How to Install Linux OS on USB Drive and Run it On Any PC

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64 Responses

  1. Howard says:

    I used an 8GB USB flash drive. I partitioned it per the instructions.

    In Step #3, bullet #7 – I was asked for additional details regarding partitions, but these are not addressed in the tutorial. I guessed the right settings – the installation proceeded, I was able to boot and use Lubuntu from the USB, but that’s where the fun ended. The OS tried downloading the updates and ran out of space. Also, the drive remained unreadable to the Windows machine I was using.

    Not sure what went wrong – perhaps the additional details would have been helpful.

    Anyway, just something for you to consider expanding upon.

    • Amit Hambar says:

      You have to select your boot partition size according to your need. Your boot partition is in ext4 format that’s why it will be unreadable in windows. but if your 2nd partition is unreadable, then format it using FAT or NTFS format.

  2. Anandkumar R says:

    This deleted my existing bootloader for windows. How to reload that?
    I dont have a windows cd with me now. Please help.

    • Amit Hambar says:

      Use your pendrive or linux installation disk to open linux OS on the same machine. and from terminal install boot-loader again on your hard disk. that’s it!

  3. totedati says:

    Why usb pendrive? Is still not so fast if you count the write cycle part! Even better, just use an external ssd! Pricey but with usb 3.0 or esata screaming fast! On driver support part is common knowledge today that auto-detection part of Linux kernel just work.

    On all mainstream Linux distro the kernel is configured to carry almost all drivers, some specialized distros can choose to make some trade-off, to exclude some drivers to save space and memory, but hdd space is so cheap that for years default kernel configuration is to include all drivers and this means a lot of drivers!

    You need to be careful on only one part, when you install the distribution usually the intended target IS NOT /dev/sda when you want to install to some external ssd or usb pendrive but something like /dev/sdb or /dev/sdc or even more

  4. Kurt Roesener says:

    The 2 screenshots for #6 and #7 are really small, even after clicking on them, and those are the most important ones.
    Any chance of getting bigger ones to enlarge?

    • Ravi Saive says:


      Thanks for pointing out, we’v’e updated the images with bigger sizes so that you can clearly see it..

  5. Frank K says:

    Most distros now use blkid to reference partitions but check to make sure on whatever distro you use. Also, there are many tweaks to help reduce writes to the USB so you don’t wear it out too fast.

    On installation avoid using any proprietary drivers for your hardware. You may also want to look into zram and prelink.

  6. Ivan says:

    Porteus offers a lighter, optimised linux that can run from RAM.

  7. Kevin says:

    Great article but will this work on pc’s that have UEFI enabled?

  8. Glenn Hamblin says:

    What a great idea, and Awesome tutorial thanks.

  9. Sadiq says:

    Nice one, Ravi.

  10. Miguel Mayol i Tur says:

    What happens with drivers video network etc when you plug it in a different platform Intel vs AMD CPUs, Intel vs Nvidia vs AMD GPUs etc?

    How is this better than boot with grub from ISO and add a permanent file system as Multisystem offers you to do?

    • Amit Hambar says:

      If you are using boot from ISO, all the modification like settings or installed software will not be permanent. In next boot there will be fresh OS again. That is not the case with permanent file system…
      for GPUs if you have installed all the drivers on Linux on USB, It should work on any PC, with or without GPU…

      • Miguel Mayol i Tur says:

        It would be a great help if you add this tricks – install all the GPU and network drivers to the article or a second part of it.
        With debs rpms archs distros and Manjaro – mhwd – and other singularities in major distros if there are any how to.

        Also some boot options as amd_iommu=on iommu=pt that is needed in my gigabyte 970 motherboard to make USB 3.1 work, but more important than that, the network drivers.

        And even better if there is an easier way than adding it to GRUB.CFG from the grub console making easy to add a grub entry for this kind – and other exceptions – of machines.

        • Amit Hambar says:

          For GPU and Network drivers installation you can go with Normal procedure which you are using for your PC with Hard Drive installation.

          There is no any change, In this tutorial we are installing OS on USB (because it is portable) instead of Hard disk. Rest everything is same…

          For BOOT options Normal Procedure should work. But I am not sure…

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