How To Run Linux From A USB Flash Drive

May 20, 2008 – 9:21 AM

Most of the time, Linux is run from either an installation on a hard drive or a live CD/DVD distribution. The first is fast, but not very portable; the second can be run anywhere you have a computer and a CD drive with boot access, but typically isn’t very fast. Over the last few years, though, we’ve seen the emergence of something that combines the speed of a hard drive install with the convenience of a live CD: running Linux from a USB flash drive.

While flash memory prices are still high enough that a flash-based 100-GB hard drive is still way out of the realm of what would be affordable for most people, 2-GB and 4-GB flash drives are cheap enough to make a streamlined Linux installation practical.

You won’t be able to pack your MP3 collection and your gigs of vacation photos to go with you — at least, not yet! — but you will be able to run Linux with most of the applications you need, and bring the more crucial of your data with you as well. What’s more, there are ways to run Linux from a flash drive that don’t even require an OS reboot, especially if you’re running Windows.

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