Is it possible to create your own Linux OS right onto a USB drive? I know you can just download a Linux distro onto a USB thumbdrive and plug it into a computer and run it from the USB, but I'd like to create my own OS on a USB that I can plug into any computer and use.

I've looked around for an answer to my question and couldn't find any pertaining to creating an OS onto a USB specifically, so if anyone knows the answer or a link to the same question, help would be much appreciated.

  • Just use any distro as base and install it on the USB... – Braiam Oct 19 '14 at 0:02

You can try something like Fedora Remix http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Remix as well as Linux from scratch http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/. Then try to put them on a USB.

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  • that's what my question is, can you use and create LFS on a USB. I was going to just try it and find out but figured I'd ask first. – ahum12 Oct 19 '14 at 1:19
  • Or would I have to create the LFS on my computer, then copy it to my USB. – ahum12 Oct 19 '14 at 1:28
  • rodneybeede.com/… this is a step by step it is from 2008 but should still work. – jgr208 Oct 19 '14 at 2:29
  • Thank you. This will be extremely helpful and I'll see how it goes. – ahum12 Oct 19 '14 at 3:12
  • No problem. Hope it goes well. – jgr208 Oct 19 '14 at 3:17

Another distro worth considering is Puppy Linux. It's very compact, yet quite powerful and runs on a wide range of hardware, including older machines with limited RAM. It has various options for creating bootable USBs from a running Puppy installation. (Strangely, the Puppy sites do not offer a ready-to-go USB download: you need to get an ISO and boot from that, and then create a bootable USB. It is possible to create a bootable USB from the ISO directly if you know your way around Linux, but it's much easier to do it while running in Puppy).

But the main reason I've mentioned Puppy here is that it easily allows you to create a customized version. Just install any extras you want and uninstall / remove the stuff you don't want, and then tell Puppy to create an image of your current setup. Puppy has its own repos, but it can also use various other repos, like Ubuntu and Slackware, so you have a lot of software to choose from.

Disclaimer: I'm not connected with Puppy Linux development, but it has been my favourite portable distro for over 5 years.

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I guess there are 2 ways you can approach this:
- You start from scratch and build it all yourself (LFS is probably a good choice then). This gives you maximum control and is a great way to learn, but it's also pretty steep and time consuming.
- There's some existing distro that you like and take it as your starting point.

Few years ago I took the second route with knoppix. It was working great but i wanted to have a CD I could take with me while travelling and pop into any computer, and suddenly it'd turn into my home setup: same tools, config etc. Basically I'd be carrying a CD around instead of a laptop.

Normally this is done by having a usb stick where your live session changes are automatically saved but i didn't want to go this route. There were some pretty substantial changes, stuff i didn't need on the CD that'd just be wasting space, but mostly I wanted one self-contained read-only CD. So i went the remastering route.

If knoppix fits your bill you can turn it into pretty much anything you like with this (look at all the knoppix derivatives !). In addition to my changes I completely changed the boot experience, put a nice graphical grub menu, made the init script faster, added new boot options...

- Knoppix Remastering Howto
- Customizing/Remastering section in the forums.

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  • So would you suggest knoppix over LFS for a beginner like me? – ahum12 Oct 20 '14 at 23:46
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    I'd say first make it clear what your goal is, what is it you want to achieve with this project. Then it's easier to make choices. I can't tell you if knoppix is right for you, but for sure it's easier to start from an existing distro: you already have something that's working, make a few changes, try them etc. It's rewarding from the start. As you go along you can explore what makes a live distro tick: what's the boot process like, the filesystem etc. Starting from scratch is harder at the beginning: it'll be a long time before you see anything working, so you're more likely to give up. – lemonsqueeze Oct 21 '14 at 8:11

You can use unetbootin to install whatever distro you want to any device. It's a standalone executable so there isn't anything to install, simply download it and run.

Unetbootin offers most of hte major distros as both the Live and regular versions.

          ss of unetbootin

            ss of unetbootin

NOTE: That these live distros are more than just the same system between reboots. Many offer a dynamic area where changes can be kept, so that you can install additional software and customize your desktop, and it will remain for your next reboot.

For example, take a look at Ubuntu's Persistence documentation:

This page explains how to enhance a read-only LiveCD by adding persistent file storage on another drive. In more recent Ubuntu versions, you can instead use the usb-creator tool to create a bootable USB flash drive from a Live CD, and its user interface has an option to add persistent storage on the same USB drive

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  • OP wants to create his own distro ... – lemonsqueeze Oct 19 '14 at 13:01
  • @lemonsqueeze - yeah I can read thanks. He can take any distro and customize it to be his own. What I've provided is really no different then the other A wrt Remix or LFS, or your suggestions of remastering Knoppix. – slm Oct 19 '14 at 13:44

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