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

Here is my situation:

I have a 14 GB USB stick with Ubuntu 11.10, and loads of video files, and eBooks for use at the pub/coffee shop/park away from my main computer at home.

I have a Dell Mini 9 netbook with a dead/crashed 8gb hdd.

I don't have any money to replace the netbook or hdd - no really, I don't.

Here is what I would like to do with help, instructions, and assistance if it is possible/not completely stupid:

I want to be able to use my dead netbook (with good keyboard, trackpad and screen) to:

  1. watch *.avi video (and other video files like mkv etc), so would like the codecs for the built-in video/media player in Ubuntu 11.10 OR help installing VLC on the USB stick.

  2. read eBooks using FBReader or Calibre's built-in reader soiftware so need assistance, instructions to install/run that software from the USB Stick...

  3. Surf the web, so need to be able to install the Wi-Fi drivers if possible

Do I just need to start the netbook with the USB stick in, connected by cable to the internet router, and run Software Centre?

If I do that and reboot will the Ubuntu on the USB stick then include VLC Media Player and Calibre/FB Reader?

If not, how can I fix that up please?

Is it far more complex than that, and if so, can anyone help me?

I am a beginner with Ubuntu, but I know about the Terminal, and sudo, and can run simple commands like sudo get-apt upgrade.

share|improve this question
8GB seems to be a Flash Memory. Are you sure the HDD is physically crashed or do you mean you cannot boot it which might be a software issue as well. In the latter case, just reinstall ubuntu using the live USB stick. In the first case you can configure the USB stick with e.g. two partitions, one for data and on one is the live system. You can setup as well that installed changes to the live system are stored permanently on the usb stick. Please specify further what the real problem is.In general it is simple: prepare the stick, make your system boot from it and enjoy. – Michael K Jan 30 '12 at 13:30
hi, I get warnings contiunuously about iminent failure of the hdd, cannot format the drive, and os not found...So I'd like to reconfigure the usb stick, and have the updates, wi-fi drivers, vlc media player, and calibre or fbreader included - how can I do that please? – Philip Jan 30 '12 at 13:43
Download the Ubuntu image and put it onto an usb stick as described here: – Michael K Jan 30 '12 at 13:57
if i remember correctly you can create a usb stick which allows changes on the live system.Or did I mix up sth?Else he would need a 2nd usb stick, one for installing and one as "hard drive".Another solution were an SD card as hard disk, which is much handier. – Michael K Jan 30 '12 at 14:04
@MichaelK yeah, you can. I am just not sure if the method that you linked will suffice to the OP. Care to test and put that down in a answer? – Bruno Pereira Jan 30 '12 at 14:09

Is your USB stick already persistent? If not:

I would suggest using Startup Disk Creator from the Live CD or Ubuntu install or usb-creator.exe, (for Windows), extracted from the iso, (using 7zip).

Select Stored in reserved extra space, 1GB should be enough for your requirements.

Boot from the persistent USB, go to software center and download E-book readers, Codecs, etc.

Hopefully the Wi-Fi drivers you need will already be installed.

When loading movies etc to the stick, from another machine, just make a folder in root.

To access the movies, etc, when you are booted from the stick, go to filesystem/cdrom.

If your USB stick is already Live but not persistent, you can add a persistent casper-rw partition. Let me know how you built your stick, usb-creator? Unetbootin? and I will give details.

share|improve this answer
thanks, in the end I rebuilt my stick using UNetbootin and it included persistent. But, I have tried exploring the filsystem for my 8gb worth of books and movies but couldn't find the folder 'Philip' which is in the root – Philip Jan 31 '12 at 9:43
Look in filesystem/cdrom, this is where to find anything on the root of the drive. – C.S.Cameron Feb 1 '12 at 1:47
ok, did that... and it's BRILLIANT - thanks very much everyone! – Philip Feb 1 '12 at 9:52

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.