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The question to be answered is...

Which type of installation should I use on my USB (Live USB or full installation or an other options??) and how would I go about doing so to meet all my requirements?


Before diving deep into my personal needs relating to my question, note that I have read Difference between LiveCD, LiveUSB, full-install, and persistence? and understand the basic differences, but I need clarification on which would be better for my needs, and if my end result is even possible.


Here are my understandings/thoughts i have concluded about installing Ubuntu onto a USB, please clarify or address any misunderstandings i might have. (not that it matters, i am planning on using Ubuntu Gnome)


To my understanding...

(Live = Live USB, Full = Full Installation onto USB)

1) Running Live takes a longer time to boot than Full due to it checking its targets current hardware on the computer in order for it to know how to properly run on its target. A full will only be able to run on computers with the same hardware as the one you initially installed with. Although, once booted, both types of installation will run with the same speed.

Note* I read that Live uses compressed files, is this true? and wouldn't this cause the Live to be slightly slower?

2) Both Live and Full are able to obtain persistent settings, although, live boot requires additional work to create a separate partition to be used for persistent if wanting more than 4GB.

3) Both installations do the same amount of ware onto your USB when reading and writing.

4) You are unable to uninstall the pre-installed programs for Live but in Full, you have full control over the programs for which lay in the original image.

5) Live is unable to update Ubuntu when updates are present. With Full, updates are naturally installed when available like a normal system.

6) Both methods are equally as powerful. In other words, Live is NOT a smaller sample version of the actual Full.

Like i said, please correct or address any misunderstandings i may have. Everything i learned has been reading on the web so i'm not sure what is completely true and what is not.

What i would like about Ubuntu on my USB

1) Unlimited amount of persistent settings (limited by the size of the drive obviously) is a must, but to my understanding this is achievable by both.

2) Being able to update my Ubuntu when updates are released.

3) Being able to boot from any and all computers, which from my understanding is not possible by Full.

4) Being able to have full control of my Ubuntu, not a mini version or compressed file system.


By using a high memory flash drive with fast read and write speeds, i want to run Ubuntu off a USB on a variety of computers. If you can assist me in any way, i would greatly appreciate your help. I am under the belief that a full install is best, but i am unclear what partitions i need to create in order to have everything successfully on the USB so i can boot from multiple computers. I tried this and it worked but i was unable to get the boot loader to be on the USB therefore i could only boot from my home computer. So if the answer is a Full install, please help me out with the partitions. Thanks in advance!

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    First off, installing on USB would be very limiting to you, however it is not impossible. But I am not sure that if you did do that that it would work across all hardware, in other words and I may be wrong, we shall see who corrects me, but the USB would be configured for the machine you did the install on. its hardware, and other things. The Live version finds all that and configures itself to work on whatever hardware it finds. So usually when we say full install we mean on the machines hard drive. If you want to keep it USB persistent is I think your best answer. – Christopher Angulo-Bertram May 30 '16 at 0:16
  • I just wanted to note that I did read your comment when posted and appreciate your response. You cleared up some of the confusion I had. I also just found this guide which sums up pretty much what you said! maketecheasier.com/persistent-live-usb-vs-full-install-usb Thanks for the help, still hoping for more input though from others :/ – TrevorKS Jun 4 '16 at 17:15
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Small comparison between your mentioned options :

LiveCD/LiveDVD < LiveUSB < LiveUSB with persistence < Full install on USB ,

where < sign means less than , as in lesser productivity options.

As you already know Live systems are mainly intended as demos mediums, install mediums, and limited productivity mediums (as in rescue scenarios or restrictive, secure mediums).

Live systems do use a special type of file system called squashfs, in which are squashed in all the files needed for the live system to run (including OS and software). Squashfs is a fixed, uneditable system.

You can update any live version, but the updates will be lost after reboot, unless you had set up persistence mode. You can install any software in any live version, but all the installs will be lost after reboot, unless you had set up persistence.

Full install is not a great idea for USB, because USB drives are typically supporting about 1000 writing cycles, whereas an internal drive (even a ssd) is typically supporting much more writing cycles. More yet, in most situations, the SATA bus of an internal drive is much faster than an USB bus. Sure, SATA I is slower than USB 3.0, but that's the exception rather than the rule. And even so, the motherboard always presumes SATA is prioritary over USB, and therefore SATA will always be the preferred bus, and SATA data will always be executed first no matter the speed of the bus.

When you do a full install on USB, you can to run it on any system, as long as it has the same CPU architecture, same type of video card, same type of RAM, etc. You can't run an Ubuntu x86 on ARM architecture.

  • Appreciate your answer! Very clear and helpful! I've tried to read about and learn the SquashFS file system so I could have a better understanding of what im dealing with. To my understanding, SquashFS is a Read-Only file system, therefore I cannot make changed to the original Live Image. To make changes, would I need to Unsquash it? and is this as easy as just using the unsquash command? – TrevorKS Jul 3 '16 at 18:28
  • I really don't know much about unsquash. Never used it. But you can take a look here: askubuntu.com/questions/437880/…. – ipse lute Jul 3 '16 at 19:20

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