I’ve always thought it was a neat idea to run Linux on a usb stick instead of a live cd for times when I needed a live cd, but never quite had the reason to overcome the laziness. When I got some netbooks I looked into it more deeply, but was saddened by what I found.
This was just last fall, and the “best” way to put Linux on a usb stick required windows. ?!?! Marissa tried it, and the usb stick booted once for her, but after that it wouldn’t boot. So I let it go.
A few weeks ago I read about a program called probono that was all done within Linux, and there was even a nice gui. As it turns out, it was rolled into Ubuntu 8.10, which I have, and renamed “usb-creator”. It appeared to work wonderfully, except for the fact that the stick then wouldn’t boot. It doesn’t handle the boot partition on the stick properly. I tried about 3 different fixes I found on Google, but more and more sites were saying “try UNetbootin“. Now this one does too.
UNetbootin is available for Windows and Linux, and there are pre-built packages for Debian, Ubuntu Jaunty, openSuse, and Gentoo.
My most important point here is that it worked flawlessly for me. My next point is just a note of coolness. With usb-creator, the idea is that you have an iso or cd already, and are copying. With UNetbootin, it just asks you what distro you want, and it goes to get it for you. It has 22 distros available now, and includes some BSDs. That’s just awesome.
So, if you want linux on a usb stick, get UNetbootin. Installing from USB is a lot faster than installing from cd.