Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Disclaimer: I aim to build a self contained pen drive with our application inside for running it in as many machines as possible. Portability. So no matter about updates. Maybe I'm looking at the wrong linux distribution to do this... Please let me know if you think so. I've tried many knoppix and ubuntu flavors (and still am trying many others) but they don't come with enough drivers for Unity3D (nothing to do with Ubuntu's Unity) to work - even lubuntu won't work! I'm betting it's lack of openGL 2.0 support.

Creating a custom live persistent pen drive is a real pain and I'm trying for 1 day without any success. Sure, being able to do it would probably be ideal and occupy the minimum space.

Using the installation image on a pen drive, however, is good enough and is really easy to create. We can even do it from any OS, using UNetBootin, LiLi USB Creator or some other methods. Straight forward.

Some recommend installing it on a pen drive. But that requires way too much space! Almost 3gb, I can only use this if it's 1gb at most. And, I believe, it won't behave as good as something meant to be installed on a usb disk, because of memory management and, again, drivers. The MinimalCD installation doesn't even recognize a wireless network / device on the first computer I've tried.

So, there are only a few negative points on using the installation image that I can think of.

Question here, is how to remove those drawbacks (in order of importance):

  • Having to press "Try Ubuntu". That's the big one. Couldn't find how.
  • Unable to remove "Install Ubuntu 12.04 LTS" app (minor importance).
  • Unable to load everything on memory and keep on running without the pen drive (like this).
  • Setting the ISO to use maximum amount of space for the OS will leave pen drive with zero space left and any file saved within it from ubuntu is inaccessible from the outside (when plugging in the pen drive and not booting from it).

The last 2 items are obviously not that important.

Am I missing something? Can those points be fixed?

share|improve this question

As far as I know, what you want can't be done with a persistent Live USB.

A full install in an 16GB USB drive (8GB may work, but I have not tested it.) will solve most of the four issues you mention.

I have a 16GB USB with full install and am yet to face any memory management issues. Most computers these days have 4GB or more RAM. So, swap file/partition is not as important. You can do a full install and set swappiness to 0, and limit updates to "Important Security Updates only" to avoid unnecessary writing to the USB.

  1. No "Try Ubuntu" in a full install. Bonus, password protection.
  2. Unplugging the pen drive when Ubuntu is running from it, either in persistent, or in full mode will be a bad idea. I have no solution for this.
  3. A full install will not have the "Install Ubuntu" on the desktop.
  4. If you use a 16GB pen drive, you can create a 1 or 2 GB FAT32 partition in the beginning for "normal" use. The rest can be ext4 partition with / mount point. The first partition will be accessible both when booted from the pen drive as well as when just plugged in.

    It may even be possible to put some folders like "Music" in the FAT32 partition and sym link it to your home folder. I have not tested it. If it works, you have a bigger FAT32 partition and a smaller ext4 / partition.

Minimal install

One option for full install may be to use the server iso or the minimal iso and add the desktop and whatever else you need on top of it. I don't know if it will reduce the size of install to less than 1GB, but it is worth a try. See how to install Unity on top of a server install.


There are some WiFi chips that only work with proprietary drivers. A full install USB stick with only opensource drivers will not have WiFi connections when plugged into and booted from such a computer. There may be similar issues with some graphics cards as well. Installing various proprietary drivers into a full USB installation for all possible combinations of hardware may have unexpected results. A full USB install will not be as portable as a Live USB stick.

Hope this helps

share|improve this answer
I actually did almost all of it with a persistent live usb today... with macpup. but it's lacking something that makes the app runs too slow, and I'm trying to find what it is to install it. the smaller the OS is on the live usb, the more I can use for our app so going ubuntu full install is a big no no right now. but, if there's some way to install it in less than 1gb, then we may talk as it does resolve almost everything else as you said. – cregox Nov 9 '12 at 19:57
One full install option may be to use the server iso or the minimal iso and add the desktop and whatever else you need on top of it. I don't know if it will reduce the size of install to less than 1GB, but it is worth a try. See… for how to install Unity on top of a server install. – user68186 Nov 9 '12 at 21:31
ok... but won't this lack the portability expected on a pen drive? I mean, seems like it's custom made to work in one machine only. – cregox Nov 9 '12 at 21:43
Unlike Windows most of the (open source) drivers are built into the kernel. If the persistent live USB works on a machine, the vanilla (no proprietary drivers installed) full install version should also work on that machine. – user68186 Nov 9 '12 at 21:51
finally I could manage to try this idea of Minimal install... didn't work. I couldn't even get the wireless card to work with that install. so, the idea I had of lack of portability began much sooner than expected. – cregox Nov 13 '12 at 15:53

disclaimer again: This isn't exactly answering the question, but it's almost and close enough to me today. If no better answer shows up, eventually I'll simply accept this one. I'm still in hope to be able to get a mini-live-usb-persistent-ubuntu able to run on RAM (like so many live cd linuxes out there, some I mention below), because ubuntu interface and drivers are way superior to all others.

I've checked almost every knoppix and ubuntu variation in this list. and I've tried all which seem like it could stick in less than 1 gb and / or were meant and build to run in USB drives. I've also tried damn small linux and other such variants. Slax was also a noteworthy attempt to mention, quite a nice ubuntu alternate, but got not enough drivers.

The only one I found to be somewhat reliable was macpup - and I could use it. It also doesn't play nearly on as many machines as the ubuntu live pen drive, but at least it runs smoothly on most I've tried.

It even "addresses" the first 3 points I raised (eventhough the first 2 are only relevant to ubuntu :-P) and the last point can't really be fixed. The pen drive has to be in FAT32 and, that way, it's bad to save files for linux usage in it, so we use the persistent file. Only solution is choosing smaller persistence and leaving some room. You can do that with either ubuntu or macpup.

So, yeah, the answer here is "go macpup!".

P.S.: On my first macpup trials I was going with my newest machine around here, which should be the most problematic to run, and it did run almost everything. Except, as I mentioned somewhere else, our app was too slow. Then I finally decided trying it in other machines and it so happens this test one was the only one it behave that way. So, it is good!

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.