How to ... install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive

How to ... install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive

Summary: From the Hardware 2.0 mailbag: Can you install Ubuntu on a USB flash drive?Yes, yes you can. Here's how.

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From the Hardware 2.0 mailbag: Can you install Ubuntu on a USB flash drive?

Yes, yes you can. Here's what you need:

  • Ubuntu 8.04 Live CD
  • USB flash drive (4GB+)

If you don't have an Ubuntu 8.04 Live CD then you'll need to download the .ISO file and burn one.

Full installation gallery here

Before we go any further I think that it's important that I point out the dangers associated with this process. Specifically, if you make a mistake and install Ubuntu onto your system's hard drive then not only have you lost data, but you've become a Linux user. You need to make sure that you choose the right drive.

Tip: If you want to eliminate the chance of overwriting one of your hard drives then you can physically disconnect them before booting from the Live CD.

Note: Back up the data on your USB flash drive if you don't want to lose it!

Here's the process:

  1. Boot up off the Ubuntu Live CD.
  2. Kick off the Ubuntu install process.
  3. Word your way through the guided install until you get to the Step 4 - Prepare disk space. Here make sure to choose Guided - use entire disk. How to Â… install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive Note: I've only got one drive displayed - all others have been disconnected.
  4. Carry on working your way through the install until you get to Step 7 - Ready to install. Here click on the Advanced ... button. Under Advanced Options make sure that Install boot loader is checked and from the Device for boot loader installation drop down box make sure to choose the correct drive to install the boot loader onto - this is of critical importance if you still have your hard drives fitted! When you're done click OK and continue with the install. How to Â… install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive
  5. Now it's mostly a matter of playing the waiting game as Ubuntu is being installed on your USB flash drive.
  6. When the process is done, remove the Live CD and reboot. How to Â… install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive Note: If you disconnected your hard drives, now is a good time to reconnect them!
  7. Remember that to make use of your Ubuntu-powered USB flash drive on a PC you'll need to use the BIOS or boot loader to choose the option to boot from USB devices.

Note: If you have VMware Workstation installed then you can create your Ubuntu-powered USB flash drive from the comfort and safety of a virtual PC - also, since you can boot up off the Ubuntu .ISO file, you don't need to burn a CD!

Enjoy!

Topics: Hardware, Open Source

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39 comments
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  • Good tip

    [i]Tip: If you want to eliminate the chance of overwriting one of your hard drives then you can physically disconnect them before booting from the Live CD.[/i]

    For years now my advice to people trying out Linux is to disconnect their normal system disk and use one that they can "throw away" -- not so much because there's really much chance of getting it wrong and doing any damage, but because it's such a huge anxiety reducer.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • RE: How to ... install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive

    Adrian... while the tip is sound for people that just don't know, you should clarify that the chance of installing and over-writing a disk is pretty minimal since to do so would require the user to click through several screens, including a screen that explicitly tells you that if you proceed you will install the system [url=http://content.zdnet.com/2346-12554_22-193586-11.html]From ZDNet itself...[/url]

    So maybe you could word it as a piece of mind step and not a preventive step. The way it written now makes one think Linux will install without user intervention. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • True ...

      But you know non-Linux users :-)
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • ...

        Not all are that stupid... but wording is everything... and if a non-geek is curious and wants to try Linux out, wording can scare them off, when there was nothing to be scared of in the first place. ]:)
        Linux User 147560
        • RE ... nothing to be scared

          [i][b]"... if a non-geek is curious and wants to try Linux out, wording can scare them off, when there was nothing to be scared of in the first place."[/b][/i]

          You just gave the definition of FUD ;)

          Must tech writers who don't understand Linux, will intentionally or unintentionally sprinkle in some FUD.

          Good job `dre
          ]:)
          n0neXn0ne
      • Non-Linux users???

        Its a good step for me as will fall asleep while playing with this late at night, wake up and click right on through the install forgetting what I was trying to do. Bye bye files. lol
        storm14k
  • Caution: Linux = addictive fun

    Nice article! I'm afraid though, that you're becoming as addicted to the fun of Linux as I am. :-)

    One remark: I think that a 4 GB USB flash drive is a little too cramped for an Ubuntu installation. The standard installation already uses more than 3 GB, and there's the swap space to consider.

    I recommend therefore using an 8 GB USB flash drive. Then you won't have to fear file fragmentation as well, because if you give Linux (any Linux, not just Ubuntu) at least 25 % free space on the root partition, fragmentation stays in the realm of 0,5 %.

    Explanation:
    http://geekblog.oneandoneis2.org/index.php/2006/08/17/why_doesn_t_linux_need_defragmenting

    Greetz, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • better yet

      Put it on an external drive. Not that much to carry, but you have a full system with all your stuff, and lots and lots of room. And a hard drive can be written to zillions of times.
      A cheap 2.5" external 80 gig can be had for 60 bucks. (I found a 120 on clearance for 70) May not be as small as a jump drive, but it fits in a shirt pocket.
      Same instructions. Disconnect every other drive you have except it.
      cheapasskevin
  • Is it persistent?

    In previous versions USB installs were basically live CDs because they had to redetect the hardware on each boot. This meant that they weren't persistent.

    The method here requires a normal install to be able to handle massive hardware changes between boots. Can it do this now?

    And more importantly, is this method persistent, or does it reset after each boot, like a live CD?
    Eapache
    • Twice yes

      Yes, it can handle massive hardware changes. Although you probably need to boot into recovery mode and "try to fix x-server" in the menu, whenever another video card is involved. That'll trigger renewed recognition of the video hardware.

      And it's "persistent", because (unlike a LiveCD), a USB thumb drive is writeable.
      pjotr123
  • RE: How to ... install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive

    wow. good article..one of the first threads where the topic of discussion didnt actually break down into a flame war about who says what about other OS'es

    i've been planning on actually doing this for awhile, just waiting for price drops on the usb thumbdrives.

    but one question, does it behave like a livecd where you dont get to keep your data? in which case you need another drive of some sort.

    also, which thumbs drives are best for this type project?
    richvball44
    • You keep you data: thumb drive is writeable, unlike a LiveCD.

      ....But it will be considerably slower than a hard drive installation. even if you use a relatively fast USB thumb drive (the faster the read/write speed, the better).
      pjotr123
  • Can You Do This With Windows?

    Oh, HECK NO.
    itanalyst2@...
    • Can you do this with LINUX? LOL! Ok, stop kiding me

      Can you do this with LINUX?

      LOL HECK NO FOR SURE!
      OleMadrid
  • RE: How to ... install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive

    So, what is the objective to install Linux to usb... if install the bood loader is not a default option?
    OleMadrid
    • Install defaults

      In some Linux distributions I've used the default location to install the boot loader is the first hard drive - /dev/hda or dev/sda depending on your system. On others one is shown several choices.
      Larry the Security Guy
  • Add the advanced step to screen gallery

    It would be great if you add the advanced step to select the option to install the loader...
    OleMadrid
  • RE: How to ... install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive

    Heh,
    tora201
  • RE: How to ... install Ubuntu 8.04 on a USB flash drive

    I did this with Puppy Linux six months ago. Show me something else interesting I can do with Linux.
    mottomike7@...
  • Why USB Drive?

    Whew, I am really glad you can do this. It will help me do...do...actually I can't thing of any uses for this. Linux already doesn't run the software I need, having it on a USB disk won't make the situation any better.
    TheGooch1