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Edit: Is there a way to tell if a linux iso will provide the "try X without installing" option? From https://ubuntu.com/download/desktop for example or https://lubuntu.net/downloads/ it is not clear which will give that option. (My expectation was that all could "try without installing" but recently I tried some which excluded that option from the boot menu)

Original, confused questions: If I create a bootable usb (Ubuntu for example if it matters), does that mean it is a "live usb", where I can run the OS off the usb, or not necessarily, only that I could install the OS off the usb. Are there certain ISO's to choose to get live usb's or all ISO's for certain distros?

Are there other names for 'live usb'?

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    Is any Ubuntu on a bootable usb a "live usb"? .. only if it boots to a state similar to an installed system state, not just an installation environment – jsotola Mar 1 '20 at 8:41
  • Only the title is understandable. The answer is no, Ubuntu can be installed on a USB stick with any changes directly change the physical filesystem ( Non Live) – 炸鱼薯条德里克 Mar 1 '20 at 9:25
  • Live USB means it contains usable applications other than the system installer, so by this definition, not all disc or disk images are Live USB. Typical examples of image that aren't Live USB/CD: FreeBSD netinstall and minimal images. – DannyNiu Mar 1 '20 at 9:57
  • updated question to hopefully make it more understandable – TallBrian Mar 2 '20 at 4:18
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Response to edited question

Edit: Is there a way to tell if a linux iso will provide the "try X without installing" option? From https://ubuntu.com/download/desktop for example or https://lubuntu.net/downloads/ it is not clear which will give that option. (My expectation was that all could "try without installing" but recently I tried some which excluded that option from the boot menu)

I don't think there is any general way to tell if a linux iso will provide the "try X without installing" option.

But I know that all Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu community flavours release iso files that provide the "try X without installing" option.

Ubuntu mini.iso and the Ubuntu Server iso files are exceptions. You can consider those iso files to be 'only installers'. The Lubuntu Alternate iso files (most of them have passed end of life now) are also 'only installers'. They use the same text based Debian installer as the Ubuntu mini.iso files.

Some linux distros provide both iso files for live USB drives and for plain installers (for example Debian and OpenSUSE).

Please notice that lubuntu.me is the official web site. The Lubuntu web site that you refer to is not up to date.

Original answer

Any bootable USB drive

Some people could say that any bootable USB drive is a live USB. But I think most people mean that a live USB drive can do more that only start an installer.

A USB system that is cloned from an Ubuntu mini.iso file is only an installer. See also this link and scroll down to 'How to make an Ubuntu Minimal USB using dd'.

Live USB systems

Most live systems run the operating system so that things are stored (temporarily) in RAM.

A USB system that is cloned from an Ubuntu Desktop iso file is a typical live USB system. You can use it to try Ubuntu and install Ubuntu.

Persistent live USB systems

Persistent live systems use an overlay method to store those things in a file or partition (Ubuntu uses the file name or partition label casper-rw).

Methods and tools are described in this link.

Installed system in a USB drive

You can also create a fully installed system in a USB drive. Like a cloned live system it is also portable between computers. Some people may say that such a USB drive is also live, but I would say it is 'installed'.

A method is described in this link.

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run the OS off the usb

Even if the USB only lets you issue a "install" command, it technically is a running linux kernel. No distro would develop a separate boot image if they can just take a minimal linux system.

A live CD lets you use the system for other things also; you can use linux before/without installing it.

A live USB is the same, but in addition lets you save data to it. So the USB stick itself is kind of alive. Technically it is done by this "overlay" trick.

If you put additional tools on it, and leave away the GUI, you would call it a rescue system.

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