Make a bootable 'Live' Linux USB drive
The advent of 'live' CDs has caused a mini revolution whereby whole operating systems can be booted and run from a CD/DVD. You can literally go up to almost any PC that will let you boot to the optical drive and run your own operating system, totally bypassing the system's own hard drive.
There are heaps of useful reasons for doing this including file recovery, password hacking, disk partitioning, drive imaging and safer internet banking!
With modern computers also supporting booting to USB, operating systems can easily be run from a USB drive for maximum flexibility. The choices of operating system generally boil down to variations of DOS or Linux.
This article covers making a bootable Linux USB drive. Advantages of using USB over optical include copying files from the hard disk to the USB drive and being able to remember system settings such as bookmarks, etc..
Creating the Drive
You will need two things; firstly an .iso of your favourite live install, downloadable from the distro's website. Secondly an app that will load the .iso image onto a USB drive. I recommend the Universal-USB-Installer (v188.8.131.52) from Pendrivelinux.com, which itself is portable and only 1MB in size.
Unzip and run the USB installer and note that the process will format your USB drive, deleting all exisiting files, so copy all essential files from the USB drive to a backup source before starting.
Step 1 - Select the Linux distribution for installation from the list..
Step 2 - Point to the Linux .iso file.
Step 3 - Select the USB drive (be careful here if you have multiple drives on show). Tick to allow the drive to be formatted as FAT32.
Finally move the slider at the bottom to create a Persistent system. This is important as it will allow the Linux system to remember settings from previous boots such as bookmarks, preferences, email accounts, etc. This is something which is not possible on a Live CD/DVD. Click on Create.
A warning lays it all out about what's about to happen. Read it carefully before starting..
A screen pops up showing progress. It can take a while to complete so go and have a coffee or something..
As an example I installed Linux Mint on an old 4GB USB (1.1) drive with a 64MB Persistent file. The extraction took 20 minutes to complete with a couple more for the creation of the Persistent file. A larger Persistent file can take a bit longer. The install used up 1.5GB of space on the USB drive. Once finished your USB drive is ready to boot what amounts to a fully-fledged Linux OS.
Once finished I like to use a partitioning program to resize the original and add a second FAT32 partition for copying data. This 'data' partiton on the USB drive is mountable within the booted Linux OS and will be visible in the usual way, when putting the drive into another system.
Pendrivelinux.com USB Installer
DOS and USB Articles