 -enable-kvm -smp 2 -m 1500 \
-netdev ser,id=mynet0,hostfwd=tcp::8022-:22,hostfwd=tcp::8090-:80 \
-device virtio-net-pci,netdev=mynet0 -drive file=pc.img,format=raw \
-drive file=/usr/share/OVMF/OVMF_CODE.fd,if=pflash,format=raw,unit=0,readonly=on

In the above command, the Ubuntu Core image is called uc.img and we forward the virtual SSH port 22 to port 8022 on the host, and 80 to 8090 for any web server application you wish to install in the VM. To access this configuration from your host machine, type the following:

$ ssh <your key> <SSO identity>@<device IP address> -p 8022