Sunday, July 31, 2011

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Running Linux from a Flash Drive

USB Flash Drive
One of my friends at work was talking about running Linux from a USB drive and I thought to myself, "Self, I've never done that.  I wonder what's involved."  As it turns out, creating a bootable USB Flash Drive with Ubuntu Linux is pretty easy.  This post shows you how to do it.

If you already have Ubuntu Linux (v.11.04) installed then simply boot up your computer and from the main menu (of the Classic Desktop) select System -> Administration -> Startup Disk Creator.  If you don't have Linux installed, then insert the Ubuntu Linux DVD, restart your computer and run Ubuntu from the DVD (don't install Linux, just "try Linux").  Once Linux has booted then select Startup Disk Creator by clicking on the Ubuntu icon in the
top left (of the Unity Desktop) and typing in "Startup" in the search box to find the application.

Plug in the USB flash drive that you want to install Linux onto.  It should be shown in the Startup Disk Creator dialog box.  Click the Erase Disk button to erase the disk.  Then, with your Linux install DVD inserted and mounted (this is already done if you booted from the Linux install DVD), click the Make Startup Disk button.  In a few minutes, you will have a USB Flash Drive that you can use to boot into a Linux installation.  You can even save files back to the USB Flash Drive that you work on in Linux.

To test out your new Linux USB Flash Drive, reboot your computer and in your BIOS change the boot options to boot from USB Flash Drive.  You should now be able to boot from the USB Flash Drive, just like you booted from the DVD.  And not surprisingly, it looks a lot like the DVD.  Basically, you created a USB Flash Drive that functions exactly like the Ubuntu install DVD with one important difference.  When you "try" Ubuntu on the USB Flash Drive, you can save files and preferences that will be available to you on subsequent boots.

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