I have determined using Hiren's Boot CD that my hard drive is in fact failing. It started by failing to boot into Windows or Linux partitions on my computer, and then I downloaded Hiren's, burned to a live USB and ran a few tests, indicating my hard drive was failing.

So my question isn't about recovering the data (already done) or replacing the hard drive, but rather is it viable to use a live CD indefinitely on my PC or will the screwed up hard drive have any negative impacts on anything?

  • You should disconnect the hard drive, so that it does not attempt to use any part of it as swap or temporary storage. – Random832 Apr 7 '15 at 5:22
  • My HDD overheated when I went on holidays, when i got back PC was beeping and squealing. After testing the hardware it had a damaged HDD and mobo, sound didnt work any more, and wouldnt boot. I tried all manner of OS on it. After dozens of installs I managed to get debian on there. However I could never run a disk check. Also rebooting was very flakey, sometimes i had to reboot 2-6 times. That PC ran for about 3 years. I never updated it or switched it off. I mounted network drives and used those for everything. Sometimes u can get lucky like that. Made it my bedroom PC...lol – dakka Jul 14 '15 at 13:14

You can run a laptop (or other computer) with no/failed hard drive several ways.

  1. true live: the operating system is loaded from a cd that can not be written to at all. This will work fine as long as you don't want to save anything. Supplementing this with a thumb drive or other usb drive gets around this limitation.
  2. mostly live: the operating system is loaded from a read write media like a usb thumbdrive, but does not try to write to it. A second drive or partition would work as above.
  3. Installed to removable media: this is a install of an operating system to a removable drive (often usb) that reads and writes to the drive as usual.
  4. network variants of above: no cd? no problem! you can often boot from the network. I have implemented network variants of all three options listed above.

The only limitation is you must have a boot device other than the internal hard disk. It is common to be able to boot from usb, cd, or ethernet. I have also seen firewire, fibre channel, and wifi, but they are less common.


You can take out the HDD completely. Then use the Live CD, just aslong as you dont want to save anything. Unless you decide to plug a External USB drive into the computer: that would work.

I use a live Linux image if Ii use someone else's computer or public computers.

Note that no updates could really be applied as it has no room to store them.

  • Thanks, that was really helpful. I could also have a partitioned USB, one partition for the live distro and one for personal files, right? – BakeMeMuffins92 Apr 7 '15 at 2:23
  • I don't see why you wouldn't . Long as it's Fat, or ext. If you try it, please let us know how it went! – pctech5510 Apr 7 '15 at 2:53

I actually had a friend with a small dell netbook with a failed microssd; I installed ubuntu lucid on a flash drive and he booted from that, was very happy with the results.

In regards to your question about partitioned usb disks, recall that windows only recognizes the first partition on a removable disk, so keep that in mind when you install :)


I have had serious problems with really working with a Live USB, also a Live DVD on a new laptop without any problems on it, its HD works fine, but I wanted to tryout the Linux systems without altering the boot system on my HD.

The problems were crashes and freezes after an hour of use or so, e.g., during a long download. But this meant I couldn't just leave the computer on so as to save changes.

I have a theory about why this happened and is inevitable, but don't really know. So I won't elaborate on my theory.

A friend told me that a Live CD can, at least with ubuntu, be used in "persistent" mode, so that after powering off and on, some of your preferences etc. are indeed saved. But my laptop on live fedora crashed while trying to download the ubuntu image....and on a second attempt, it was corrupted, so I have just abandoned the attempt to live off a Live CD or a Live USB.

So my advice is don't do it except as a temporary emergency measure.

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