Alpine Install: from a iso to a virtualbox machine with external disc

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Overall description: Alpine Installation from a official disc/iso downloaded to a real hard disk by the usage of VirtualBox machine as the real machine, where will be single OS only.

This document will guide you to install Alpine into a real hard disk device but through the VirtualBox virtual machine acting as real machine, use if want to install to a real hard disk device externally but no way to boot it so can use in VirtualBox virtual machine . For others ways to install see at the Alpine_newbie_install_manual


  • Host machine: will be your real machine with installed operating system that have installed the VirtualBox software and "will host" the target operating system, in that case Alpine.
  • Guest machine: will be your target machine where Alpine will be installed, emulated by the host operating system using the VirtualBox software installed in the real machine.
  • Reserved RAM: will be the amount of RAM that will be need to share exclusively to the virtual machine created by the VirtualBox software in the host machine, stolen from the real RAM.
  • External disc: will be the storage medium device attached as target for the emulated machine or "guest machine", where the Alpine will be installed.


  • In the host machine we need installed the virtualbox program from VirtualBox software
  • In the host machine we need at least 1Gb of RAM, recommended 2Gb of RAM installed
  • The guest machine need 512Mb RAM, but recommended 1Gb reserved if desktop software will be installed
  • In the host machine we need installed wget or a web browser to download install medium

Preparing the medium origin to install

Download the source medium to install and put into your home, there's more hardware medium sources to download, like the s390x and ppc64le, but due VirtualBox only emulates x86, x64 and arm hardware only, will list those here.

The source medium to install will be as following format:<VERSION>/releases/<ARCH>/alpine-netboot-<VERSION>.0-<ARCH>.iso where ARCH and VERSION could be the following for VirtualBox virtual machines:

  • <ARCH> will be
    • x86: The popular i386/i686 compatible 32-bit x86 based machines, i386 recommended for olders.
    • x86_64: The popular AMD64 compatible 64-bit x86 based machines, recommended for newer/lasted hardware.
  • <VERSION> will be
    • latest-stable for a more up to date without taking care of numbered
    • 3.10 the most recommended for machines between 2016 to 2018

So using 3.10 version and i386 flavor the available links to download will be:

Graphical download: Just point the web browser to that url and the download of the iso file will start. A file with .iso extension type, with name like "alpine-standard-3.10.0-x86_64.iso" will be downloaded commonly into the Download directory of your home documents filesystem.

Command line method: in unix-like terminal execute: wget -c -t8 --no-check-certificate, and where you run the command, in that place/dir will be downloaded the file.

Preparing the medium target to install

Please take care of your attached devices.. for best care results only use those involved in the process, so only put the disc (that can be a USB flash, MMC card or external drive) attached, and remove all others that will no to be use. We will assume only one internal disc (that obviously cannot be removed) and one external disk attached.

The external disc will be detected and the operating system will create a new device representation, such like /dev/sdb commonly. In Linux systems you an detect the recently attached disk with following command:

/bin/dmesg | tail -n 50| grep 'Attached SCSI' | cut -d' ' -f4

This will output [sde] for our example installation. Caution due that previously command only will work if you recently attached the new external disk where the system will be installed.

Later with the detection of the disk, create the representation for the VirtualBox virtual machine, the detection will be put in /dev/ parameter.. so if the disk was detect as [sde] you must use it without "["/"]" sings, the command for creating the virtual disk will be:

VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -rawdisk /dev/sde -filename $HOME/rawdisk-sdb.vmdk

Tip: in Linux if you don't have "disk" group access need to perform permission to device to 666, so take care of
Warning: We assume there are only two disk, the internal and the external, here detected as [sde] for practical reasons, commonly will be detected as [sdb]

Preparing the virtual machine to install

Start the VirtualBox software program.

  1. In the main window create a new virtual machine by clicking the blue spark New button. Will open a new window with the following questions:
    1. Will ask for a name for the virtual like "alpine-desktop-try1".
    2. The Type of the Operating system choose "linux"
    3. The version choose "other linux" and must match with the <ARCH> choosed (like x86)
    4. By push "Next" button to continue to create the machine
  2. Second are RAM of the virtual machine, choose memory as 512MB minimum amount of. and push "Next" button.
  3. A new windows with a Hard disk assistant will opened
    1. First choose the option "Choose a existing hard disk drive" and push the "Folder button" aside.
    2. An open file dialog window will be opened, search for the "VMDK" file rawdisk-sdb.vmdkand choose it
    3. Choose the dynamically allocated and push the "Next" button.
    4. By push on "Create" the virtual machine will be ready to use
  4. Now the main window show you the "alpine-desktop-try1" created virtual machine, select them
    1. By push on "Configuration" yellow button go to the storage part and push it over
    2. Select the disc drive icon for CD/DVD rom and push on the again CD/DVD drive icon at the right
    3. Mini menu will opened, choose to select and external file event the host CD/DVD drive
    4. A file open dialog will open.. search to the downloaded iso of Alpine and select it
    5. Once defined the iso file to boot, push on the "Ok" button and virtual machines are finished.
  5. Push on the green arrow that said "Start" to start the virtual machine and boot up the iso
Alpine configuration commonly used of a virtual machine on virtual box virtual machine

Booting the Alpine ISO disc

When the machine start, you must be sure to choose the Optical drive (commonly named CD/DVD Rom drive), so the disc/iso will boot and after a while a command line shell will show you:

Tip: If your system are not configure to boot from a CD/DVD drive must be configure in the BIOS, ask to your vendor or technical support, VirtualBox need to hit the F12 key to choose boot medium
Installation : setup-alpine : booting process until login prompt

The setup install for normal process

After boot up.. a command line shell of a complete ready to use Alpine will show you.

Warning: This process ONLY WORK with "EXTENDED" ISO or recent versions of "STANDARD" ISO image downloads.

Login prompt as root

At the login: to appear, type root and press enter, no password will be asked if run from image boot.


Running setup alpine script

Run the setup-alpine script as show in the image:

Select keyboard layout

Choose your keyboard layout. If you don't know your keyboard layout choose us. By example for most Latin American a es are enough, for Russian (an maybe Cirilyc ones) ru are enough.


Select keyboard variant

Choose your keyboard variant. If you don't know your keyboard variant choose default from list. By example for most Latin American must use es-winkeys are enough.


Enter system hostname

Host name, which will be the name of your computer; using localhost are enough and recommended for testing purposes cos permits apply mostly how to's and tutorials of the wiki pages.


Initialize network cards

Choose your network card, most people can just go with the default (just press enter), a second question will raised about any other configuration, just type "no" and then press enter to bypass the step to property setup after installation finished property.


IMPORTANT NOTE: mostly in x86 and x64 ISO images we can let configurations for later, cos at the most modern the network card, the lest supported or still not well tested. Just type done and press enter.. if you made some wired configuration later another question will raised, will use dhcp? Most people will use DHCP, so press enter again, if you have Internet connection from ISP most settings are just DHCP so all will be configured automatically.

Initialize network DNS

The DNS will be automatically detected, if not will ask for, just type for domain "" (empty) then press enter, later and as picture show and then press enter to next question:


Changing password for root

Next a root password must be defined, twice for confirmation as picture shows, if are too short will said as a warning "bad" but nothing wrong.. just retype and go. Take note that when typed no chars will be show, all will be invisible when type the password.


Witch timezone to choose?

Select a timezone, just press enter to use UTC when perform a single installation.


Proxy chooser

Then setup script will ask for proxy chooser.. just type none and then press enter


Enter mirror number

Then setup script will ask for repository mirror chooser.. just type done and then press enter, this will be configure many times later during usage of the system. Almost any tutorial of newbie pages will explain detailed so lest bypass using "done".


Witch ssh server?

Choose an SSH server allows you to remotely manage your machine. OpenSSH is what the big distro's use, Dropbear is a tiny SSH replacement. Recommended to type openssh and then press enter, cos you able to connect using command line from Unix-like systems also is the offline available in all alpine installer images. Installation-alpine-alpine-setup-9-setup-scripts-ssh.png

Witch NTP client to run?

This is for time sync, just press enter to use the image offline available can be changed at post install.


Setup Disk

This will setup the destination usage of the files

Witch disk choose to use?

To choose the disk destination .. commonly sda are the hard disk cos sdb the USB boot or CD/DVD image


How would be used?

Then choose type of installation .. those are described at Setup modes section at Alpine setup scripts wiki page. "sys" mode is the familiar install to disk well knowed for usage as main OS to computers.


After all a confirmation question will raised, type "y" if everything are ok and the setup will proceed to erase, format and copy the files to the destination disk choose!

Finishing the installation

After al the scripts setup ends, a "reboot" will be offered, just type "reboot" and press enter, remobe the boot media and new installed system will be booted.


If you try to start that installation maybe you cannot see a graphical window system? take easy and get calm down.. in Alpine all are made by the right way.. so if user need a desktop.. user can install a desktop follow the next: Alpine newbie apk packages or bypass and go directly to Alpine newbie desktops

For others ways to install see at the Alpine_newbie_install_manual

Documents series

Previous required What's next to read
Alpine newbie install manual Alpine newbie apk packages

See Also

  1. Newbie_Alpine_Ecosystem
  2. Alpine newbie apk packages
  3. Alpine newbie desktops
  4. Alpine newbie developer
  5. Alpine newbie lammers