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I have a 64gb flash drive. I want to set it up so I can use it for windows-accessible Fat32 data storage while also being able to boot to it using a large (20-30gb) persistent openSUSE live USB installation. Does anybody know how I can go about creating this sort of setup?

I know about live-fat-stick, the problem is that this only allows installations that are up to 4gb in size, which is about a factor of 5 too small. suse studio image writer formats the entire drive, and although it has a partition that would normally be readable on windows, that partition is at the end and windows can only read the first partition in a removable device.

Edit: To be a bit more specific, I want to divide my 64 gb drive into two sections of roughly 32 gb each. The first is for file storage and should be accessible by both Windows and Linux (including android). The second is a bootable, persistent 64 bit openSUSE 13.2 installation. Whether these are separate partitions or not, and what the partition format(s) are isn't really that important. The USB drive is is /dev/sdb on my computer, but I can't guarantee it will be seen as /dev/sdb on all computers I might use it on.

Edit 2: I want to be able to use the file storage part on any Windows or Linux computer. On my own computers, there are other solutions I can use for moving files around (like network storage). So a solution that requires me to install additional software on any computer I want to use the flash drive with won't work. I can install whatever software I need on the computer I will use to set up the flash drive, but on other computers the solution should work natively. Neither will a solution that requires administrator access on any computer I want to use the flash drive with.

  • I want to make sure I understand you correctly. You have a flash drive that you want to run OpenSuSE on and have a partition that you can access from Windows (preferably fat32)? If this is correct, I'd suggest using NTFS because of how much more space you can use. Either way, I can give specific instructions if you post the output of fdisk -l and you tell me which sdX device is your flash drive. – SailorCire Jun 12 '15 at 20:34
  • I have added more details to the question. – TheBlackCat Jun 15 '15 at 8:53
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Take a look at this: Create a Larger than 4GB Casper Partition, and How to resize casper-rw Images in Windows. The tutorials are old for ubuntu, but I think it can be used for any Linux distros.

The reason why a separate partition must be created is because the USB creator only makes one partition by default (FAT32 filesystem). Onto that partition it copies the CD or ISO contents and creates a persistence file called casper-rw. Since FAT32 can't hold larger then 4GB files the persistence file can't be any larger then 4GB.

Source: AskUbuntu

  • The first won't work because windows cannot see the second partition. The second I can already do in Linux, but altering the order of partitions rendered my flash drive unbootable. – TheBlackCat Jun 19 '15 at 12:16
  • @TheBlackCat you can use Open source ext3/4 file system driver for Windows – Rakholiya Jenish Jun 20 '15 at 7:37
  • Besides the fact that the driver is buggy, I want this to be able to use the flash drive on arbitrary computers. I can't always install random drivers on any computer I might want to use. – TheBlackCat Jun 20 '15 at 18:06
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The simple way is to do it by hand. Lets start with the assumption that you have at your disposal a linux machine with an available usb port and that you have a blank usb thumb drive (or one that you don't mind wiping). You can use an existing thumb drive distro for your setup distro. Insert but do not mount the thumb drive. Partition it placing the fat partition first and any other later (I am assuming that you are using fat partitioning, if you are using gpt you need two fat partitions, the main one and the boot one, but I am unfamiliar with efi usb boot restrictions). format both partitions (windows format assumes windows fdisk so do both format and fdisk on the same operating system). Install linux to the thumb drive Using a regular installer (not a cd converter). I would either use debootstrap or the debian installer because I am familiar with them and they are versatile. Do not touch the shared partition. After installing the operating system (and bootloader) boot from the thumb drive and add the fat partition to the fstab. There you go. (some details omitted for brevity)

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The key to the issue is that Windows will only read the first partition on a removable drive, and a bootable FAT32 can only use (addressable space) 4G. So the solution given here: Multiple Partitions on 64GB USB drive (Windows) was to change the USB registration to tell Windows that it is a fixed drive, and then it would access the other partition as well.

That article links to this one: How to Partition a Thumb Drive and then you can use Yumi or Bootit or Unet or PenDrive or any of the other distro-to-usb installers on the first partition.

  • I am aware of that approach, but this requires having administrator access to the computer, which won't always be the case, and adds a fair amount of complexity when plugging and unplugging the thumb drive. The real solution would be to have the first partition be a windows-readable one. – TheBlackCat Jun 24 '15 at 11:18
  • So, why not just have one 64G partition? I have a 16G multiboot USB made with [pendrivelinux.com/yumi-multiboot-usb-creator/](YUMI multi installer) and it installs the grub options (hidden) and adds a folder to the drive. I can see the mutliboot folder from windows, but I just dont touch it and everything is fine. – DeveloperWeeks Jun 25 '15 at 17:33
  • Because then I run into the 4 gb limit of fat32. – TheBlackCat Jun 26 '15 at 9:37
  • It appears I incorrectly remembered addressing limits from when I learned them 8 years ago. My 16GB usb is FAT32 which means the files cant be larger than 4GB. Getting USB beyond 4GB – DeveloperWeeks Jun 26 '15 at 15:52

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