I've tried so many combinations - all I want is a fast Ubuntu Live USB disk with persistence that works. What I've tried so far:

  • Using unetbootin on my Mac, choosing some "Space used to preserve files across reboots (Ubuntu only)".
    • Result: Doesn't boot at all.
  • Using unetbootin on my Mac, choosing no such space.
    • Result: Boots fine and very fast (doesn't even show the annoying dialog "Try ubuntu/install ubuntu" at startup!), but has no persistence. (So I have to choose my keyboard layout, install programs I need, etc. every time)
  • Using Startup Disk Creator from my Ubuntu 11.04 installation.
    • Result: I cannot choose "reserved extra space" at all. It's greyed out. I know I know, there was bug 557775, and many people say that the workaround from comment #4 works for them. But it doesn't work with Ubuntu 11.04 anymore (see also comment #14).
  • Using Startup Disk Creator from my Kubuntu 10.10 installation, gnome version (usb-creator-gtk).

    • Result: I can select the "reserved extra space" option, but installation doesn't work (fails when installing the bootloader).
  • Using Startup Disk Creator from my Kubuntu 10.10 installation, kde version (usb-creator-kde).

    • Result: Actually works: Reserved space can be selected, installation works. But after booting, I get the screen "Try ubuntu/install ubuntu". Clicking on "Try ubuntu" takes me to the desktop - but only after waiting 5 minutes (every time!). It also doesn't seem to keep my keyboard settings.

I know, that instead of creating a startup disk, I could install a full ubuntu system on the USB stick. But as far as I know, this isn't very good, because /tmp and similar directories will then also be on the USB disk, which is a) slow, and b) not very good for the USB disk due to frequent overwriting.

I'm frustrated. So has anybody managed to create a working Ubuntu 11.04 Live USB disk with persistence?

  • 2
    How big is your USB stick. I created a persistent 4Gig stick with unetbootin or usb-creator on Ubuntu.
    – wojox
    Jul 9 '11 at 12:50
  • Is your USB stick by any chance using Sandisk Cruzer Micro Smart U3 technology? If that is the case, u3-tool may help you make it usable, or use another brand of USB sticks.
    – taneli
    Jul 9 '11 at 13:28
  • @wojox: Actually, my usb stick is only 1Gig. But the image size is just < 700MB... Did you create an 11.04 USB stick using usb-creator-gtk from an 11.04 installation? And the persistence options weren't greyed out for you? Jul 9 '11 at 13:51
  • Did you try this? askubuntu.com/questions/16988/… Jul 9 '11 at 15:33
  • 1
    @Jorge: Thanks, but I think, this solution doesn't take into account, that some directories (which exactly, btw?) should be mounted as tmpfs for a flash drive. Jul 9 '11 at 20:46

I've used a 1GB flash drive and because of the sheer volume of the ISO image compared to the space on the drive creating some persistent space is not only next to impossible it's also just not feasible because you'd have a VERY small amount of space for stuff to save off to. Grab a 4 to 8 GB flash drive, put on the ISO using the Ubuntu built in USB startup disk maker and it should work. At least it did for me.

One other thing you can also try (I've done it so it should work.) is take an external HD that you can plug into the system via USB (Like a Western Digital backup drive for example.) and then what you do is take out the HD from your pc, plug in the external one into the usb ports, and then you (should be able to) install to that external drive from the ubuntu install menu. Then when you're all said and done you've got an external hard drive that is persistent because well, it's a whole OS!

I would also recommend that you take a look at the following link/question. It goes into a bit more detail on how to do what you're asking... Points down to the link

Install Ubuntu on USB Flash Drive or USB powered external HDD?

  • Ok, I took my good 8 GB flash drive, and actually, usb-creator-gtk on Ubuntu 11.04 allowed me to create persistent space on it. Good. Booted up - again the screen "Try Ubuntu / Install Ubuntu" Clicked "Try Ubuntu", waited 5 minutes (why does that take so long). Desktop appears, changed some settings, installed updates. Rebooted. "Try Ubuntu" - this time I'm already waiting 20 minutes, and the desktop doesn't appear.... I think I'm going to give up. Yes, maybe I will install it on a USB hard disk. Or maybe someone knows which directories I should mount as tmpfs when installing on a flash drive? Jul 9 '11 at 20:45
  • Yeah, it's done :-) How? I followed your advice to use a larger flash drive. Then I used unetbootin (Mac). On the larger stick, it managed to create a persistence area successfully... Bootup: I don't know why that is, but with disks created by unetbootin, there is no "Try Ubuntu / Install Ubuntu" screen after booting, and the desktop always appears instantly. Everything's fine :-) Jul 9 '11 at 21:33
  • So it worked?! Yeah! Good stuff, glad I was able to help ya out :) The only reason I know this is because I had it in my head one day to have an external ubuntu hd that was persistent/an actual ubuntu install :D
    – zkriesse
    Jul 9 '11 at 22:56

Ok, just to help others out. I had to do the "move the ISO to the tmp folder" to get the persistent space for docs that I was moving.

However, once you do that you have to know how to get to those freaking files on your new system. The USB stick doesn't let you just navigate through and find those files. So...

Mount the casper dir on the USB using something like this:

mkdir /myfiles
sudo mount -o loop /media/XXXX-USB-blah/casper-rw /myfiles

Then you still have to chown the files before you can move them.

Hope that helps :-)


I am currently writing to you from such an installation. It is the third in a series of USB SSD media I've made for myself, all clones of one another. Since this one was first made about three years ago, I've made a second series for non personal use, with 38 copies made at last count. All are fresh and new for the next user, all made from a regularly updated master. And before you ask, no, I'm not offering to sell you one, but I might give you one if you reimburse me for media. For now I'll focus on method and you can consider using my method yourself.

My current such drive which I refer to as a "Mubuntstick" which is sort of acronym for my last initial "M" Ubuntu Stick, consists of this USB3-mSATA adapter. I describe it somewhat in my bio on this site. Inside of which I'm currently using only this 64gb mSATA SSD, though as you can see you can purchase a much larger one if that's what you want to do. I've read many reviews and these seem to get better ratings for benchmark speed and reliability.

You are probably wondering why I'm on my third. There are two reasons, actually, and they are reasons that relate to one of your concerns. My first two were Patriot Rage Pro XT and very fast, roughly identical in performance when connected to computers equipped with USB 2.0 ports, but the second in blue was actually USB 3.0. After one year of very heavy use the first one began to slow down, not lose data, apparently but it became sluggish and so as a precaution I cloned it to a newer and possibly faster USB 3.0 version. After another year of very heavy use it too became sluggish and as I wanted to upgrade the size I decided to try this heavier duty mSATA format while upgrading my capacity. I had no idea this mSATA would be so much faster. When connected to a high performance computer such as this quad core gamers desktop with 4gb RAM and an ATI graphics card, well, nobody would believe the main drive is interfaced with USB.

Your original question was what's the best method of making it, and in my opinion, a straight up installation is the best method. If you are worried about wearing out the drive with SWAPSPACE, there are a few solutions you can try, one of which is to made two such USB drives and format the second one as "swap", so that it is allocated instead of the primary data drive. Personally I choose convenience. I also recommend automatically timed backups of pertinent data, and periodic image backups of the entire installation so that you can burn a fresh one should your active one be lost, stolen or destroyed.

I probably don't have to advise you to encrypt your data folders, but in case I do, I'm saying it now.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.