I am considering creating a Live Ubuntu USB drive and running Ubuntu just from it.

So, what bad things would happen if I was running Ubuntu and doing stuff and my flash drive got bumped out of socket? I'm pretty certain that I'd lose whatever I hadn't saved, but what other corruptions or disasters might occur? And are there settings that could be set to minimize the damage?

Can anyone help me know the risks? I'd rather not just wait and find out.

  • 2
    Exactly the same that will happen if you unplug your main hard disk while running on it. It can happen everything, from a simple crash to a completely unusable file system.
    – Rmano
    May 24, 2014 at 20:37
  • I am really looking for personal experience with Ubuntu. I have read posts on SuperUser all over on the theoretical side of things. May 24, 2014 at 21:14
  • Try it, it's not so difficult at all. Mind you, there are USB bootable distribution that copy all the needed thing in RAM and free the USB disk, but the one I know are quite old. A normal linux use the disk as page cache at least for executables, libraries, and a lot of things; remove the disk and a crash is guarantee. The disk can be corrupted or not, depending on the moment, the luck and the phase of the moon.
    – Rmano
    May 25, 2014 at 3:38

2 Answers 2


It would be the same as removing your hard drive while your computer is on, most likely it will cause a crash that may not be recoverable from unless you reinstall.

Here is one example

I will add that this has happened to me and I had to reformat the flash drive and reinstall.

  • The supplied link doesn't seem to have to do with multi-boot. It looks like he was formatting the drive when he removed it (which obviously destroys all data). Am I missing the connection? May 24, 2014 at 20:48
  • This is the connection "Oops, I accidentally unplugged my USB hard drive, now I can't access it"., it really does not matter what you are doing when your device gets unplugged it is all bad.
    – Wild Man
    May 24, 2014 at 20:51
  • 1
    @WildMan Not quite the same. When formatting, the file table of the FS gets wiped as well, so even if some data is still on the drive, you don't know where to look for it. (Special case: Some fast formatting tools will ONLY wipe the file table so all data is still there after formatting). Open files being written to will be malicious, some files maybe lost, your system will prob. crash. I had several power outages on different OSes and it didn't destroy all of my data.
    – Lukas
    May 25, 2014 at 3:18

That has happened to me before. I installed Ubuntu on a usb hard disk so I wouldn't have to wipe my windows installation off this computer. However, since it is a laptop, I often use it on the couch. So, one day I ended up accidentally unplugging the disk when I had to run for the phone. What happened was not a bluescreen-like crash as I expected. Instead, some weird things happened to the os. All the programs I had open stayed open in memory, although all of them began throwing errors whenever they tried to access storage. Unity also bugged up badly and eventually crashed. I wonder if a tool could be created that runs in memory and throws a system killswitch if this happens to me again. Either that or actually re-mounting the drive, if possible.

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