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I have 32 GB of memory in my PC. This is more than enough for a linux OS. Is there an easy to use version of Linux (Ubuntu preferably) that can be booted via optical or USB disk and be run completely within RAM? I know a live disc can be booted with a hard disk, but stuff still runs off the disc and this takes a while to load. I'd like everything loaded into RAM and then run from there, completely volatile. Any files I need to create would be saved to a USB disk.

I'm aware of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Linux_distributions_that_run_from_RAM but these all depend on a little bit of RAM. I'd prefer something like Ubuntu instead of these light versions.

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    The SysRescueCd has a load to memory option, docache causes the CD-ROM to be fully loaded into memory. A slower start but once complete, programs start faster and the CD drive will be released allowing normal access to other CDs. This requires 400MB of memory to cache everything (including the bootdisks and isolinux directories).
    – bsd
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 20:54
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    I don't know if Ubuntu supports it but IIRC Linux Mint does support toram parameter e.g. at the boot menu edit the entry and append toram to the kernel command line. Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 22:03
  • Ha, I was looking for a flavor "IIRC Linux Mint". Just occurred to me that was shorthand. Mint is good, I like that. It's been a while since i've used puppy. I'll have a look there too.
    – user208145
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 23:52
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    Not an answer, just a comment: almost any distro can be modified to run directly from ram. Only a minor difference is needed in the boot sequence to mount tmpfs (or a compressed version) and load a disk image into it. I've seen an (almost) standard debian system that boots from a network image and runs from RAM, and using a LAN package repository (mirror) to quickly install larger applications on demand (to save space). I didn't set it up personally so I can't post precise instructions, but it is something that can be done for any distro.
    – orion
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 14:07
  • porteus linux. It runs on my memory and its fast
    – user134374
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 2:26

9 Answers 9

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I think all distros can be run from RAM, you only need to do some changes. Read this link

You need to have in mind that any changes (updates, and the like) that you do to the filesystem that is in memmory are lost when you turn of your machine, so you need to stablish a mechanism to update your HD with those changes BEFORE the system goes down, that will delay the shutting down of the system.

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  • not that much RAM is needed. if i can install and run a FULL Slackware in QEMU in tmpfs in 12GB of RAM then that much should be enough to run it direct.
    – Skaperen
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 11:22
  • i used to run just /etc in /tmps ages ago without an auto-save. one day it saved me from stupid blunder
    – Skaperen
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 11:26
  • so i recommend a manual save to disk for things like /etc and leave /var/log on disk.
    – Skaperen
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 11:29
  • @YoMismo, That link you posted is gold! The great thing about it is that you can customize your system anyway you want and then run it from RAM without fear of having your disks being thrashed by anything without your consent. Perhaps it would be a good idea to copy the steps here, just to be safe. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 13:03
  • Any distro is capable, since the fundamental principles of the linux file system is not specific to any distribution. Recognize what INITRAMFS stands for, emphasis on the RAM part. Not to mention diskless nodes in a cluster setup which is nothing new.
    – ron
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 17:38
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Ubuntu can run on RAM, but it requires some manual changes:

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/BootToRAM

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    This helps, thank you. I was hoping for something more out of the box though. If this is my only recourse, I'll give it a go and mark this as the answer.
    – user208145
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 21:30
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    this appears to assume one is booting a LIVE CD where running in RAM would be very useful. i have run Slackware in QEMU with all disks in RAM and it was much faster. a FULL install finished in 3 minutes. the hardware had just 12GB of RAM. my newest laptop has 64GB and i am exploring how to boot from its SSD and run from RAM.
    – Skaperen
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 11:16
  • This guide is severely out-of-date. It's for Ubuntu 9.10. Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 7:26
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    It's outdated because it's not needed anymore. Just add toram to the kernel parameters and you are done. Take note that this is not a linux kernel parameter though, but it's specific to the ubuntu/debian live initramfs (see casper and live-boot).
    – mirh
    Commented May 6, 2022 at 9:13
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Parrot Security OS. You have the option to load the OS directly into RAM, I believe MXLinux also allows that, no config files, straight from the boot loader you select load OS into RAM.

The Parrot & MX boot menu actually have a ton of options for different ways to run the OS. There are two versions 'home' and 'security', either one is suitable for a daily driver, unlike similar distros like Kali. Its basically a Debian MATE desktop and in the menu one of the tabs says parrot OS, in that tab you will find all of your hacker/cracker utils. Otherwise its just Debian MATE, a very nice looking Desktop.

Also it simplifies networking and starting/stopping processes in the applications menu. I loaded it into 10gb of ddr3 ram on a computer from 2012 and it runs fast. Also DietPi makes an X86 version that is crazy fast and runs in RAM.

If you do not care about package managers tiny core also runs in RAM its just and 'odd' distro.

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Puppy linux is a distro that can be and is designed to run from RAM.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puppy_Linux

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grml (grml.org) has an option for this purpose. Kernel option toram or the option in the menu should work. It is Debian-based. And great btw!

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There is a program floating around out there called YUMI it put's disto's onto a flash drive and can even have several on a single flash at once. It's good for trying out various forms of Linux until you find one you wish to install. And the distro called TAILS will run exclusively from memory. It is designed for security but is a proof of concept.

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Many linux distros can be used in RAM using a live install, I had fedora, ubuntu and derivatives on a pendrive once, just check if the live of that distro offers persistence so you'll be able to keep modifications. Also be aware the whole system needs to be loaded on your ram, so it can take more time than the usual to start the system.

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Alpine Linux can be run entirely from RAM. During installation and setup, you have the option to load the OS entirely in the RAM.

https://alpinelinux.org/

Should a user want to preserve some configuration files after restart, they can use alpine local backup. https://wiki.alpinelinux.org/wiki/Alpine_local_backup

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Here's one easy to manage and with the latest drivers: Lessbian - less Debian Linux https://github.com/undecoded/lessbian

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