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I executed a "complete" Ubuntu installation on my USB stick - not burning a persistent LiveCD onto it, but instead using 2 USB sticks, one containing the LiveCD and the other as the destination (the bootloader was also installed on the destination stick).

Now, during the installation, I noticed that the wizard configures some hardware-related elements. Does this mean that such installations are limited to run on the same machine as where the install wizard is executed? If yes, 1) what will happen if I take this stick elsewhere and try booting it on another hardware, and 2) is there a way to overcome that, so I can both avoid LiveCD+persistent (because persistent space is limited), and have a universal installation?

  • See askubuntu.com/questions/295701/… – user68186 Jul 17 '17 at 12:14
  • (1) has a good chance of working. I've done it by mistake (made a bootable USB for 1 machine to use an obsolete webcam, accidentally booted my main work machine off it). – Chris H Jul 17 '17 at 13:25
  • No, you will be limited to CPU support. The one area that can give troubles is video cards and installing proprietary drivers - once you do that, you are kinda stuck on machines with similar video cards... – ivanivan Jul 17 '17 at 18:30
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A portable installed system, that boots both in UEFI and BIOS mode is described in this link,

Installed system that boots from UEFI and BIOS mode

There are more details at the following link,

help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/UEFI-and-BIOS

Q: Now, during the installation, I noticed that the wizard configures some hardware-related elements. Does this mean that such installations are limited to run on the same machine as where the install wizard is executed?

A: No. It is portable, but not as portable as a persistent live drive.

Q: ... because persistent space is limited.

A: You can store the persistence in a partition, which is limited only by the size of the drive. With a GUID partition table (GPT) it can be several terabytes. mkusb can install such persistent live systems.

Comments: But there are other drawbacks with a persistent live system. It is less stable compared to an installed system, and you cannot use a new kernel because the kernel is started before the overlay for persistence is started. Also, I would recommend to install program packages, but not update and upgrade the persistent live system. Instead you should install a new persistent live system from a current iso file.

See also the following links,

askubuntu.com/questions/936633/ubuntu-live-from-usb-with-full-persistence-and-ntfs/936641#936641

Persistent live versus installed Ubuntu in the USB flash drive

Try Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, ...) before installing it

Edit: A USB 3 SSD flash drive has much faster flash hardware than a standard USB pendrive, and there are USB 3 pendrives with specified high read/write performance. The market changes, so it is worth checking on the internet, which brand and model to select to get the best buy 'today'. See this link about fast USB 3 pendrives,

help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/FromUSBStick#Notes_about_speed

  • mkusb was the next thing I tried, but for some reason, both methods I tried resulted in a stick that boots into a black screen after full installation. I'll try some more, but probably it's my Cherry Trail platform preventing me from this. – Andy Yan Jul 17 '17 at 12:05
  • Also, thanks for the mention on USB3 SSDs. I intended to craft one of these myself with a M.2 SATA SSD and a USB3.0 HDD box, but the recent spike in SSD price discouraged me from it. There's not much use for me to justify that price either (booting Ubuntu is just something I'm trying for fun), which doesn't help. – Andy Yan Jul 17 '17 at 12:07
  • A black screen after a full installation makes me think that there are problems with the graphics driver. It might help with the boot option nomodeset, at least help enough to get some simple graphics. But in this case you probably need a proprietary driver for the graphics chip, and the USB drive is not as portable as we would like it to be. (In these cases a live-only or persistent live drive might be a better alternative.) – sudodus Jul 17 '17 at 12:14
  • Sadly even nomodeset wasn't helping - I just generated a stick with mkusb, and on the Cherry Trail platform it stays black screen after the Ubuntu text and 5 dots roll past; on my main laptop, despite getting recognized in BIOS, when assigned to boot it doesn't even boot, and gets skipped past like it wasn't plugged in. – Andy Yan Jul 17 '17 at 12:55
  • @AndyYan For "Cherry Trail" you need a special ISO (non official). Google Linuxium. Most thing works except audio. – user692175 Jul 17 '17 at 16:52
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I had just installed Ubuntu on an USB 3.0 drive with methods outlined here:

This installation will work on almost any other hardware with few limitations only:

  • the hardware must be able to boot from USB
  • a 64-bit installation will not boot on a 32-bit CPU
  • proprietary drivers needed for newer graphic cards may not be included
  • some network cards need additional setting to be made
  • the computer BIOS may need to be adapted to boot from legacy BIOS

Sadly even if on USB 3.0 it performs far less than from a real install. Even dist-upgrading took ages. It would suit for testing only but then it may be very useful (I was able to test WIFI module's settings before installing).

  • Your answer was one of the first I came by, but unfortunately at that moment I was not willing to install VB on my existing Ubuntu machine just to try out Ubuntu on the stick. I'll see how the performance holds up (for my very simple use case - I plan to only SSH from this stick) before making another run with your method. – Andy Yan Jul 17 '17 at 9:33
  • Performance will not be different - the methods you choose should all lead to the same Ubuntu on an USB stick. All up to you taste, really. Virtual Box was installed anyway on my machine so for me that was the quickest way. – Takkat Jul 17 '17 at 9:57
  • When I was able to get it to boot, the LiveCD shows promising performance for what I want it to do (basic web browsing and terminal usage). Can't get things to boot properly right now, though... – Andy Yan Jul 17 '17 at 12:57
  • 2
    > Sadly even if on USB 3.0 it performs far less than from a real install. That would depend mostly on the specific drive you used. I can hook up a SSD to USB 3.0 and it'll perform almost as well as one on an internal SATA connection. A decent (read: expensive) flash drive will be up there. A cheaper flash drive performs terribly, regardless of the interface. – Bob Jul 17 '17 at 14:41
4

Ubuntu, just like any other linux distibution, supports any hardware, that is supported by supplied kernel (kernel itself + kernel modules). Most distibutions use "hardware-wide" kernels, that are compiled with support for a wide amount of hardware, to make kernel compatible with as many PCs as possible.

This means that (from hardware point of view) OS, installed with default kernel, will be able to launch on any PC, that can handle this OS default installation (so, as mentioned above, 32-bit PC won't launch 64-bit kernel of ubuntu64)

If you have problems with some of your PCs, you can allways alter your kernel configuration and recompile it with support of unsupported-by-default hardware, but also note that you will have to keep basic settings (supported architecture, instructions sets and so on) on the level of weakest PC (just like 32/64 example - if you want one stick for 10 x64 PCs and 1 x32 PC, you have to use x32 on all 11 PCs) or create several boot points mapping to different kernels.

After start, you should take in mind, that you may have to reconfigure your network settings (as long as ethernet devices naming varies depending on hardware and because you will have another MAC address - so your network's DHCP and NAT policies will be raised here)

Additional hardware, that is not handled by kernel itself - like proprietary GPU drivers or drivers that use proprietary firmware (for example oldish usb scanners) will require configuration because it is not configured on-the-fly during boot process by default.

Also note, that beside of hardware support, there is also some logic-related stuff like host naming (if you will launch 20 clones in one network you will have a network of same-named pcs), dhcp leasing (20 launches of 1 clone on 20 pcs will take 20 leases instead of one with different IPs, so if you are on dhcp, you will have to alter your NAT rules on your router) and so on.

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