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

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83 Responses

  1. Nikunj says:

    Hi Amit,

    It was nice to read your article, very knowledgeable.

    Can you please elaborate on making the USB partitions using GPARTED. I am using Windows 7 if that matters.

    Thank you.

    • Amit Nandkumar Hambar says:

      Just follow this procedure.

      1. Go to Device -> Create Partition Table (Complete procedure).
      2. Then go to Partition -> New and Create 1st partition for Linux Installation (Format with ext4).
      3. Follow same procedure for second partition which you can use for Normal Usage (Format with FAT or NTFS).
  2. Nick Clay says:

    Thanks, I found this helpful. A couple of points, though:

    1. When I got to step 7, I couldn’t see how to create the mount point on the EXt4 partition. I didn’t expect to have to format the USB drive again as I’d already done that at Step 2 with Gparted.

    It took a lot of fruitless searching before I got round to clicking on the “format” button and discovering it’s only when you actually select one of the formats on offer that you then get a choice of mount points. This is so crucial I think it should be mentioned in the guide.

    2. When I got to Step 8 and checked what was listed, I noticed the installer was proposing to reformat one of my main hard drive partitions as a Linux Swap partition! I had not requested this.

    So I went back to Step 2 and used Gparted to create a small additional partition on the “Main” USB stick, between the Ext4 and the Fat32 partitions. When I then re-ran the installation, the installer found the swap partition and kept all its operations to the USB stick as intended.

    • Amit Nandkumar Hambar says:

      Swap partition is needed only if your RAM is low. If you have RAM size above 4 GB, I don’t think you will need swap space.

  3. King B says:

    GRUB is installed to hard drive, i need to boot to hard drive with installed ubuntu usb to access ubuntu, i can’t boot from installed linux usb on other computer

  4. Mike says:

    Where in this process is the ‘EFI system partition’ created? On my machine, Grub installation fails and the entire process aborts.

    This happens at the every end of course, after all kinds of time has been expended. I’m fairly certain the Grub install fails because there isn’t an EFI system partition on the USB Thumb drive.

    Am I missing something?

    • Amit Nandkumar Hambar says:

      Which Linux OS you are using? For Ubuntu derivatives, it works correctly. Carefully follow 7th step. you have to select your main usb device for grub installation. No need to create EFI partition. Another thing, just check whether that installation live os booted in UEFI mode or BIOS mode. try again on another PC.

    • Chris DeLicia says:

      This article doesn’t mention that, at least with different usb stick apps like Rufus and Etcher, some ISO’s will not install onto a ext3 or 4 partition, but create their own ISO 9660 formatted partition (essentially an optical disk image).

      Some USB distros like Fatdog64, will expand to fill the entire drive, but it remains in an optical disc image format, not following typical linux partition layouts. The good news is that a separate EFI partition is not needed for these. Fatdog64 works on EFI-booting machines by providing a disk image; refind.img.

      So I guess you are partly right, a boot EFI partition of some sort is needed, but, it can be provided in other ways than a “true” primary 16 or 32 FAT formatted partition in a disk partition table. There are workarounds. Unfortunately most articles published on websites don’t explain this adequately, they just show the steps any user can use to end up with a boot disk that works in most cases. You have to scour forums for technical users to get explanations why your particular set-up may not wo.rk

  5. tazmo8448 says:

    From Step 1 to Step 2 you must make two bootable usb’s. One with the OS/Distro you want to use; the other with the Gparted .ISO, then you boot to the Gparted with the blank (Main) usb inserted create the partitions (EXT4 & FAT32) THEN you boot to the bootable OS .ISO and install that to the partition you created.

  6. tazmo8448 says:

    Seems like you left out one very important fact, don’t we have to boot to the mounted CD .ISO first? then have the ‘blank usb (Main USB) inserted and also??

    When you say download the .ISO you don’t make it clear what exactly you do with it to make it work. Your next image is of your drives listed. It would help if you explain or show how you got to that point then show how to use the .ISO to create the partition.

  7. Jon says:

    This does not work on my Acer laptop. It won’t recognize a usb stick with an ext filesystem. I can boot from a live usb as that is formatted to fat32 but not it does not recognize a usb stick formatted to ext4.

    However it does work fine on my desktop and my Dell laptop. Thanks

  8. Helder C Grande says:

    Hello, thanks for the tutorial,

    If I do that in my laptop, then unplug the USB drive, will windows boot normally? Or it will start with the grub (dual boot) interface?

    Since the laptop I am using is not mine, I don’t want to do any permanent change on it.

    • Amit Nandkumar Hambar says:

      Yes windows will boot normally. see step no. 7. you have to select bootloader device as your usb drive. so it will not affect SSD/HDD of that laptop.

  9. Joe W says:

    1) I hate Windows 10 (and all the previous versions, too) for every reason ever stated.
    2) I’d like to get ANY Linux OS, just to try it out to see if it’s any better than W.10.
    3) You lost me at: “Step One: Use your Linux ISO image file … ” ???????

    Thanks for trying, but…!

    I didn’t get weaned on an electronic device. I didn’t suckle on a mouse curser-teat. I read books I held in my hands and if there was a lit-up screen, it was a TV and what went in my eyes usually left the moment the next spray of electrons changed what was shown enough to detect motion in the picture.

    Most TVs were still black and white and I always wondered what NBC’s peacock actually looked like. When I was in High School, the most modern computer filled a multi-story building, ran on magnetic tape and received instructions via punch cards, and had less capacity than a 2017 fit-bit.

    I have been searching for years for ANY “literally” Step-by-Step how-to-get-a-copy instructions so I can experience Linux without the corporate for-profit motivated intrusions that accompany all Microsoft and/or addle and/or gurgle “product”.

    Is ANYONE aware of such a set of instructions? Karmic infinite justice (it isn’t a bad thing) upon all who reveal (or create) such an up-to-date set of instructions. I’d really like to experience it before I can’t experience anything at all.


    • Amit Hambar says:

      Linux is different than Windows. Windows is developed commercially for commercial purpose by a single company, where as Linux is developed by many developers from many distributors. Windows is the base for most of the software developed. that’s why it is difficult to make it work on any Linux distribution. Both Operating systems are having their own advantages and disadvantages.

      I don’t saying that Linux cannot be used as Windows, I am using Linux for more than 5 years without any problem. I can do every task on Linux even some extra features than windows are there. Give some time to Linux, try every possible way of doing tasks you want. Take help of Linux communities and then Linux will be your friend. Best Luck.

  10. Henrik says:

    For use on USB with different PC’s and laptops it seems easier to make “”lubuntu live usb persistence“” which for instance this tutorial shows

    But maybe I am missing out something important about your fine tutorial compared to the live usb persistence?

    • Amit Hambar says:

      Yes, Live USB persistence will be useful for making files available after reboot. but USB created by this tutorial makes every change permanent in the system. That means every modifications like installing software, tweaks, settings, files etc. will not change after reboot.
      It is just like installing OS on your Hard disk, only the thing is, that hard disk (i.e. pen drive here) is portable.

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