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Maybe this is a silly question, the answer is probably no; but I gotta ask.

For example, if I have an Ubuntu Live USB running on a machine with Ubuntu already installed, might the Live OS ever look for any kind of useful configuration info on the OS already installed on the hard drive without asking me first? Does any *nix live distro have this kind of behavior?

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I'm not aware of any that do, but so many exist that it's not unlikely that some do, especially some obscure ones. What are you trying to accomplish? – depquid Jun 18 '13 at 15:52
My experience with some versions of the Ubuntu installer is that they would offer to migrate e.g. your old Firefox settings into the new image. Granted, this is during installation, not in the running live image in which the installer was executing. – tripleee Jun 18 '13 at 17:11
It wouldn't really make sense for them to do this, especially since you might be booting into a LiveCD due to improper system configuration. – Bratchley Jun 18 '13 at 20:51

I believe your first instinct would be correct. I've never heard of any Live distro making use of configuration files that are already local to the system.

That being said you can of course install the Live distro into the local system, at which point it's now local to the system.

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