Often called a LiveUSB Key, most if not all Linux distributions can be installed and booted directly from a USB key (flash drive) in the same way as a LiveCD, but with the optional added benefit that files and configuration changes can be written back to the USB key and are not lost after a reboot.

A LiveUSB Key is a USB flash drive containing a full bootable operating system and productivity software. LiveUSB Keys are closely related to LiveCD‘s in that they fulfill a similar function except for their ability to write changes back to the LiveUSB Keys file system, making the changes persistent and allowing the installation of additional software, and the saving of documents and configuration files.

It must be remembered however that some older computers lack the BIOS support to boot directly from a USB device, and that some computers that do have USB boot support built into the BIOS may still have problems booting from USB Key’s, in such cases it is normally possible to “redirect” the boot procedure from a bootable floppy disk to the LiveUSB Key.

Recently LiveUSB Keys have fulfilled a role as an installation medium for netbooks and other devices that don’t contain an optical drive as part of their original equipment .

Linux LiveUSB Keys can be created from within Windows or Linux with easy to use tools that can be found in the links below.


  • Files can be saved, software added, and any changes can be made persistent
  • Faster boot times than a LiveCD
  • Portability – a full OS and software can easily be carried in your pocket
  • Durability – less succeptable to damage than a CDROM
  • Can be encrypted in case of loss
  • Linux can be installed to a USB Key from within Windows or Linux
  • Multi use – can also be used to transfer files between computers


  • Running from a LiveUSB Key is still slower than running from a hard drive
  • Easily lost, but can be encrypted for file security
  • Booting from USB is not supported on all hardware

External links

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