Ubuntu from your flash drive – easier than ever before

As you have probably noticed, new versions have arrived of Ubuntu, Xubuntu and other derivatives. One of the most exciting new features has received far less publicity than it deserves – the ability to “install” it onto your USB flash drive with just a few clicks.

The advantages are obvious: just plug your flash drive into a computer and run your favourite operating system. What’s more, everything you do — installing applications, saving documents, editing preferences — will be saved to your flash drive and will be available to you every time you run it!

The best news is that it’s astoundingly easy: all it takes is a few clicks.

Of course, there are a few requirements. First, you can only run it on computers that support booting from a USB flash drive – this is the case for most computers nowadays. Secondly, you must have a CD or a CD image. The latter can be downloaded free of charge – I, obviously, downloaded Xubuntu. Third, you’ll need to install usb-creator, the new application that is readily available in version 8.10 but which you can also download and install on version 8.04 (with Windows and Qt versions planned). And, last but not least, you’ll obviously need to have a USB flash drive.

Once installed, you can find it in your menu as Create a USB startup disk (on Xubuntu it is located under Applications->System, in Ubuntu this would be System->Administration, IIRC).

The first thing you’ll need to do is to insert the flash drive you’re planning to use. Usb-creator will then detect the drive – if multiple flash drives are inserted, you can pick from a list which one you want to use, and if the drive isn’t formatted yet usb-creator will give you the option to do so (note that this will destroy all files on it!).

The next step is inserting the appropriate CD into your CD drive, or loading the CD image you downloaded before by clicking Other….

Finally, you’ll need to configure whether you want all your documents, settings and applications to be discarded on shutdown (i.e. act as a regular LiveCD) or if you want to save them to your flash drive (this is called persistency, or persistent mode). If you pick the latter, you’ll also be able to select how much space you want to reserve for this.

Do note that usb-creator will not overwrite existing files on the drive – thus, if you want to use your entire drive, you’ll first have to delete all existing files.

Now, with everything configured, click Make Startup Disk, and sit back and relax while usb-creator prepares your flash drive.

You can do something entirely different now, like reading the rest of this blog, viewing all my screenshots of usb-creator, whatever you like. Once usb-creator is finished, it will notify you that it’s done. All that’s left now is to boot your computer from your flash drive and have fun :)


If persistency does not work, you might need to edit the file text.cfg in the syslinux folder on your flash drive. Just replace the line default livewith the following lines, adding a new Start Xubuntu option to the boot screen the next time you boot. Note that you might want to replace occurences of “Xubuntu” with the name of the distro you’re using. This has been tested with Xubuntu 8.10;

default persistent
label persistent
menu label ^Start Xubuntu
kernel /casper/vmlinuz
append file=/cdrom/preseed/xubuntu.seed boot=casper initrd=/casper/initrd.gz quiet splash persistent

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134 Responses to “Ubuntu from your flash drive – easier than ever before”

  1. 1 Mohan 8 November 2008 at 1:21 am

    Awesome, I tried it out last week and it worked a charm. I love this feature. :)

    • 2 Pontus 21 April 2009 at 1:54 pm

      I get Missing operating system when i try it.
      I have a HP mini and have no CD.
      Please help! Otherwise im stuck with having my comp infected by windows :)

    • 3 Vincent 24 April 2009 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Pontus,

      Which ISO file have you used? Have you tried using an older version? Are you sure the process completed?

      PS. Please use the form at the very bottom of this page next time you’re commenting on the post and not replying to an individual comment.

  2. 4 Jaramin 9 November 2008 at 8:30 am

    Any idea what kind of performance hit you get on read/writes because of USB?

  3. 5 Jason 9 November 2008 at 9:30 am

    So can you keep it current with apt as well?


  4. 6 Iulian 9 November 2008 at 9:37 am

    You can use the USB stick to install the system on a HDD too. This is how I did it last time. It is indeed a great feature. For more details you can see at this address: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/FromUSBStick

  5. 7 dino 9 November 2008 at 9:56 am

    How big should your USB stick be, to install this on it?

  6. 8 stan 9 November 2008 at 10:19 am

    Make sure to pick a memory stick that is large enough to hold the contents of the installation CD (about 700MB), 1GB is recommended

  7. 9 Neo 9 November 2008 at 10:23 am

    Sadly, this is just more NIH from Ubuntu well after Fedora already created and has a more mature and working liveusb-creator


    Why not use the open tools already created instead of reinventing the wheel? Horrible UI as well.

  8. 10 Fanaz 9 November 2008 at 11:47 am

    I have Fedora/RedHat installed to my USB flash drive almost 5 years, and used it on more than 150 different PC’s at home, at work, at university, anywhere. It is very strange for me, that this type of usage/work is becoming popular on now, after so many years of availability. And what is even more strange, ppl are starting to use flash drivers only as Live-USB (like Live-CD), but not as I use, like “removable HDD”. There is no need for notebook PC’s anymore. Take your flash drive, go to every PC, connect it, boot it, use it. This possibility is available for more than 5 years. But no one have talked about in any forum or anywhere. Don’t know why.

    • 11 Bill Fetherman 2 February 2010 at 4:56 am

      I just started to mess around with Fedora and Ubuntu. I made a boot able Flash but any changes I make to it is not saved after reboot. Is the ability to use a flash drive as a portable OS just for trouble shooting or can it be used as a portable desktop?

    • 12 fooboo 2 February 2010 at 10:17 am


      It can be used as a portable desktop. I have done so successfully with a couple of different linux flavours following instructions here and on pendrivelinux.com.

    • 13 Vincent 2 February 2010 at 4:08 pm

      I’m using it as a portable OS, so I can take my preferred operating system and application preferences/extensions with me when I’m at my parents’, for example. (Though of course, if you do need to troubleshoot, it’s very handy too :) )

    • 14 fooboo 2 February 2010 at 4:19 pm

      Mine is a somewhat unorthodox use. I took an HP thin client network terminal device, pulled out the ROM chip, and booted it from USB to create a v .low power consumption always on machine that I can run java builds on.

  9. 15 richs-lxh 9 November 2008 at 12:13 pm


    Hi mate. Firstly, these are “persistent” Pendrives. Fedora has only had this since Fedora 9.

    Whatsmore 5 years ago the average pendrive was only 64Mb’s. I would like to know how you ran a fully installed Fedora.


  10. 16 DayEleven 9 November 2008 at 12:39 pm

    It hasn’t worked for me. The X server do not even start. Ati graphics on Asus notebook.

    Why I keep wasting time with Linux I’ll never know. I want to believe, I guess.

  11. 17 Jean 9 November 2008 at 12:53 pm


    Well, why don’t you try and install Vista on your USB drive then?

  12. 18 Fanaz 9 November 2008 at 1:50 pm


    256MB in 2004 and 512MB in 2005. It was enought to run minimal Linux distribution. First USB flash drive i used for full Fedora installation was 2GB made by PQI. I have few PC’s that are even without HDD and used only with USB flash drive for boot and work ;)

  13. 19 kurtlinux 9 November 2008 at 1:53 pm



    Well said. I’d like to see Micro$oft pull a stunt like this.


    Yeah, I’d like to know how you did this 5 years ago.

  14. 20 Mach 9 November 2008 at 2:52 pm

    UNetBootin is also great for booting Ubuntu (and many other Linux distros) from an USB stick :D

  15. 21 Vincent 9 November 2008 at 4:24 pm

    @Jaramin – what usb-creator actually does is modify a LiveCD to run from your USB drive and have it save stuff to your USB drive. This is more efficient than, say, installing is to your flash drive like you normally would. Of course, it’s still more demanding than the average use of a USB flash drive, but I’ve been doing it for ages now and it’s still working fine. It shouldn’t be a problem for, well, any flash drive…

    @Jason – yep, keeping it current will work as well, though of course, you need to be able to fit it on your USB drive, which is why I don’t really install updates on mine (2GB) – it’s still a daily build from before the release and there have been so many updates since.

    @Iulian – that indeed works fine as well, thanks for mentioning it.

    @dino, stan – at least 700MB (without persistence), I’ll add that to the post.

    @Neo – the process for Ubuntu is different from Fedora’s. You couldn’t use their tool for Ubuntu, if I’m right. The UI is quite easy to understand, though perhaps the labels could be friendlier. Note that there are more products like this – e.g. liveusb. When people feel like writing something, who are we to stop them?

    @Fanaz – I’ve been doing this for a while, I wrote two posts that were very popular, so obviously this isn’t new. However, new tools have been appearing now that make it much, much easier (compare the steps in this post tho those in those earlier two). As far as I can see, it hasn’t become more popular, I’ve just learned how to better market my blog ;).

    @DayEleven – sorry to hear it doesn’t work for you. I suppose the reason you keep trying is that it does work for other people :P.

    @Mach – I’m aware of UNetbootin, however, that doesn’t support persistent mode and uses Qt as opposed to GTK, which doesn’t integrate as well (remember, this is a Xubuntu blog).

  16. 22 pup 9 November 2008 at 7:13 pm

    whats the big deal?

    format your USB ksy drive with a xp 3rd party app, download SLAX liveCD http://www.slax.org/forum.php? , copy the two dirs to the USB key, cd to it and run a bat file , YOUR DONE, boot the thing and be happy runing from local apps in module form for install directly from the above pages for temp usage etc….

    hell even the later slax allow you to NET boot the liveCD/USB image on any other LAN PC if you like as a generic option.

    boot your first LiveCD/USB , select netboot server, and your off….


  17. 23 Vincent 9 November 2008 at 7:25 pm

    @pup and others – why so negative? This is a Xubuntu Blog, my blog, and I write stuff that I think will be helpful to Xubuntu users and other people. I thought there would be some people that would appreciate to know such a tool and to find instructions on how to use them.

    Sure, you can do that on <whatever>, and I’m not stopping you. But what’s the problem with me posting instructions for this particular application on this particular blog?

  18. 24 pup 9 November 2008 at 7:27 pm

    negative ?, you can get Xubuntu SLAX too , no problem….

  19. 25 Vincent 9 November 2008 at 7:33 pm

    @pup – with negative I mean the attitude of the comments, e.g.

    whats the big deal?

    That’s not helping anybody, is it?

  20. 26 pup 9 November 2008 at 8:05 pm

    with in my comment telling people they can setup and boot a Slax in less time than tit takes to download the original ISO is not helpful?

    Download the HP-USB Format windows 3rd party tool and format your flash drive using the Fat or Fat32 option
    http://files.filefront.com/SP27608exe/;9868201;/fileinfo.html is not useful ?

    telling people the generic Slax RC’s have been net/PXE booting that image as an option for a while now, UNLIKE ANY OTHER generic distro, is not being helpful?

    it seems helpful and not a problem to me, but perhaps im wrong and need lessons i being helpful ;)



    default slax
    prompt 1
    timeout 300

    # runtu
    LABEL runtu
    kernel runtu/casper/vmlinuz
    append initrd=runtu/casper/initrd.gz boot=casper netboot=nfs
    nfsroot= —

    # xubuntu
    LABEL xubuntu
    kernel xubuntu/casper/vmlinuz
    append initrd=xubuntu/casper/initrd.gz boot=casper netboot=nfs
    nfsroot= —

    # SLAX
    LABEL slax
    kernel slax/boot/vmlinuz
    append initrd=slax/boot/initrd.gz ramdisk_size=6666 root=/dev/ram0 rw
    autoexec=xconf;telinit~4 boot=nfs netboot=nfs

    /var/lib/tftpboot/runtu *(ro,async)
    /var/lib/tftpboot/xubuntu *(ro,async)
    /var/lib/tftpboot/slax *(ro,async)

  21. 27 learningspanish 9 November 2008 at 8:12 pm

    I think it’s great to be talking about things like this getting easier. Yes in tech circles “it’s been possible to do this for years”… the fact is many people didn’t know and having a nice new gui for it is a good thing.

    I don’t know why it always seems that on tech related posts some people try to “out-cool” everyone else by saying “oh that’s no big deal”.

    Frankly 5 years ago I didn’t have a pc that would boot from USB. Today even I think only one in the house might (~5+ pcs in house.) So, that’s been a point holding this kind of usage back. For that matter I suspect a lot of places would have a hissy-fit if they saw you rebooting a pc with something “different” installed. (Libraries/some business environments/schools.)

  22. 28 pup 9 November 2008 at 8:27 pm

    its not a problem if those 5+ year old PCs in your house can net/PXE boot in their BIOS etc.

    as long as you have at least one LAN conneced machine that can net/PXE boot those generic Slax RCs (or you can add your modules to them and make your own custom xubuntu slax OC.

    also theres always the Vbox assigning a real spare net card to a virtual VBox net card and bridging them in a windows slax ISO/USB boot OC….

    try it if you have the time….

  23. 29 Vincent 9 November 2008 at 9:25 pm

    @pup – as you could see from the quote, I was referring to you saying whats the big deal? as being negative and not helpful. But I’ll shut up about that :)

    @learningspanish – hehe, so true ;-)

  24. 30 iandotcom 9 November 2008 at 10:59 pm

    This is way easier than the old process of making a persistent USB installation.. seriously, the clumps of hair sadly lost from the partitioning and the endless mounting in gnome-terminal didn’t cut it for me.

    I used it the other day to do an installation of Ubuntu from a USB stick to my girlfriends laptop, long story, Ubuntu needed reinstalling.

    The persistence feature was a good add-on, I remember that was a pain in the butt to set up too..

  25. 31 DayEleven 9 November 2008 at 11:19 pm


    Maybe because Vista is comfortably hosted as my primary OS in my 250GB hard drive.

    This was supposed to be a nice, easy way to have a secondary system without resorting to Wubi or VMs and that’s the reason I tried it. Better luck next time I guess.

  26. 32 psyfurius 9 November 2008 at 11:48 pm


    Hi man.. I wish to know what window theme are u using on those screenshots. I’m using Gnome :-)..

  27. 33 Vincent 9 November 2008 at 11:57 pm

    @psyfurius – bad news… Xfce has it’s own window manager (xfwm4) which has its own themes… This one is Xubuntu’s default, don’t know its name off the top of my head (I’m using Compiz right now with Emerald as window manager). You can use xfwm4 instead of Metacity if you like, but I suppose that’s too much hassle for a simple window manager theme ;-).

  28. 34 neo 10 November 2008 at 3:14 am

    “@Neo – the process for Ubuntu is different from Fedora’s. You couldn’t use their tool for Ubuntu, if I’m right.”

    Quite wrong Vincent. Fedora liveusb-creator tool and the script that existed from Fedora 7 called livecd-iso-to-disk, part of livecd-tools, has been used to create Ubuntu (and other distribution) live usb’s for a long time. You should know more about what you are writing before claiming that Ubuntu invented the world.

    I suggest that you look closely at other distributions and see how much they develop vs what Ubuntu does.

  29. 35 neo 10 November 2008 at 3:16 am

    Ah, one more thing. Ubuntu tool is still linux only and can’t do many of the stuff that Fedora does. Fedora’s underlying technology is from Fedora 7 days and it is cross platform as well.

  30. 36 OnkelSkrue 10 November 2008 at 9:33 am

    I didnt know Xbuntu also got this, thanks for the tip and guide – will try it later:-)

  31. 37 Nobody 10 November 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Hello. Does suspend/resume work? I’ve been planning to get rid of HDD as my primary storage for OS. This would help me create truly quiet PC by removing the last source of noice – the hard disk. If I could run Ubuntu from USB drive and do proper suspend/resume (to ram/to disk) there wouldn’t be need to keep HDD’s running all the time.

  32. 38 pup 10 November 2008 at 1:02 pm

    are you people talking about the Linux Live scripts ? as used averywere….


    you will take note that it is infact written by and (c) 2008 Tomas M, and you know what distro he makes available for your pleasure OC ;)

  33. 39 pup 10 November 2008 at 1:27 pm

    “If I could run Ubuntu from USB drive and do proper suspend/resume (to ram/to disk) there wouldn’t be need to keep HDD’s running all the time.”
    sure , why not!….

    if you realy wanted to get cool OC, you would setup a simple FreeNAS (netBSD LiveCd) on a USB stick, in your remote place,loft,spare room etc chock full of HD’s, and setup several iSCSI remote drive partions for your Ubuntu USB booted stick to mount and use as though they were local HDs….

    iSCSI is by far your fasted way to use ethernet to HDs…

    that way you get super quiet (although for that your better off with a simple Efika PPC micro board running off 4watts etc)PC and massses of virtual local storage running off your network FreeNAS iSCSI drives.

  34. 40 Davey 10 November 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Vista on USB?


    This is just a “live” setup though.

  35. 41 pup 10 November 2008 at 6:14 pm

    winbuilder and its like are fine ,HOWEVER peoples always seem to forget the fact its ONLY ever running in safe mode never real mode.

    you cant load/run any real substantial drivers or apps other than a very select few.

  36. 42 Davey 10 November 2008 at 6:39 pm

    That’s not entirely true, but I know it’s not comparable to a USB based linux setup in some regards. It runs most of the drivers that are included in Vista. Arguably more hardware is supported than live Linux distros. Additionally you can inject drivers into the image using the WAIK provided by Microsoft. Once you have that image you simply copy it to the correct location on the stick that has been properly formatted along with a few other files and you’re in business.

    Somewhat true on the apps though. Not all of the Windows subsystems are there and certain apps won’t work correctly. Though Firefox will let you access all your “cloud” apps and many other apps WILL run just fine.

    I mainly use it for “deinfesting” computers with viruses(virii for the anal) and spyware. You have read/write to the NTFS filesystems(I know Linux does too) AND you can run regedit. I use Free Commander to delete malicious files from the obvious locations. You can then go to the HKEY_USERS key, choose Load Hive… from the file menu and select an ntuser.dat file from C:\docs and settings\Username. Very handy. Also go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and choose Load hive… and go to C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG and load SOFTWARE and SYSTEM etc hives. This way you can pull the rug out from under the baddies then boot into the main system and run something like Spybot and an online virus scanner to clean up the incidental stuff left behind.

  37. 43 Vincent 10 November 2008 at 7:40 pm

    @Neo – the process for Ubuntu is different from Fedora’s. You couldn’t use their tool for Ubuntu, if I’m right.

    Quite wrong Vincent. Fedora liveusb-creator tool and the script that existed from Fedora 7 called livecd-iso-to-disk, part of livecd-tools, has been used to create Ubuntu (and other distribution) live usb’s for a long time. You should know more about what you are writing before claiming that Ubuntu invented the world.

    I suggest that you look closely at other distributions and see how much they develop vs what Ubuntu does.

    That’s why I added if I’m right to that – I wasn’t sure about it.

    So, you could use their tool for Ubuntu (with persistence?). However, I still can’t find a source for that. Even still, you can’t expect me, when writing a guide on a particular new tool, to research every other alternative tool available.

    Furthermore, it is clearly not my goal to deny people credit for applications they wrote. It is also not my goal to put people in the spotlight – it’s applications I write guides about.

    I can understand if people are frustrated by Ubuntu receiving much of the attention (in the Linux distribution world), but that’s no reason to accuse me of “claiming Ubuntu invented the world”.

    However, if this satisfies you, I’ll mention it here for other people to read: Fedora includes its own tools that allows you to run Fedora from USB (and, according to neo, Ubuntu as well) and, according to neo, can do a few more things than usb-creator and already runs on Windows.

    @Onkelscrue – you’re welcome :)

    @Nobody – Suspend worked for me. Hibernate didn’t, but that’s supposedly often a problem for Linux distributions (I don’t really use laptops all that much), so I don’t think that’s because it’s running from a USB flash drive.

    @Davey – nice :)

  38. 44 freeballer 10 November 2008 at 9:45 pm

    seeing as this possibly could have been updated I will try again, but I’ve tried this method once ubuntu (newest) came out a week or so with a 16gb drive and NADA, ZIP, ZILCH…. in fact getting ubuntu on zip drive was the most painful experience i’ve had with linux in a long time and I tried several methods and this one was not available in the menu system, have been told what command line is thou. will prob update this blog if works

  39. 45 fengshaun 10 November 2008 at 10:23 pm

    at least, for the sake of god, please mention something of where the idea came from and where the hard work (aka dirty work) came from. It’s very unfair that you guys take the idea and rework it, and don’t give credit. Isn’t free software about collaboration?? If it is, then why are you reinventing the wheel and putting your trademark on it? Come on guys, free software deserves more than that, it’s the community that matters, give credit!

  40. 46 Dox 11 November 2008 at 12:57 pm

    I use Fedora, but I’d love to have a persistent version of Ubuntu on a USB flash drive. Only problem is, how do you do this without wasting a CD? I managed to get Intrepid onto a 8GB flash drive using Unetbootin (an incredibly useful tool btw), however, as others have noted, it can’t do persistence.

    By the looks of it, to get persistence, I have to boot Intrepid from the flash drive I created, then use the usb-creator application to make a persistent version on a SECOND USB flash drive.

    I don’t have an appropriate second flash drive available, I don’t want to burn a live CD and I have Fedora on my computer. Any ideas?

  41. 47 Vincent 11 November 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Hi Dox, I don’t think there is a need for another CD or USB flash drive. You could try to install VirtualBox (you might need to do some stuff to enable USB support but the internet should be able to help) and run Intrepid from there.

    When I boot from my USB drive, I can still mount and edit the drive itself – I’m not sure whether this is possible with UNetbootin, but if it is, that should make it a whole lot easier.

  42. 48 mohan 12 November 2008 at 4:22 am

    i used this method to make a bootable xubuntu usb flash drive. everything went perfectly, however when it came time to reboot, i tried the usb key on 4 different usb ports with no booting OS (just continued into windows). then i tried the usb drive on another computer, and it said no bootable OS was found on the USB drive.

    when i plug it into my windows machine all the files seem to be in tact, can anyone help me out?

  43. 49 Dox 12 November 2008 at 8:58 am

    Hi Vincent,

    Thanks heaps for the tip. I really didn’t think that I could actually install (and effectively overwrite) Ubuntu onto a USB drive that I was actually running Ubuntu from at that time, so I tried your first suggestion, use VirtualBox.

    Well I certainly had difficulty getting VirtualBox to see the USB drive, but once I conquered that difficulty, it worked a treat! It’s the first time I’ve used VirtualBox, and frankly, it looks like fantastic (and very useful) software!

    Now I have a persistent version of Ubuntu on my USB drive using Fedora without burning a CD! In fact, I’m using it right now typing this post!

    Thanks again!

  44. 50 Lucas 12 November 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Nice! Going to give it a try.

  45. 51 Vincent 12 November 2008 at 5:12 pm

    @mohan – you might have to configure your BIOS to boot from USB (at least before it tries to boot from your hardware). Most computers do this differently, so there’s not much I can do here :( .

    If it says no bootable OS is found then perhaps you selected the wrong device, or perhaps you still need to set the boot flag (you can do so using Gparted, GNOME Partition Editor).

    @Dox – that is excellent news, I’m glad to hear that! Enjoy your UbuntUSB ;-)

    @Lucas – let me know how it went :)

  46. 52 mohan 13 November 2008 at 1:40 am


    thanks for the reply, bios is configured to boot from USB device, to set the boot flag using gparted, can i do this from an xubuntu live cd (because doesnt xubuntu use xfce, and not GNOME?)?

  47. 53 Mohan 13 November 2008 at 1:59 am

    sorry for the double post, but i checked the boot flags in gparted, and it is marked as boot, lba.

    any ideas?

  48. 54 Stephen Rees 13 November 2008 at 4:04 am

    How long is this supposed to take?

    I am running Ubuntu – in fact as result of following your steps I am now running ibex not heron (I had no intention of upgrading). And the USB dive has been “installing” for a couple of hours now. Though the window says “starting up” there is nothing happenning in the progress bar

    This was just to see if I could get Ubuntu onto a flash drive to test on my Eeepc

  49. 55 neo 13 November 2008 at 12:39 pm

    “So, you could use their tool for Ubuntu (with persistence?). However, I still can’t find a source for that. Even still, you can’t expect me, when writing a guide on a particular new tool, to research every other alternative tool available.”

    Why can’t find the source? It’s the first hit for fedora live usb howto. livecd-tools contains the script that works just fine on other distros. It has been posted to Ubuntu forums as well and is known to Ubuntu developers as well. They went ahead and reinvented the wheel anyway.

    I have now told you about the tool. So no need to research.

  50. 56 Vincent 13 November 2008 at 6:14 pm

    @Mohan – sorry, I’m out of ideas :(

    @Stephen – I have no idea how you managed to Intrepid, I can’t see of any way you could make that happen through this, but if one thing’s for sure is that that shouldn’t happen. It definitely shouldn’t take “a couple of hours”. Depending on your USB port (USB 2.0 is faster than 1.0) but as far as I can recall it didn’t take longer than half an hour for me (USB 2.0). And that’s a guess with a large margin.

    @neo – I see it mentioned nowhere on Fedora’s website. Also, I don’t see an Ubuntu package available and if there is one, it’s not in the official repositories, so this is easier. The developers might have known about that but they’ll have had their reasons; I can’t speak for them, however, so you’d have to send your complaints to their addresses (I suppose you’re referring to the developers of usb-creator specifically and not to Ubuntu developers in general?).

  51. 57 Heiko 20 November 2008 at 10:59 am

    @mohan: thats a known bug in the USB stick creator

    see: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/usb-creator/+bug/273477

    solution: apt-get install the package mbr and execute the command install-mbr to write an mbr to the stick. in my case the commandline was

    sudo install-mbr /dev/sdb


    concerning the live system.. i prefer installing ubuntu on a stick as if i would install it on the HDD because it boots so much faster due to not checking the hardware over and over again at each bootup (whoch is of course the normal behaviour of a live system) (assuming i did nothing wrong). i use my USB stick as a boot device for my media PC in the living room. no HDD noise for just being a streaming client and webtop.

  52. 58 Papa 21 November 2008 at 10:03 am

    Do I miss some pictures on IE7 ??


  53. 59 Papa 21 November 2008 at 10:08 am

    Sorry Vincent,

    The pictures appeared after some time !!


    PS: do not react on negative responses !!
    It is a pitty of the energy you spent !
    If they don’t like it, then they should not read it. Don’t react on remarks of fans of other distro. It IS a xubuntu blog anyway !!

  54. 60 Jose Catre-Vandis 22 November 2008 at 12:57 am

    Hi Vincent

    Thanks for the great little how to for creating a USB Xubuntu with persistence, plus the persistence fix. I didn’t know you could simply install the USB-Creator for Xubuntu nor how easy it would be to build Xubuntu on a flash drive with the tool (having used the pendrivelinux guides in the past).

    Many thanks for the post, and the great blog about Xubuntu and the things you can achieve with it.

    ps Ignore the morons! They have some serious chips on shoulders!

  55. 61 Jose Catre-Vandis 22 November 2008 at 12:26 pm

    As an addendum, my effort at usb creator didn’t need the fix to have persistence, but I need to go through a particular routine on my PC to get usb to boot up. This may help others.

    Power down your PC
    Remove usb stick
    Reinsert usb stick
    Power up

    This then allows bios to pick up the usb stick and use as a boot device

    What i would ideally like is a grub entry so i can boot it from there, but grub doesn’t seem to find the stick with whatever I have tried so far (pointing at hd1 (0) and /dev/sdb1) using the lines from text.cfg.


  56. 62 Jose Catre-Vandis 25 November 2008 at 12:51 am

    Sorry to post three times in a row, but have found a way to use grub to boot from usb (avoids all detection issues at boot). Works specifically for xubuntu 8.10.

    This is thanks to the USBCDX810.iso from http://www.pendrivelinux.com, which is designed to create a bootable cd-rom when your PC cannot / will not boot directly from a usb flash drive. Here’s how you do it.

    Download the USBCDX810.iso from here: http://downloads.sourceforge.net/pendrivelinux/USBCDX810.iso (only @ 10mb)

    Using gmountiso or similar iso mounting program mount the iso

    Create a new folder in your /boot directory, I used /boot/usb-boot

    Copy the grub folder, vmlinuz and initrd.gz files across from the mounted iso to your new directory

    Next open up your grub menu.lst: sudo nano /boot/grub/menu.lst

    Add the following to the bottom:

    title Run Xubuntu 8.10 from USB DISK
    root (hd0,0)
    kernel /boot/usb-boot/vmlinuz file=/cdrom/preseed/xubuntu.seed boot=casper noprompt cdrom-detect/try-usb=true persistent quiet splash
    initrd /boot/usb-boot/initrd.gz

    This assumes your system is running on the first partition of the first hard drive. Substitute (hd0,0) for the correct path. You can edit out quiet and splash if you like to watch what is going on.

    Save out, unmount the iso and reboot, inserting your flash drive as you go.

    You may want to edit your bios settings to stop your PC directly booting from the flash drive. (Yes, this sounds odd, mine does, but I wanted a way of doing this from grub, so I stopped the bios from doing it)

    On reboot, press ESC if you need to show your grub menu, then select the USB DISK entry at the bottom, and with any luck, you should start booting up from your USB Flash Drive.

    A bit more work, but a more elegant solution in my opinion.

    pendrivelinux also has similar boot isos for Ubuntu and Kubuntu.


  57. 63 Juno 1 December 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Vincent, I’ve done it with downloaded Live CD image, burn it, unplug all the HDD cables, plug 4GB usb thumbdrive, insert Live CD, boot from there and just choose install from the menu, and its persistent, now I’m using it with AspireOne110. This is the second installation, the first one is corrupted, my friend took the usb drive while xubuntu running :). Once I had my nokia bt headset work, but now I have no clue how to make it work again, any help will appreciated.

  58. 64 Vincent 6 December 2008 at 10:58 pm

    @Jose – thanks for the tips! (Sorry, your third comment was marked as spam so I’ve only just now approved it…)

    @Juno – sorry, no idea how to help with the phone, but I’m glad you got persistence working :)

    You might want to check my post on getting help with Xubuntu.

  59. 65 shrekbama 9 December 2008 at 7:18 pm

    > keeping it current will work as well

    Not for me. Updating made the update manager crazy.

    It kept saying not enough room on the drive (8 GB USB stick with all of it available to the OS). Finally gave up my dream of running from a USB stick and went back to an ordinary hard drive.

  60. 66 Gacek 9 December 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Hi guys,

    I try install this way Xubuntu a few times, and always when I reboot and try boot it from UBS it’s show me only “J” letter :/ and nothing else :/ I am sure that my usb stick is bootable, because ealier i run form this stick Backtrack, Fedora, Puppy and everthink was got. Maybe someone knows where is the problem?

  61. 67 Vincent 9 December 2008 at 10:55 pm

    @shrekbama – the problem is that every update takes up more space. I’ve run into this problem as well and have decided to lay off updating unless it’s some application I absolutely need.

    What helps is removing all the .deb-files in /var/cache/apt/archives, which is where apt keeps a copy of all the packages it installed, which takes up a lot of space.

    @Gacek – not sure what could’ve caused that, you might want to report a bug against the casper package.

  62. 68 Gacek 12 December 2008 at 11:51 am

    @Vincent thanks for advice, i will raport my problem.

    But i have another question, did someone try install Xubuntu using VirtulaBox and install directly on usb stick like normal hdd installation? I installed my Xubuntu on this way, but it dosen’t boot because i need change somethink in grub. Someone knows what i need change?

  63. 69 Juno 14 December 2008 at 2:26 am

    It is not always working when I tried install it directly to usb flash disk, I don not know why, I have tried it using 3 machines, 2 were intel(6750 and a pentium 4 1.5GHz) the other is opteron 165, all machines running XPsp2, but I guess it will not affect the installation process since I always unplug the hard disks when Im running the live cd. Unlike XUbuntu 8.10, 8.04 will boot and then nothing happen just blank black screen, 8.10 is my favourite now, its network applet automatically detect my nokia 5700 with usb(DKE-2,pcsuite mode) and let me choose which APN to connect, updates went well, now I’m using 8 GB stick(kingstonDT100). But still I can not find a way to hear audio with BH-501 BT Headset, blueman installed (https://launchpad.net/~blueman/+archive).

  64. 70 Juno 14 December 2008 at 4:22 am

    Hi Vince
    finally it works, I followed instruction here http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=4910397, after installing blueman, wooohooo….
    Broadcomm BT dongle with Nokia BH-501. :)

    • 71 suyog 12 October 2009 at 9:14 am

      @Juno, How did you do it? I am still unable to listen to music with my Nokia BH-501 from my Dell Inspiron Laptop.
      I am using Ubuntu 9.04 with latest Blueman 1.20
      I am able to connect to A2DP service but dont know how to actually stream music to headset.

      could you please let me know?


    • 72 Vincent 12 October 2009 at 11:18 am

      Suyog, have you followed that link Juno posted?

  65. 73 freevryheid 1 February 2009 at 7:33 am

    Got me one of the 16 GB USB’s today and tried the instructions outlined above. Worked like a charm and had xubuntu up and running on single fat32 partition in no time. Problems started (as mentioned by others above) as soon as I decided to accept the update invitation – about 3/4 through the 220 file update it crashed and I was never really able to recover. The problem as I see it is the root home [/] folder runs out of space. I still had 13+GB left on the drive. Any suggestions to increase the [/] size – I didn’t see it as a separate partition using gparted. TIA.

  66. 74 freevryheid 1 February 2009 at 7:44 am

    Solution? http://www.pendrivelinux.com/how-to-create-a-larger-casper-rw-loop-file/

    Problem appears to be fat32 related. I’ll give it a go and report back.

  67. 75 Ken 11 February 2009 at 4:54 am

    Iinstalled Ubuntu 8.x on my 4GB 200x USB Flash Drive, worked like a champ, until I shut down and decided to boot to Vista so I could finish my work. I got a list of errors and Vista would not boot. I have to put the USB Flash drive in and choose the Vista option and everything works fine. But I need to have my notebook booting normal. How can I fix this problem?

  68. 76 Noo 2 Ubuntoo 18 February 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Hi Vincent,
    I am a complete novice to Linux & am very much a user so don’t understand command lines etc. I want to try loading Xubuntu into the hard drive of an old computer I have from a USB set up using the method you describe. Your “How To” seems to assume that the user will always boot from the USB stick.

    Will I be able to do an install into the hard drive from the USB stick?

    If yes can I then delete Xubuntu from the USB stick or will it be there forever? USB I have is a 2.0 GB San disk Cruzer Micro.

  69. 77 Vincent 19 February 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Gacek – I have no idea what the problem is, sorry :(

    Great you got it working Juno :)

    freevryheid – just a guess, but I can imagine it being a problem with the filesystem. IIRC, some filesystems (FAT32 might be one of them) allow only filesizes up to e.g. 4GB per file (for comparison, ext4, the new filesystem for Linux, allows for a size of 16 TB (!) per file).

    Ken, I’m afraid I have no idea but running Xubuntu from a USB flash drive an sich should not cause this.

    Noo 2 Ubuntoo – if you boot from the USB drive (which you can probably tell your computer to do at the boot screen just after you pressed the power button if it doesn’t boot it automatically) then, yes, you can install Xubuntu from that drive. And yes, you can remove Xubuntu from your flash drive afterwards (you can format it again which will wipe all data – if you need any help with that, leave another comment or contact me via email).

  70. 80 phil250884 27 March 2009 at 4:22 am

    Any ideas if and how this could be combined with qemu?

  71. 81 fooboo 3 April 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I have had this installed for a while now and working fine. I used an 8gb non-branded flash drive and all seemed well until recently when I wanted to add another program to the install.

    The drive I have it on had 6gb free space but when I select the ‘filesystem’ folder and check it’s properties it says 54mb free space.

    I keep getting a ‘system full’ message when I try to load anything new.

    Have you any idea why it thinks I have 54mb space left when I actually have 6gb?

    Any idea how I can remedy this?

    • 82 Vincent 3 April 2009 at 3:18 pm

      I’m guessing that your computer’s RAM is full – you might give it a try at a computer with more RAM, if it’s available. Or perhaps you didn’t specify that much room under “Stored in reserved extra space”?

  72. 83 fooboo 3 April 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Ah does it have to load all the software I’m using into a ram disk then?

    I have 512mb on the box I’m using and that’s the max it can take I believe.

    • 84 fooboo 3 April 2009 at 4:54 pm

      How would I go about specifying more room?

    • 85 Vincent 3 April 2009 at 5:16 pm

      Yes, just like a LiveCD everything you do is loaded into RAM. I think it waits with saving most of your changes to your USB drive until you shut it down, so until then it would have to keep it in RAM.

      The amount of space is specified during installation (the “Stored in reserved extra space”-slider in the USB startup disk creator), but you’ll probably have dragged the slider all the way to the right when you installed it (the maximum amount of room).

    • 86 fooboo 3 April 2009 at 6:20 pm

      Typical! I have all this free space and I can’t use it…lol

      I guess I’ll have to see if there’s anything else I can trim or find a smaller alternative program.

      Thanks for your help, I’m still learning about how all this works.

    • 87 Vincent 3 April 2009 at 6:28 pm

      Well, do keep in mind that I’m not 100% sure, it’s just what I suspect is the issue. Perhaps you can check at the Ubuntu Forums whether this is really the issue.

  73. 88 Endolith 6 April 2009 at 4:19 pm

    So it creates a “persistence file” and uses up part of the drive for this? How do you know if it’s working? Can you use the rest of the flash drive as a normal flash drive? Why not save the persistence information there instead of to a file?

    • 89 Vincent 6 April 2009 at 4:33 pm

      Yes, you can use the rest of the drive as a normal flash drive. I’m guessing the reason for storing everything in a single file is that the files are compressed (and thus take up less space in your flash drive). Also, when you’re using it as a normal flash drive, you probably don’t want to have a lot of irrelevant files scattered around.

      Interesting to note is that, in previous methods (that is, before the USB Startup Disk Creator existed) to run Ubuntu or Xubuntu from your flash drive, you did create a separate partition where all files with changes were stored. That wasn’t particularly useful though.

  74. 90 Endolith 6 April 2009 at 4:50 pm

    So if you put files in your home directory, they are saved as part of the persistence file? Seems like re-writing the entire persistence file each time would wear through the flash memory faster than saving individual files as actual files.

    • 91 Vincent 6 April 2009 at 6:52 pm

      Well, even if you were to save each file individually, I think about every file will be edited every time you boot (note that not just the files you create in your home directory are saved, but also preferences files, files of newly installed/updated applications, logs, etc.). Besides, you don’t really have to worry about wear – I’ve installed whole distros to this USB drive over a hundred times and it’s still working fine. Space would be more of a bottleneck.

      Also, if you want files you edited to be available outside of the persistent session, you could just save them in the remaining space.

  75. 92 Endolith 6 April 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Does it save to the preferences file only once per boot, or continuously?

    Only a few of those files need to be updated each boot. Most of the big files in my home directory are never changed after they are created.

    If you’ve got 100 MB of data inside a persistence file, though, and you need to update 10 kB of its contents, the entire 100 MB file needs to be re-written. Even if the USB stick has built-in wear leveling it will still wear through a lot faster than if you’d just changed 10 kB worth of individual files.

    If the initial boot/liveCD is in a single file image, that’s ok, since it never changes, but it seems like it’s better all around if updated/persistence files are saved in the main FAT-formatted part of the drive, so they can be accessed at all times and don’t wear out the memory.

    • 93 Vincent 7 April 2009 at 2:57 pm

      As I understand it, it only saves the persistent data on shutdown, or at least not immediately.

      But you’re only referring to most of the big files in your home directory, however, the files you created in your home directory only make up a small portion of all the files that are written to, so if you’d have 100MB of data inside the persistence file, about, say, 95MB of that will have to be updated each session, so that’s affordable. Apart from what I mentioned before: USB flash drives last very long, so you won’t really have to worry about this in the first place.

  76. 95 Pontus 24 April 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I have used

    • 96 Vincent 24 April 2009 at 4:07 pm

      OK, well, what you could try is to download Ubuntu 9.04 (which was released yesterday) and see if it works with that. If it doesn’t, you could try Ubuntu 8.04, which is a bit older, and hope that it works with that.

  77. 97 xubnub 16 May 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Dear Vincent, as I’d like to agree that persistent live environment on a USB stick is very useful, it doesn’t quite… make my day -_-

    See this thread for further info:

    Great blog btw :)

    • 98 Vincent 16 May 2009 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks for the compliment, I’ll reply on the forums :).

      (Note that a remark like Still try to maintain the thought that a GNU/Linux OS can also be operated by humans doesn’t really add anything…)

  78. 99 Pontus 17 May 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I found out everything of my trouble was denpending on the fact that i had an old USB stick

  79. 101 Jens 28 July 2009 at 11:05 pm


    I need help. I used the tool to put a 9.04 xubuntu on a usb stick.

    I boot the usb stick and I get

    SYSLINUX (one line of stuff)

    this looks like a prompt I hit enter and get an error that “linux” image could not be found

    What went wrong during my installation?

    • 102 Vincent 31 July 2009 at 6:55 pm

      Hi Jens, could you try

      Booting from the same USB flash drive in another computer?
      Installing Xubuntu 9.04 to a different USB flash drive and then booting from that on the same computer?
      Installing a different version of Xubuntu to the same USB drive and boot from that on the same computer?

      If one or more of those works, then it might very well be a hardware problem.

  80. 103 felipe_cabrera 20 August 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Hi, is it possible to encrypt the installation on your flash drive?



  81. 104 Anirban 3 September 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Vincent, nice post. I am a Ubuntu user, and wanted to give Xubuntu (9.04) a try. Everything went smoothly. There is only one hitch. after booting from the usb, xubuntu fails to recognize the network, and I cant go online. I am not using wireless, when I boot from hard drive to windows XP, internet works. Any suggestions? Do I have to manually set up stuff? Thanks again.

  82. 105 Andriy 3 September 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks. Works like a charm. Helped me to install xubuntu to my netbook.

  83. 106 Anirban 3 September 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Hi Vincent, I worked it out. The machine in question had a static ip, so I had to change the network from dhcp and fill in the details. Sorry for the bother.

  84. 107 Inma 10 November 2009 at 10:59 am

    I made it with Xubuntu 9.10, and it worked, but with some difficulties.

    The pendrive partition where it was installed has FAT32 format (why FAT32?)

    Persistency didn’t work, so I added the lines above, and it didn’t work either. I changed this: initrd=/casper/initrd.gz into this: initrd=/casper/initrd.lz and not it works. Did I make rigth?

    Is normal that it takes so long to load? I mean since I pick “Start Xubutu” till the users selector appears.

    How can I change the default language from the list on the beginning and the time out?


    • 108 Vincent 12 November 2009 at 12:12 am

      Hi Inma,

      FAT is most common on USB flash drives and can be read from many operating systems, so you can still use the drive. IIRC, it also doesn’t contain the overhead of a.o. journaling, which saves quite some writes and thus lengthens the lifetime of the drive.

      lz doesn’t really help, but the line in general doesn’t really do anything anymore, I need to remove that from the post.

      It does take long to load, because the whole operating system is compressed to fit on a USB flash drive, and needs to be uncompressed and loaded into memory each time you boot it. I have experienced that at some hardware, it takes ages to go from the language selection screen to the actual boot up, while on other hardware, it works just fine.

      To change the language and timeout I suppose you’ll have to look through a few .cnf files to find the relevant options.

  85. 109 Jason 3 December 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Why the heck can there not just be a simple file to download to the USB stick that would install it without the hassle of “the few simple click” thing?

    Maybe there is one available now??

    • 110 Vincent 4 December 2009 at 8:33 pm

      Hi Jason,

      This is because it’s not just a matter of loading a file – your computer (regardless of operating system) won’t boot from your USB drive unless that USB drive is configured to allow it (which is what this tool does, among others).

  86. 111 pen bb 13 March 2010 at 8:11 am

    will try later during the day, let’s see if I am capable

  87. 112 s 20 July 2010 at 1:15 pm

    the firewall is not running, root is world and group writable, and it logs automatically in to the desktop on the xubuntu live usb stick what about that ? maybe you can write an article about that ?

    • 113 Vincent 20 July 2010 at 6:53 pm

      Which firewall? By default no ports are open so Xubuntu has no firewall by default. The rest is just like the LiveCD – it converts the LiveCD system for use with a USB flash drive so that it saves the changes to disk persistently.

  88. 114 s 20 July 2010 at 8:46 pm

    there is no need to start ufw ?

  89. 116 s 24 July 2010 at 4:31 pm

    i tested it with and without ufw enabled on grc.com and there is a difference when i did a scan on all ports

  90. 117 artartproject 18 November 2010 at 3:58 am

    Just tried it in Mint(Ubuntu varient) and worked like a charm. I’ve got it on a micro SD with micro usb adapter, so I don’t have to remove it from a laptop I’ve got thats old and has a broken hard drive I don’t want to pay to replace. Works like a charm, boots fast, and game me second laptop;) I’m grateful for all posts of forums like these that help out when things don’t work quite so smooth. Glad to know about alternatives that my searches don’t always bring up.

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