The USB Flash Drive: A Linux Newbie's Best Friend

by Sam Dean - Jul. 08, 2011Comments (1)

Recently, we covered the learning curve of a dedicated Windows user who imposed a 30-day immersion into Ubuntu on himself. Not surprisingly, installing Ubuntu, and some of the new kinds of hoops he had to jump through to do so, were among his chief complaints. Many dedicated Windows and Mac OS users don't realize that with a simple USB Flash drive, you can avoid having to install Linux locally altogether. There is much more you can do to dive quickly into using Linux with a Flash drive, whether you choose to locally install it on a computer or not, and here are some of the best resources toward this end.

CNet has a good visual tutorial up called "What to do with your USB Flash drive: Run Linux." The site notes:

"A Linux Live USB flash drive is a great way to try out Linux without making any changes to your computer. It's also handy to have around in case Windows won't boot--allowing access to your hard disks--or if you just want to run a system memory test."

The tutorial focuses on how to put Ubuntu on a USB Flash drive, after which a user can run Ubuntu directly from the Flash drive without having to fully install it on a computer. It also details how the site allows for the Flash drive installation in a couple of easy steps.

We've covered Pendrivelinux a number of times. The site lets you install many different types of Linux distros on a USB Flash drive, and turn Flash drives into easy ways to locally install Linux on a computer if you choose to. Pendrivelinux functions like a blog, with ongoing tutorials for lots of Linux distros that you can get going on a USB drive.

It also collects many useful posts for creating Boot CDs for Linux variants. In addition, it houses PenDriveApps, which is an awesome, categorized archive of portable applications for Windows, the Mac and Linux.WIth it, you can easily find everything from portable FTP applications, to portable media players, to portable translation applications.

For much more you can do with open source applications and a USB Flash drive, also look into PortableApps and MacLibre. These sites let you put a bushel of open source applications on a USB Flash drive, after which you can run them from any computer. 

Randy Clark uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


Fedora was the vanguard for Live USB distros, and the Live USB Creator even takes care of downloading the ISO you need for you. (Plus you can get the Creator program for Windows as well.)

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