I have installed Ubuntu several times on my thumb drive. First times were on 8 GB thumb drives. I noticed I could not save anything as when I rebooted, it was all gone.

So, I got a 30 GB drive, tried installing again... and same thing.

Now I've found out I am running a LIVE version... not actually an installation.

So, for the somewhat novice who cannot do command-line installs, step by step is there a way to install ubuntu-12.04.3-desktop-i386.iso using, unetbootin-windows-585.exe to a 30 GB USB stick using my Windows 7 machine?

  • I have not tried this but there may be a way by using a virtual machine and telling it to use a USB stick as the hard drive. See this question How do I install Ubuntu to a USB key?. It worked in 11.04 don't know if it works with current versions. Oct 28, 2013 at 20:03
  • There's nothing wrong with using instructions from '10. The instructions here still apply perfectly.
    – kiri
    Oct 29, 2013 at 2:19

3 Answers 3


Method 1

Use a Linux Live USB creator that supports persistence - having files and settings carry over between reboots. You should note that this really sucks the life out of your USB. It won't last more than a few months of use.

Method 2

For something a bit more long term, get 2 USBs. On one, do what you've been doing so so far. On the other, do whatever you want- it'll be wiped and Ubuntu will be installed onto it. Let's call this second one the 'other' USB.

Boot from your Live USB as you have been doing before. Plug in your other USB. On your live desktop, you should see a little icon called Install Ubuntu 12.04. Run this. It may take a while every time you click something but be patient. By the way, be sure to check both boxes about installing updates while downloading, and about using proprietary software.

When choosing installation type, hit Something Else and choose your other USB. You can probably get away with making one partition on it that fills the entire thing. Also, install the boot loader to your other USB. This is in a drop down box on the partitioning screen.

The rest of the installation is pretty self explanatory.

You clearly know how to boot from a USB, so if all goes well this should be perfect.

Good Luck.

  • Be sure to add the boot to the root of the usb and not the sda1. (In my case sba1. You may want to be careful to double check to see the usb drive you selected is still orange before hitting the install button. It seemed to jump after I formatted it. Lastly, do not unmount the drives. This might help protect your original system, Mar 7, 2016 at 14:20

This has been answered in the past, of which I reproduce here for you my previous answer.

The answers in this question: Is there a way to install Ubuntu on usb pendrive as normal instalation (not live cd)? are also applicable to SD Cards. (Tested by me)

Pay special attention to this:

Anyway I suggest you to disconnect all your hard disk drives in your computer, specially those which are having a OS installed (Windows, Linux, etc.) as you may finish having a multi-boot USB/SD Memory with GRUB and in certain cases the bootloader can be written in a different device, other than the USB Memory/SD Card.

Included in my answer here.

Please also see the answers to this question: Is there a way to install Ubuntu on usb pendrive as normal instalation (not live cd)?

BTW: After installing in a USB/SD Card you can install whatever you want, and keep as many files as the capacity of the USB/SD allows. You can even use the USB/SD in a different computer without any problems.

Good luck!


If using a smaller flash drive you want to add persistence. That does not modify live versions, but allows saving some things. If an app is saved, it in effect has to be reinstalled on every boot. But it can be useful to let you save settings or your data files.

If using a large flash drive it is no different than any install to another hard drive or external USB hard drive. You may want to make some changes to reduce writes and use ext4 and change it to not use journal or use ext2 to reduce writes. Supposedly there are some advantages to ext4 even without journalling.

On the screen for auto install or Something Else or manual install you want manual install. All auto options install grub2 to the first internal drive; only manual install gives options on where to install boot loader and you want it in external flash drive. You do have to size, format and specify mount of / (root), swap and any other partitions if separate. If you have a lot of RAM you may not need nor want swap on a flash drive.

How do I install Ubuntu?

Some that installed standard installer to flash, then have full install issues with first the few sectors still having ISO info that interferes. If you have issues, run Boot-Repair and it will zero out the first 2047 sectors and reinstall GRUB.


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