I need a bootable (with UEFI Support), persistent System that I can configure (install packages, programs, toolchains) that I will need to deploy on hundreds of 8 GB USB-Sticks.

Simply starting the 17.04 Install ISO and telling it to install the basic system onto the USB-Stick tells me though that the USB Stick is too small for a Ubuntu installation (8.6 GB are needed).

I read up on making a persistent Live USB Stick, that basically still has the "Try Ubuntu" stuff, but with persistent data, but a simple, small, bootable installation of Ubuntu onto that small device that I can customize until everything works like I need it to and then simply copy the Stick with dd onto it's brethren is all I need.

How do I do that?

I need a desktop environment, browser, file browser, nothing more, most system tools or usability services (cloud storage, auto update, backup etc.) are not needed.

Here is what I did so far:

I created a new virtualbox VM with a 16 GB virtual hard drive. I loaded up the Ubuntu 16.04 (because of respin) and installed a normal system on it.

I removed all applications I deemed unnecessary for our use-case: libreoffice, all gnome-games, checkbox, diagnostic-tools, ubuntu-software-center, webbrowser-app, etc.

I then installed respin with all dependencies that were mentioned in some posts here on askubuntu.

I then used the ubuntu system disk creator thingy program to write the .iso to the usb-stick.

Booting from that usb-stick neither works for a custom bootloader-VM nor for my own laptop. I had to activate legacy boot options and even then I only reached the Ubuntu-Boot-Progress-Bar where the system froze.

At least the Ubuntu 17.04 Install .iso boots on my EFI System without any hickups. How do I create an iso that does that?

  • 2
    Please explain with more details what you need and how these USB sticks will be used, and I can suggest that you start from one of the compressed image files, that I have made for 8 GB USB sticks or memory cards. These files expand to persistent live systems as well as installed systems, and many of them boot in UEFI mode as well as in BIOS mode.
    – sudodus
    Aug 3, 2017 at 17:35
  • 1
    We want to give the USB-Sticks to participants of a event so they can boot a system on their own devices that contains a fully configured toolchain for a programming challenge we organize.
    – salbeira
    Aug 4, 2017 at 13:17
  • There are several alternatives, that might work well for this purpose. I will write a detailed answer and I suggest that you look at both a persistent live alternative and an installed system alternative.
    – sudodus
    Aug 4, 2017 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


Mkusb will produce a flash drive with FAT32 boot partition, ISO9660 read only OS partition, EXT4 casper-rw persistence partition and a NTFS Linux/Windows data partition, that will fit on a 4GB drive

After making a drive to suit your requirements you can make a .img clone of your drive and install it using image writer in Windows or mkusb/dd in Ubuntu.

Link - https://help.ubuntu.com/community/mkusb


There are several alternatives, that might work well for this purpose.

Persistent live drive

You can install a persistent live system with a 'casper-rw' partition, where you store the custom data (installed program packages, special files and tweaks). This can be done from an Ubuntu family iso file, when you use the tool mkusb as described in the answer by C.S.Cameron.

You might find it convenient to start from a compressed image file, that is already made to fit an 8 GB USB stick or memory card. See the following link,

Compressed image file with a persistent live system

and scroll down to see all the information about the available systems.

The images expand to 7.8 GB because some USB sticks are undersized (slightly smaller than then nominal size).

Installed system

You can create an installed system in a USB stick pretty much as you install a system into an internal drive, but there are a few things, that you should consider in order to succeed.

When the basic system is installed, you can boot into it, make it up to date and add the custom data (install program packages, special files and tweaks).

You can use the following link and links from it to create such a system from 'scratch',

Install an Ubuntu system to a USB stick

Please notice that 8 GB is not enough for an installed system with standard Ubuntu, but works well with Ubuntu family flavours using light desktop environments and light application programs,

  • Lubuntu with the ultra light LXDE
  • Xubuntu with the medium light XFCE

You can take a short-cut and clone a mini system, that is already created, and that can boot both in UEFI and BIOS mode. Clone from a compressed image file to the USB stick. The images expand to 7.8 GB because some USB sticks are undersized (slightly smaller than then nominal size). See the following links and links from them,

dd_dus-lxde_16.04-UEFI-n-BIOS_2016-05-07_intel-4-pendrive-7.8GB.img.xz contains a light-weight desktop version with mkusb-dus.

A system likely to work in all the computers of the participants

Please consider the various computers of the participants of the event: UEFI mode and/or BIOS mode; 64-bit and/or 32-bit processors, various graphics chips and wifi chips, new and middle-aged (and maybe old) computers.

  • A persistent live system is more portable between computers.

  • An installed system can be updated and modified completely and is more stable. But you should avoid proprietary drivers, if you want portability.

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