OEM ISOs explained
by clem 10

What OEM means for many people

In a World where almost everybody has prior experience with Windows, where manufacturers are spamming the OS with pre-installed sharewares and demos of software people don’t like, and where despite paying for a Windows license and owning a Windows key people have to [arguably] illegally download the installation discs…. for most people “OEM” means one thing and one thing only: “Vanilla”. By downloading or buying Windows “OEM” people are getting the “real” Windows, the one without all the commercial popupware installed.

So whether it’s on the shelves of people’s favorite shops or on the pages of people’s favorite torrent sites, “OEM” basically means “cool”.

Consequently, when that option was introduced in Linux Mint, it became instantly popular and for all the wrong reasons :)

OEM in Linux Mint

Up until Linux Mint 8, the liveCD contained an option called “OEM Installation”. It was interpreted wrongly and many users were installing Linux Mint, on their own computer, for themselves, in OEM mode. They’d use their computer for months, without ever setting up an account and their IRC nickname reflected their username: “oem”… clearly, something was wrong.

Since Linux Mint 9, we maintain separate OEM installation discs and hide them away from the main pages of our website to make sure people who don’t need them don’t use them.

What OEM really means

The acronym “OEM” means “Original Equipment Manufacturer”. In practice an OEM is anybody (individual, association or company) which needs to pre-install Linux Mint.

When you install Linux Mint for yourself, as a user, one of the things you do is set a username, a password, a keyboard layout, a language and a hostname. This is part of the basic customization of the OS, during the installation, so that by the time the OS is installed, your user account is ready and the computer is functional for “you”, the user.

Most of the time, when a merchant or a manufacturer needs to pre-install Linux Mint on a computer, they do not know any information about the customer. They’re unable to install Linux Mint for the customer in advance because they do not know what his/her username will be (it would also be really awkward if the seller had to ask the customer his choice of password prior to the sale..). So either the manufacturers set the system with some generic information (which looks ridiculous and is a VERY amateurish thing to do… nobody wants “walmart” as their username) or they’re able to install Linux Mint in OEM mode… in a way that they don’t need to fill in any customer details, and that the system later asks the customer him/herself for that information.

And that’s what an OEM installation is. It’s an installation which isn’t meant to be used by the person who installs Linux Mint, but by another person whose details are not known. It’s an installation which isn’t complete and which sets the system in a way that the real user, is asked to enter personal details the first time he/she boots the computer.

How it works

With the OEM installation disc, the manufacturer installs Linux Mint on the computer. The username is “oem” and the manufacturer selects temporary passwords, hostnames and language settings.

Upon reboot, the manufacturer can log in as “oem” and perform system-wide customization to the OS. When finished, the manufacturer then clicks on “Menu->Prepare for end user”, shuts down the computer and the system is ready to be sold.

On the next reboot, after the computer is purchased, the customer is asked to fill in a username, a password, a hostname, a locale and a keyboard layout. The “oem” account is then wiped, and a new user account is created. From there, the system is full ready.

10 thoughts on “OEM ISOs explained

  1. Reply Hugo Masse May 30,2013 12:18

    I once installed from the OEM version and ever since dream about assembling PCs and distributing them with LM in them.
    I also think they let you give a nice, inexpensive present. Get a PC, install, wrap and give your dearest and nearest the first time user experience.

  2. Reply Hugo Masse May 30,2013 12:35

    Also, if you are a charity, you could donate computers with a special wallpaper that reminds beneficiaries how they received it, with the web browser pointing to your website as home, etc. Possibilities are endless!

  3. Reply Anand May 30,2013 17:09

    Thanks for the informative article. So CompuLab would have ideally used the OEM ISO and if i make an order will fulfill it by creating my details or will have it do on my first login.
    OT – Would you mind writing an article (leisurely) on uses of Mint box? http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=2055 – has great details and is elaborate but an user story would be helpful, you may use it as brochure. :-)

    • Reply mtwebster May 30,2013 18:22

      You do it on your first login – if you’ve ever bought a PC with Windows on it, it’s the same procedure, a little mini-configuration comes up and sets up user details

    • Reply clem May 30,2013 20:15

      Yes, that’s a good example :) CompuLab uses the OEM installation discs to preinstall Mint on FitPC, IntensePC and MintBox units.

  4. Reply wulan Jun 30,2013 09:20

    Thanks for explaining OEM, I have been long wondering what does oem really meant.

  5. Reply Hugo Leal. Oct 22,2013 23:28

    Great explanation!

    Mr. Clem,

    Thank you very much for delivering us this fantastic distro!

  6. Reply Jerry Dec 9,2013 13:35

    Great article….

  7. Reply jtolar Aug 6,2014 22:43

    Is there not a 32bit image for the oem? I have a bunch of HP Mini I am going to sell cheap and would like to install mint. that is what i am running on this mini i am on now and it works great.

  8. Reply Sai Vinoba Sep 7,2014 02:02

    Hi Clem,

    Is it possible for you to write an article on how to actually create an OEM iso? Is it something only programmers or linux experts can do?

    I would like to give away my two laptops, but with linux pre-installed. I found the LinuxMint OEM isos are available only for Cinnamon and MATE editions, not for KDE or XFCE. I like KDE better.

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