What would be the best distro for running off a USB, tried with ubuntu but it was too slow because of I/O. Would it be possible to run it from memory so it it's faster or would that make initial loading a lot slower? What i need is something that i can run off a USB that boots and shuts down fast preferably with the same packages as ubuntu. I'd also like to know how to make it so it doesnt ask me to install it every time, bascially install it on a usb, size is not much of an issue.

  • 1
    Are you sure you weren't running an Ubuntu live image? It shouldn't be so slow.
    – tshepang
    Commented Feb 20, 2011 at 19:23
  • Yes i was using a live cd with persistence options chosen from the usb installer, how would i install it?
    – user4924
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 8:05
  • This question mostly got a bunch of "try this it works" suggestions; by demonstration, not a good fit for the site.
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 18:43

6 Answers 6


switching distros will not help you much, since your problem is i/o performance like you assumed. different distro will only help if you go with a very small one, which in turn will most likely not have the packagebase of ubuntu availible.

you might have some success with building a custom ubuntu-based live-cd, but then again, you would have to leave out the big packages like gnome etc, so there would not be really a point in using ubuntu in the first place.


Tinycorelinux boots incredibly fast. It may not have all of ubuntu's features out of the box. But it has a large set of extensions.

By default tinycorelinux boots entirely into RAM so everything is lightening fast. Even the home folder resides in RAM.

If you are going to experiment with tincorelinux I reccemond installing qemu in ubuntu. Then just call the tinycore-current.iso file from the command line. Qemu is slow but has worked well with tinycorelinux for me.

qemu -cdrom tinycore-current.iso
  • An alternative to Qemu is VirtualBox. Some have found it easier to start with.
    – phunehehe
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 2:48
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    Honestly I felt qemu is easier if you are just booting a live cd. 'qemu -cdrom tinycore-current.iso' and the cd boots. Otherwise you must select like 10 menus and selections in VirtualBox. Not to mention VirtualBox is not compatible with some live CDs.
    – William
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 3:54
  • qemu is quite fast if your processor supports VT-x or AMD-V
    – chris
    Commented Feb 21, 2011 at 9:48

Knoppix is a popular choice. I use Gentoo liveDVD, converted to USB stick.

  • I used a Russian version of Knoppix (that I bought pre-installed, from an ordinary computer store in Moscow) a long time ago. My impression of Knoppix then was that it had a comical or silly touch, with big, round icons and such. When I switched to Debian, I felt it was much more mature. But that might be totally subjective because back then I wasn't that systematic in my computer life. Just thought I'd tell you. Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 2:24

I tried Ubuntu 12.04 but I was not a fan of the OS and having to install a lot of software to compensate for the Windows 7 tradeoff. I'm still learning though but I have created a Linux Mint 14 MATE Live USB with Persistence created using LiLi and have to say that I am very pleased with the overall performance on my nettop. I have yet to try it on my laptop but I would say the speed in boot up and shutdown are not too bad considering that it works via usb (2-3min boot and up to 1min on shutdown). It has a nice clean OS, an office suite program package, codecs to enjoy my media, and Firefox. You could also try Puppy Linux or try creating your own custom Ubuntu Disc using Ubuntu Mini Remix and UCK, Remastersys, Ubuntu builder, etc. I did not like Puppy Linux because it looked dated (sorry it sounds a little shallow but even Windows XP's default theme looked better to me). In any case, I hope you find the solution that works best for you.

  • First, Ubuntu has a lot of stuff (too much perhaps). Second, with the package manager that comes with it it is child's play to install whatever you'd like. I don't get the "Windows 7 tradeoff" part. Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 2:20

i recommend you Linux Mint 13, with XFCE4. I have and old laptop where I use this distro and I am satisfied with it.

Linux Mint is modern and popular, ubuntu compatible, so it would not be hard to get information, because there are a lot of ubuntu forums. if your computer is old, you can use a lightweight window manager, like openbox or fluxbox.


linux mint does not boot fast because of the kernel, but there are some twicks that can be done for that (changing the kernel, maybe?)


If you have a modern computer which can handle desktop effects i recommend linux mint 14 (nadia) or Mageia, both are high rank distro's. But the choice is yours to prefer which desktop


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These distro's are complex and beautiful but takes a little more time to boot