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I want to install Ubuntu 12.04 to a 16GB usbstick because my harddrive just died (I am currently on a ubuntu live cd). Because of various reasons, I won't have a new proper HDD/SSD for at least 2 weeks. I can imagine 2 options (please feel free to suggest more). A generic usb install using usb-creator-gtk/unetbootin or a traditional install using the usb drive as the main partition. I won't need the usbstick for any other purpose so I'm leaning towards installing directly however, I don't fully understand the differences or implications of either.

These are the essential software I use on a daily basis:

  • build-essential package (gcc/ld/etc..)
  • jdk7, eclipse (several eclipse plugins), emacs, git
  • google-chrome
  • vlc

These are the pros/cons i've come up with so far:

usb-creator-gtk / unetbootin:

  • will boot any machine

  • persistence by saving configuration to separate partition (?)

  • multiple partitions

install to usb:

  • will boot only my machine or others of similar model

  • familiar layout of system/user configuration

  • any partition scheme i want (eg. ntfs paritions)


I'm also concerned for both performance and life of the usb drive.

This is the special configuration i have so far:

  • use ext2 instead of ext4 to minimize writes (journal writes)

  • use noatime,nodiratime mount options, also to minimize writes (update acess time)

  • do not use a swap partition, also to minimize writes (this may break suspend?)

  • maybe even configure applications to log to RAM (mount /var/log on tmpfs)

  • use a compressed filesystem (squashfs/unionfs) for /usr and /opt

References:

How do I optimize the OS for SSDs?

Optimizing Ubuntu to run from a USB key or SD card

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Not using swap won't break suspend, it would only break hibernation. But running without a swap partition, not even a small one, is not recommended overall. I'd mount at least a little file as a swap partition, and I'd minimize swappiness –  Jorge Suárez de Lis May 1 '13 at 9:48
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