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Build a Vanilla Minecraft Server on Linux

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Building on a Raspberry Pi? See the Raspberry Pi install documentation instead.

Minecraft Server Version: 1.12.2
Oracle Java Version: 8u151

Approximate time to complete: 15 to 30 minutes depending on your server. This also depends on your comfort level working from the Linux command line. Give yourself plenty of time.

Get a $10 credit towards a dedicated server with DigitalOcean by using this link.

Step 1 - Download Java
Step 2 - Configure Java
Step 3 - Setup Your Environment
Step 4 - Install Minecraft
Step 5 - Configure your new Spigot Minecraft Server
Step 6 - Optional-- Configure Minecraft to start on bootup
Step 7 - Connect to Your Server
Step 8 - Hardening Your Minecraft Server if Visible on the Internet
Step 9 - Backup Your Server Frequently
Step 10 - Upgrading Your Minecraft Server
Step 11 - Recovering a Corrupted World
Step 12 - Creating Automatic Backups

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Why Linux and Not a Fully Managed Solution?

This is a valid question. A fully managed solution like one offered by MCProhosting offers many benefits. There is no need to secure the underlying Linux OS, this is all done for you. You get a nice graphical front end to manage your server, automated backups, DNS management to access your server, FTP access. For smaller servers it is more cost effective as well as you can run a server for a dozen people on a $5/month server. I use fully hosted servers sometimes, they just make sense.

If you decide to go with a dedicated server you can get a $10 credit with DigitalOcean if you sign up through this referral link. A good starter setup is the $10 month server with 1GB of RAM and 20GB of SSD Disk.

Here are some of the reasons you may want to build your own;

1 - Maximum control right down to the OS level.
2 - Prefer working from the command line than from a Web browser to manage your server.
3 - High memory and cpu needs for your server and a VPS or dedicated server is cheaper than a higher end fully hosted solution.
4 - Have a server available which isn't costing you anything and a good internet link.
5 - Want to learn how to do it yourself from start to finish.
6 - Finally, the most important reason of all.....Because You Can!

Which Linux Distribution?

Recommending a specific Linux distribution as "the best option" is like recommending a religion as the "best one to follow". You will either be preaching to the converted or alienating the person you are having the discussion with.

For my purposes I like using Debian and its derivitaves. Specifically I like Ubuntu Server and XUbuntu Desktop LTS versions. However I have used other distributions and have liked them as well. This guide will assume a debian based distro using the apt package manager. When a package manager is called for, just substitute the relevant commands for your favorite distro. They are all good.

Root Access to Your Server

The instructions assume that you have root (Administrator) access to your server. For simplicity I assume you are logging in as the root user. All of these commands will also work with sudo. If running sudo from your user account then make sure to add it when necessary. I will not be using sudo in front of these command line arguments throughout the document.

Step 1 - Download Java

Minecraft Server requires Oracle Java to run. You can install it on Debian or Ubuntu with apt but that will give you an older version. Instead, get the latest available directly from Oracle.

a) Login to your server via ssh or open a console window if this is a Linux Desktop system.

via Linux:   ssh username@your_domain
via Windows: Connect using a SSH client such as Putty

b) Download the latest version of Java (64bit) for X64 Linux and copy it to the /opt folder of your server.

Latest Version of Java
Java Version

You can also download Oracle Java directly from the command line on your server using wget. Oracle requires that you accept the license agreement, so the direct download command requires a little trickery in order to bypass this. The following three commands will change the directory to /opt, download directly from Oracle and then extract the contents of the file to the opt folder. Copy/paste and run each command one at a time.

cd /opt

wget --no-cookies --no-check-certificate --header "Cookie: gpw_e24=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.oracle.com%2F; oraclelicense=accept-securebackup-cookie" http://download.oracle.com/otn-pub/java/jdk/8u151-b12/e758a0de34e24606bca991d704f6dcbf/jdk-8u151-linux-x64.tar.gz

tar -zxvf jdk-8u151-linux-x64.tar.gz

Step 2 - Configure Java

a) The next step will be to setup the Java environment so that your system recognizes how to access both the java binary and java compiler which will be required when building your minecraft server.

    update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/java java /opt/jdk1.8.0_151/bin/java 1
    update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/javac javac /opt/jdk1.8.0_151/bin/javac 1
b) Make sure you set this version of java (and the compiler) as your default versions. These commands will give you a list of versions to select, just select the right version option. If this is the only version on your server then it will tell you so and select that one automatically. Do the same for the java compiler (javac).
    update-alternatives --config java
    update-alternatives --config javac
c) Finally check your version to make sure you are using the right one
    i) java -version

You should see the following;

    java version "1.8.0_151"
    Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_151-b12)
    Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.151-b12, mixed mode)
    
    ii) javac -version

You should see the following;
    
    javac 1.8.0_151

Optional - Removing Old Versions of Java

Old versions of java won't affect anything if you have plenty of disk space. To save a bit of space on your disk you can remove old versions that are no longer used. Simply remove the links to the binaries with update-alternatives and delete the java folder. To remove version 1.8.0_121 for example;

a) remove the link

    update-alternatives --remove "java" "/opt/jdk1.8.0_121/bin/java"
    update-alternatives --remove "javac" "/opt/jdk1.8.0_121/bin/javac"
b) remove the folder (be careful whenever using rm -r -f, a misplaced "/" or "*" could/will mess up your system)
    cd /opt
    rm -r -f jdk1.8.0_121

Step 3 - Setup Your Environment

a) This is a good time to do a full upgrade of your system. If using a Debian based system you can use apt, otherwise use your distributions package manager.
    apt update && apt -y upgrade
b) Install git
    apt install git
c) Install screen (This will be needed to run your minecraft server console while logged out of your Linux server).
    apt install screen

Step 4 - Install Minecraft

We are going to install the Spigot Minecraft Server build. This build is an excellent choice for running an efficient and optimized server.

a) create the folder

    cd /opt
    mkdir minecraft
    cd minecraft
b) download the buildtools
    wget https://hub.spigotmc.org/jenkins/job/BuildTools/lastSuccessfulBuild/artifact/target/BuildTools.jar
c) build the server
   java -jar BuildTools.jar --rev 1.12.2
Depending on the power of your system this could go quickly or take a while. Be patient and come back in a bit. If all goes well you will have a file called spigot-1.12.2.jar (or whatever the latest version is at the time) in your minecraft folder.

If you have any trouble building the jar file I have made one available for download.

Step 5 - Configure your new Spigot Minecraft Server

a) run the server for the first time. Make sure you are in the /opt/minecraft directory.
    java -Xms1024M -Xmx2048M -jar /opt/minecraft/spigot-1.12.2.jar nogui  
*Note: -Xms1024M and -Xmx2048M are parameters telling java to start with 1GB of ram as a minimum for the spigot jar file and let it grow to 2GB max as needed. If your server has more ram to dedicate then you can adjust these numbers. More players and more mods mean you need more. These are not constructs unique to Minecraft. Do a google search on (xms xmx jvm) and you will get some good information on how to manage a JVM's heap. From there you can make a better determination on what you should set this to for your servers resources and how you will be using your server.

For example, on a Raspberry Pi with 1GB of ram I have set xms and xmx to 512M and 1008M respectively. So start the JVM with 512MB of ram and let it grow to just under 1GB max.

Finally, make sure to enter the right version that you have built. At the time of this writing Minecraft 1.12.2 was the latest version.

b) accept the EULA. The first time you try to run your minecraft server you will be required to accept the EULA.

    nano eula.txt
c) Change the following line to true and save the file
    eula=true
d) Run the server a second time to generate your world. World generation will take a while the first time. Subsequent server starts will be much quicker.
Before doing this, you can download the following server.properties file and replace the one that was created automatically. (or copy/paste directly to your existing server.properties file from the console).
This server.properties file will give you a standard survival world on normal difficulty.

Edit the file with your preferred seed if you have one and it will generate the world that you specify.
Minecraft Atlas is great site to find new interesting seeds. Although the site says Minecraft 1.8, the seeds are compatible with 1.12.2
View the Wiki for all server.properties configuration options.
    nano server.properties
    
    change the following line with your preferred seed directly after the = sign
    level-seed=
    
    If you leave it blank Minecraft will generate a random world on first launch
On a low power system you can lower the view distance. Start with 10 and adjust it downward if you get some lag. If you have plenty of CPU and RAM you can increase it as well.
    java -Xms1024M -Xmx2048M -jar /opt/minecraft/spigot-1.12.2.jar nogui   
e) make things a little easier on yourself by using a script to start minecraft
    cd /opt/minecraft
    nano minecraft.sh
f) Copy and paste the following in your minecraft.sh file
   
    #!/bin/bash
    cd /opt/minecraft/ && java -Xms1024M -Xmx2048M -jar /opt/minecraft/spigot-1.12.2.jar nogui
g) Save the file and make it executable
    chmod +x minecraft.sh
h) Start your server
    screen <---hit enter at the informational message
    /opt/minecraft.sh
    
    To exit the screen session hit 'CTRL AD'

Step 6 - Optional-- Configure Minecraft to start on bootup.

a) Add a command to /etc/rc.local to start your Minecraft server everytime the server boots up.
    nano /etc/rc.local
Right before the last line 'exit 0' add the following command, save and exit the file. This will allow the minecraft server to start in a detached screen session when the server boots up.
    screen -dm -S minecraft /opt/scripts/minecraft.sh 
b) To access your console after bootup use the following command;
    screen -r minecraft
    
    To exit the screen session use the following command
    CTRL AD

Note: Some people may question why I am using rc.local instead of an init script to start the minecraft server. I don't want to run the server in the background, I want a full screen session accessible to view and interact with the minecraft server console. If I want to stop the server I want to issue a stop command there, not from a script in init.d. Also rc.local is one line and is super easy. It just works well for this situation. I use init scripts for other things and they are great, but this is just a preference I have for a minecraft server. Do what works for you.

Step 7 - Connect to Your Server

a) In Minecraft select the Multiplayer button

b) Click the Add Server button
c) Edit the Server Info as follows (insert the IP address of your Linux server)

Add Server Image

d) Enter your world for the first time and have fun!!!

New Server Image

Step 8 - Hardening Your Minecraft Server if Visible on the Internet

If you want friends to access the server from outside your home network you will have to forward external requests to port 25565 on your router to your server. Check the documentation for your router.

a) If you are installing this on a VPS or dedicated server you will most likely want to enable the firewall with netfilter/iptables. You should be blocking ports that are not used or that you do not want to expose to the internet. An example rule for a minecraft server would be as follows;

    /sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 25565 -m state --state NEW -j ACCEPT
This rule says to accept all new tcp packet requests to the minecraft server listening on port 25565. Configuring firewalls from a console server is beyond the scope of this article but is an important step that you need to take. Search for information on Netfilter/Iptables and a handy init script called iptables-persistent for easily starting, saving and flushing your firewall rules from the command line. There are many firewall scripts available on the internet to help you get started as well.

Note:If you are not comfortable doing this then a VPS or dedicated server solution may not be a good one for you. If you manage a full Linux server connected directly to the internet with a public IP address, it is your responsibility to ensure you are hardening and securing it properly. If this is not something you want to do then a managed solution with a minecraft server hosting company like MCProhosting may be a better option for you. They take care of all the dirty work like this.

b) Activate whitelisting. It is extremely important to activate whitelisting if your server is visible on the internet. Port 25565 is a popular port and is actively scanned by all kinds of people using automated scripts. They are looking for open servers so they can login and cause havoc on your world. Whitelisting will stop unauthorized users from joining your world.
In your server.properties set the following value to true;

    white-list=true
    
Restart your minecraft server and run the following command at the console for each user you would like to allow.
    
    whitelist add minecraft_user1
    whitelist add minecraft_user2

To remove a user

    whitelist remove minecraft_user2   
When an unauthorized user tries to connect to your server they will simply get a message that they are not whitelisted and will be turned away.

Step 9 - Backup Your Server Frequently

To backup your server do the following;
    login to your server
    cd /opt
    tar -zcvf minecraft_backup.tar.gz minecraft
Copy the minecraft_backup.tar.gz to a safe location, preferably another computer. This file can be used to restore your world if needed. Get into the habit of doing this regularly. You can even use the cron scheduler to automate the process at a specified time each day as explained in Step 12.

Step 10 - Upgrading Your Minecraft Server

You've done it. You have successfully built your Minecraft Server. Of course Mojang will release a new version the very next day and all your friends will complain that they can no longer connect. No problem, upgrading your server to the latest version couldn't be easier.

a) First thing you need to do is backup your world. Just like in Step 9 we will do the following;

    login to your server and stop your minecraft server. In the minecraft console type 'stop' and hit enter.
    cd /opt
    tar -zcvf minecraft_backup_version1.12.1.tar.gz minecraft   
b) download the latest buildtools
    cd /opt/minecraft
    wget https://hub.spigotmc.org/jenkins/job/BuildTools/lastSuccessfulBuild/artifact/target/BuildTools.jar -O BuildTools.jar
c) build the new server. If all goes well you should see a new spigot jar file.
   java -jar BuildTools.jar --rev 1.12.2
Compiling your own is better, but I do make jar files that I have compiled available if needed. Files are signed with my gpg key and have a SHA256 hash that you can use to verify the integrity of the file.

jar file download

d) Update your minecraft.sh startup script to use the latest jar file

    cd /opt/scripts
    nano minecraft.sh
    
    Update the command to start the new jar file
    cd /opt/minecraft/ && java -Xms1024M -Xmx2048M -jar /opt/minecraft/spigot-1.12.2.jar nogui
    Save the file
e) Restart your server by either running your startup script or reboot your Linux server if you configured it to start on boot.

Step 11 - Recovering a Corrupted World

The importance of regular backups cannot be overstated. It happens, you try to log into your awesome minecraft world and you see exception errors only. Or you enter the world and all kinds of things have disappeared, your sweet enchanted sword is gone, your diamonds chest is empty. Hours of work and play are now destroyed. Your world may have corrupted for any number of issues such as software problems or disk errors.

If you did your backups like we discussed in Step 9 then you are laughing. To restore your previous backup do the following;

Delete your existing minecraft folder

    cd /opt
    rm -r -f minecraft  
    
copy your previously saved minecraft.tar.gz file to your /opt folder.

restore your world

    tar -zxvf minecraft.tar.gz

That's it, restart your server and you have successfully restored from your last good backup. Any changes you made since that backup are gone, so it is important to do your backups regularly.

Step 12 - Creating Automatic Backups

These instructions will help you create automatic backups of your minecraft world, so that you don't have to worry about remembering. These instructions will do the following;

1) Provide a ready to use script to initiate the backup
2) Configure the cron scheduler to start the backup at 2:02am everyday
3) Name the backup day_of_week-minecraft-.tar.gz

This will create a 7 day rotation of backups with the oldest being overwritten with a new one.

a) Create your script.

    cd /opt/scripts
    nano mcbackup.sh
b) copy and paste this script into your mcbackup.sh file you have open in the nano editor. Change the dest= line to point to the folder you want your backups to reside in.

#!/bin/sh
####################################
#
# Backup minecraft world to a
# specified folder.
#
####################################

# What to backup.  Name of minecraft folder in /opt
backup_files="minecraft"

# Specify which directory to backup to.
# Make sure you have enough space to hold 7 days of backups. This
# can be on the server itself, to an external hard drive or mounted network share.
# Warning: minecraft worlds can get fairly large so choose your backup destination accordingly.
dest="/home/username/minecraftbackups"

# Create backup archive filename.
day=$(date +%A)
archive_file="$day-$backup_files-.tar.gz"

# Backup the files using tar.
cd /opt && tar zcvf $dest/$archive_file $backup_files

c) Save the file by pressing CTRL-X and entering Y

d) Make the file executable

    chmod +x mcbackup.sh
e) Test your script. Before creating the scheduled task ensure your script works

    /opt/scripts/mcbackup.sh

You should see the backup happening. Once completed open the file it created which should be in the location that you specified. Once you have confirmed that your backup works, create a scheduled task to automate the backups.

f) Create a scheduled task with the cron scheduler
Make sure you are logged in as root so that it writes to your root user crontab.

    crontab -e
Enter this line at the end of your root crontab and then save it.
    02 2 * * * /opt/scripts/mcbackup.sh &> /dev/null
This will create your backup every day at 2:02 am. That's it, in your folder where you specified your backups to be created you will have the following after one week;

Monday-mcbackup-.tar.gz
Tuesday-mcbackup-.tar.gz
Wednesday-mcbackup-.tar.gz
Thursday-mcbackup-.tar.gz
Friday-mcbackup-.tar.gz
Saturday-mcbackup-.tar.gz
Sunday-mcbackup-.tar.gz
Every day your oldest file will be replaced with the new backup giving you a seven day rotation of backups.

That's it! Now have fun! I hope these instructions were helpful and that you learned a bit of how a Minecraft server functions.

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