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Is it possible? How hard would it be to do so?

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It's not quite clear what you mean. Do you want to take a partition on your machine and transfer it to a USB stick? – Kevin Dec 20 '11 at 22:23
Yes, and then use it to boot on another machine – User1231424214112 Dec 20 '11 at 22:38
Look around the cloning tag for similar questions. – Gilles Dec 21 '11 at 1:27
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes, it is possible. It is not very hard but it requires a good comprehension of boot sequence.

The "copy" sequence is something like:

  1. partition you usb stick and mkfs the partitions.
  2. copy the files from source partitions to usb-stick partitions (e.g. using rsync).
  3. modify the /etc/fstab to match your new partitions.
  4. install a new boot-loader on usb-stick.

The last point is the hard one. You are copying a full-fledged linux system on the stick so you can't use vfat partitions. If you use ext2 partitions, you'll can use syslinux otherwise you'll have to use grub.

In any case, the result will be very slow because normal distributions are not optimized for this kind of use. If you do not need a temporary solution, try some live distribution. For example, it is very simple to create a customized system rescue cd usb-stick adding whatever software you need on it.

A little hint: use UUIDs to identify partitions because it is the only way to be sure that partition identifiers do not change if you change host or plug-in another usb device.

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This looks kinda fun. When copying files over, do I need to copy the Device and Special files? – Nate Dec 28 '11 at 22:34

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