When you make a USB bootable with Ubuntu, it usually offers to either "Try Ubuntu" or "Install" into the hard drive. "Try Ubuntu" doesn't really save changes or treat the USB like a hard drive of its own. But that's what I want: a portable hard drive with Ubuntu OS installed into it so I can boot from it on any computer, and have all my changes saved. And yes, I have enough room in the flash drive (if 32 GIGS is enough).

I've read on Ask Ubuntu that this is actually possible by choosing your flash drive from the custom install menu (where it shows all the computer's drives, including sdb, the flash drive). However, the answer i read suggested that I use an Ubuntu DVD to make this work. Can I install Ubuntu onto a flash drive from that VERY flash drive itself? I've noticed that the "Try Ubuntu" interface still works even if I decide to unplug the flash drive, so perhaps the flash drive can install Ubuntu onto itself?

It's hard for me to word my question clearly, but I hope I did it well enough so that someone understands.

Thanks a ton :)

  • 1
    See askubuntu.com/questions/295701/…
    – user68186
    Sep 4, 2014 at 18:34
  • 2
    Strange, in the "duplicated posts" I could find nothing about starting a Ubuntu USB drive, (with "toram"), unplugging it and then making a Full install to it. I could not find that question elsewhere. It is a major error to mark this question as a duplicate. Nov 29, 2016 at 4:39
  • See this link to a new question about this subject by C.S.Cameron: askubuntu.com/questions/855039/…
    – sudodus
    Nov 30, 2016 at 19:46

3 Answers 3


Booting to RAM, (toram), and unplugging will work, reference:

Can Ubuntu be installed to the pendrive it was booted from?

mkusb is superior to Unetbootin as it can make persistent partitions larger than 4GB, it will also make a NTFS partition from any excess space that is usable by Windows and Linux.

Edit: You can do a Full install of Ubuntu to USB using VirtualBox, Instructions at:

How do I install Ubuntu to a USB key? (without using Startup Disk Creator)

A simpler method:

Install VBox and guest additions

Make new Ubuntu virtual disk

Start disk and point to Ubuntu iso

When process gets to try/install screen activate target USB and select install

When process gets to partitioning select "Something else"

Select the USB as target and continue installation.


What you actually need is called Persistence. With persistence, the changes you make are saved. Depending on the tool you use to make, the name varies. In Ubuntu's Startup Disk Creator:

That "Stored in reserved ..." is about persistence. In Unetbootin:

enter image description here

The "Space used to preserve files ..." is about persistence.

Also check out: How to make a persistent live Ubuntu USB with more than 4GB

  • The OP seems to want to do a full install, the OP in the other post did not. Nov 15, 2016 at 7:41
  • @C.S.Cameron I think their priority is having changes saved, so persistence is enough
    – muru
    Nov 15, 2016 at 7:46
  • @ muru why not give the OP what they ask for? There are a lot of reasons to do a Full install, faster booting, ability to install proprietary drivers, ability to do updates and upgrades, more stability, better security, etc, etc Nov 15, 2016 at 14:03
  • @C.S.Cameron meta.stackexchange.com/questions/66377/what-is-the-xy-problem. Also, it's been two years since this was posted. I'm not sure why you're arguing for someone who hasn't back since then. O.o
    – muru
    Nov 15, 2016 at 14:04
  • @ muru The OP specifically asks how to make a full install to flash drive with only one flash drive, a very valid question. Since this question has since been referenced as being duplicated, people are still being sent here for an answer to that specific question, not to learn how to use an obsolete installer like UNetbootin that can only have 4GB of persistence as persistent partitions no longer work with syslinux type installs. If duplicate questions are not being allowed on this site, the original question should be correctly answered and up to date. The solution should match the title. Nov 16, 2016 at 0:45

Yes you need to make partition on usb drive. You can't use the same partition for trial and install. As installation would need to wipe everything. Using partition you will able to select unused partition for installation purpose. See this video for help on USB partition. https://youtu.be/ReCryfQUTL0 Happy Linux.

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