OEM ISOs explained
by clem 32

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.

32 thoughts on “OEM ISOs explained

  1. 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. 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. 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. :-)

    • 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

    • 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. wulan Jun 30,2013 09:20

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

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

    Great explanation!

    Mr. Clem,

    Thank you very much for delivering us this fantastic distro!

  6. Jerry Dec 9,2013 13:35

    Great article….

  7. 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. 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.

  9. meh Oct 30,2014 21:00

    i just downloaded unetbootin and ran the program, in there were a choice to download linux mint 17 cinnamon, i put it to my usb stick and were able to do oem install , i found it nice, i was installing it to my friends box , myself im a debian/slackware guy :P

  10. Noem Dec 19,2014 20:08

    I too attempted to download Linux Mint 17 (64-bit) using Unetbootin and only found out when I was booting up that the distro was an OEM (not what I had selected.) I did not find this nice at all–since I was planning to dual boot with a recently installed Windows 8. Another attempt using Unetbootin was giving me the 32-bit version. Seems like they have some serious issues with how the download mirrors are referenced by the GUI. Booting the OEM unknowingly, I nearly wiped my computer clean and voided my warranty. I cancelled the install and somehow my Windows OS survived. I agree with the author–the OEMs should not be made easily available. And they certainly should not be the defalt download from Unetbootin. Sheesh.

    • peter Dec 20,2014 01:09

      The “problem” was created by you.
      the Best way to use Unetbootin is to first download the ISO you want (use a torrent) then second step… use Unetbootin to create the USB.
      you could have safely used the OEM, it is the same as the others but does not create the initial user account… it just gives the opportunity to create the user account on the first boot, just like a new Windows computer.

  11. Lynn Jan 6,2015 16:00

    hhhhmmmm…..bought a used pc with no linux mint cinnamon install/live DVD, and I am encountering the OEM Temporary User with a Password. It has not given me the option to set up a new Username and Password at boot-up; and I have been unable to find a way to do this.
    Does anyone have any idea how to get around this?

    • clem Jan 7,2015 08:07

      Hi, you should be able to run /usr/sbin/oem-config-prepare. This should trigger the user setup on the next boot.

  12. PuterBooter Jan 9,2015 15:34

    Hi Clem,
    Tried ( in Terminal,) at oem@oem desktop ~ $ sudo /usr/sbin/oem-config-prepare
    This generates an Authenticate window, where, again, I have to enter the OEM Temporary User Password which I don’t have.

    Any other ideas anybody?

    • clem Jan 9,2015 18:50

      Well wait a second.. if you installed in OEM mode you set the password. If somebody else did it for you, they didn’t do it completely (as they should have run that command). In that latter case, just wipe the HDD and reinstall Mint with the non-OEM ISO.

  13. Q-collective Oct 1,2016 01:18

    Is there still an OEM version for Mint 18? I can’t find it on the website.

    • clem Oct 1,2016 11:19

      Yes and no. Starting with version 18, all ISOs feature an OEM option.

      • peter e Oct 1,2016 17:44

        Excellent! using OEM is great. I gift out on average one computer a month with LMDE Mate, reconfigured to be more user friendly (in my eye anyway :-) )
        Is OEM an option with the same ISO?
        LMDE can use OEM also …please.

      • peter e Oct 1,2016 17:46

        oops. I did not read that carefully. I will try a Mint 18 install and look for it. Thanks

      • Q-collective Oct 1,2016 22:16

        Ah, thank you! In the mean time I found a very useful short how to on this. For all who are new to this topic :)

        • peter e Oct 1,2016 23:33

          after installer crashing twice I got it to run, and install. wifi not working!
          I will continue with doing a custom install, fully update, etc. I don’t need to send off a problematic situation.

          • Q-collective Oct 2,2016 12:40

            I’m not sure how this is related to the OEM install mode? Are you saying that wifi works fine in a normal install? If so, that would indeed be strange.

            If not, please open a thread in the forums to get more specific help for your issue.

          • peter e Oct 2,2016 14:08

            excuse me, I should not have made the post.
            I was rather frustrated with the OEM installer. I am accustomed to a Live mode with some basics like Wifi and Gparted available.
            Yes, wifi (and everything else) works on that machine with all flavors and versions of Mint, including LMDE.
            PS: I did not find your video helpful, I approach installs quite differently.

          • Q-collective Oct 2,2016 16:18

            I’m intruiged. How do you approach an install in OEM mode?

          • peter e Oct 2,2016 16:51

            multi boot…
            shrink existing OS Partition
            create root and home and swap partitions (Gparted)
            run live ISO and check for wifi, etc.
            install with language, username, passwords needed fo the individual consumer
            reboot and update and upgrade
            change desktop settings
            reboot a few times and make sure other OSs still work ok
            out the door

          • Q-collective Oct 3,2016 12:41

            So, you’re not doing OEM installs, but a variation of a normal install which Clem rightly denounced as “VERY amateurish” to do as a reseller.

            Thanks for clearing that up.

          • peter e Oct 3,2016 20:51

            First, I only use LMDE.
            I need to be able to choose a language other than English (typically Spanish), I need to be able to test Wifi and some other desired apps, and lastly I need to be able to modify the “out of the box” settings depending on the user. “custom setups”
            Amateurish? Yes. I am just a user.
            I am not a programmer or reseller of hardware.
            I get either free discards or purchase used inexpensive computers, play for a bit, rehab, then gift out after cleanup. Typically multiboot with Windows or whatever else it came with… but LMDE Mate as default.

          • peter e Oct 3,2016 20:54

            I had hoped the OEM install would help, but features such as language are lacking.

  14. Q-collective Oct 10,2016 00:39

    How, if at all, does full disk encryption work in OEM mode? As far as I’m aware, you’d need to set a password during install so the system can start to boot at all (so, this would happen before the first-run wizard).

    If not possible, could it be enabled at a later point by the end user or, at the very least, can the encryption password be changed later on?

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