Is it possible to mount the /home folder with all the settings to Linux running as a Live CD from a USB key?

Suppose that you have the /home partition on the disk in the laptop and you want to run Live Linux. But you want to have your old settings. Think of it as an alternative to dual boot.

Do you think it is possible? Do you think it will be usable? I am concerned that it will be slow because of USB. What about USB 3.0 - I mean not the cheap version but really fast read/write speeds. Would an 8 GB stick be large enough?

  • So you want to copy your settings from your /home partition (I guess that's inside an HDD) to a Live USB?? Maybe a simple copy-paste is more than enough to backup your settings.
    – arielnmz
    Jun 2, 2014 at 18:42
  • No, I want to boot Linux from USB but use in it /home partition from hard drive within laptop
    – Cockootec
    Jun 2, 2014 at 18:54
  • I think you need something like a chroot but for home. But I haven't seen anything similar.
    – arielnmz
    Jun 2, 2014 at 19:09

2 Answers 2


The question is quite old now, but ...

I'm currently using a live xubuntu 14.04 on a desktop, with my home partition from the hard drive mounted in /home.

I have to run some commands to achieve that.

Here's the how to:

  1. boot from the usb key

  2. once booted, mount the partition containing the home dir:

    • either open a file manager and click on the partition to mount
    • or open a terminal and type in the correct command: sudo mount /dev/sda1 /media/sda1 (this is an example, adapt it to your context)
  3. in a terminal, bind your home partition onto the live home partition with the command: sudo mount --bind /media/sda1/home /home/xubuntu (adapt this to your context, xubuntu is the username and the homedir name in my live xubuntu distro)

    Now the home partition is bound, but the system does not use your home config yet, so you have to disconnect and then reconnect, but you don't know yet the password of the current user

  4. so in a terminal, set the password of the current user: "sudo passwd xubuntu" and enter a password twice. (in my xubuntu distro, the user is "xubuntu", it will be another one with anoter distro of course)

  5. disconnect, select the user, type in the password defined just before, and connect

  6. you're now logged in with your home partition, all configs changes (for your user session of course, not for the system) will be saved.

Maybe another way exists to reload the window manager without having to disconnect/reconnect, but I did not find the way with xfwm ...

That method does not allow you to update/upgrade your system, and you can't install new programs.


I want to boot Linux from USB but use in it /home partition from hard drive within laptop

It sounds like you want to boot your laptop from usb stick, and then mount the laptop harddrive as /home?

If this is so, once laptop is up and running from usb stick, run dmesg to see what device the kernel sees the laptop hard drive as. most likely, it is either /dev/hda or /dev/sda. then run fdisk -l sda|hda. most likely, there will be a single partition. either /dev/hda1 or /dev/sda1. some of the laptops that come preinstalled with windows have multiple partitions, for windoze recovery. If so, use fdisk to destroy the partitions, and then create a single one. mkfs it, and then mount it with mount /dev/hda1 /home or mount /dev/sda1 /home. I suggest ext4 or xfs.

Of course, once you do this, the laptop will not be bootable other than from usb stick (or live cd, if it has cddrive, or network boot).

  • I am sorry for confusion. I have notebook with ubuntu installed on whole hdd. I want to install Windows alongside but I want also to be able to boot linux somehow for instance by linux on usb stick and use my /home directory for all my settings and data within linux. Also I will probably need to move my /home directory to new partition so I can remove boot and system files from linux installed on machine. Do you think this would be working?
    – Cockootec
    Jun 4, 2014 at 22:19

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