Super Fast Quickstart

Building images with live-wrapper is quite simple. For the impatient:

sudo apt install live-wrapper
sudo lwr

This will build you a file named output.iso in the current directory containing a minimal live-image.


Currently live-wrapper will create a lot of files and directories in the current working directory. There is a TODO item to move these to a temporary location and clean up afterwards, though this has not yet been fully implemented. You may want to use an empty directory to run lwr in.

Customising the Image

There are a number of supported command-line arguments that can be passed to live-wrapper. These change the behaviour to create a customised image.

Changing the Distribution

By default, the ISO image will be built using the stable distribution. If you’d like to build using testing or unstable you can pass the -d parameter to live-wrapper like so:

sudo lwr -d testing

Using an Alternative Mirror

By default, vmdebootstrap will use the mirror configured in your /etc/apt/sources.list. If you have a faster mirror available, you may want to change the mirror you’re using to create the image. You can do this with the -m parameter:

sudo lwr -m http://localhost/debian/

Customising Packages

There are two methods of specifying extra packages to be installed into the live image: the -t and the -e paramaters. The difference between these two parameters is that the list of tasks given to -e is passed to debootstrap for installation as part of the initial root filesystem creation, whereas the packages passed to -t are installed as part of the vmdebootstrap hook.

This essentially means that any packages installed using -e will not have their “Recommends” installed, but will have their “Depends” installed while packages installed using -t will have both installed making -t the suitable place for the installation of task packages.

There is no reason you cannot pass your entire package list to -t, these are seperated mainly to help with the readability of parameters passed to live-wrapper.

For example:

sudo lwr -e vim -t science-typesetting

Testing the Image with QEMU

You can easily test your created live images with QEMU.


You will need to increase the amount of memory available to QEMU when running the live image. The image will crash if run with the default memory limit.

To test the image using BIOS boot:

qemu-system-x86_64 -m 2G -cdrom live.iso

For EFI boot you will need to install the ovmf package and then run:

qemu-system-x86_64 -bios /usr/share/ovmf/OVMF.fd -m 2G -cdrom live.iso

Next Steps

To learn more about using live-wrapper, you can read the man page or check out the Advanced Topics section of this documentation.