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Ubuntu On A USB Flash Drive

Posted on May 17 2009 by Matthew Jakeman

Over the years I have played around a few times getting either a Linux distribution or FreeBSD to run from a flash drive for a number of reasons. Last night I had the need to do so again to install Ubuntu on to a machine without a CD drive of any kind installed.

Before I started messing around setting up the MBR etc I decided to do a google search to see if others had done this and written a nice tutorial. To my surprise I found that ubuntu has a package named ‘usb-creator’ available that automates the process for you.

All you have to do is download a Ubuntu iso and it can mount it, prepare your flash drive and install it for you.

I also found out there are a number of tools now available to automate the process for different Linux distributions as well as BSD. The ones I have come across so far are :

Live USB Creator (Shell Script)

Despite these tools however I installed Ubuntu to the stick using usb-creator and when I went to boot it I got “Missing Operating System” displayed on the host PC. I am in the process of trying to rectify this at the moment so if and when I find a work around I will post the results here.

1 Comment

  1. Tiago says:

    I don’t know how good the HP recovery disks are at this, but you will need to rpeiar your MBR and Track 0 (Boot Track).This is a problem with GRUB and MCE or any version of Windows XP which has active antivirus. GRUB installs itself into the Hard Drive Boot Track, which looks like a corrupt Boot Record to MCE and XP. Virus scanners also detect GRUB as a virus and disable it entirely. Make an Image Backup of your Hard Drive with Paragon Backup (not Acronis True Image) or Norton Ghost before proceeding beyond this point! Include the MBR and Track 0 in your backup. Install Norton PartitionMagic 8 into your Windows Partition (normal program install). One way to avoid the Boot Track conflict problem is to create a small FAT-32 partition and install Norton BootMagic (comes with PartitionMagic, which can create all the needed partitions). BootMagic and its cousin, VCom System Commander, do not install into the Boot Track, and therefore rarely conflict with Windows XP in any flavor. So where does GRUB install? If you have already created a Linux Swap and a Linux ext-3 Partition (use PartitionMagic for this), when installing GRUB, stop and select where GRUB should install. You will need to uncover the non-default options, and know that Linux orders the partitions by numbers, not by letters as Windows does. Your Linux ext-3 partition will probably be the largest Linux formatted partition on your drive, and that is where you tell GRUB to install. Then install Ubuntu into the same partition as GRUB.BootMagic can then be told to add the Linux partition to its boot menu, and the next time you boot, both Windows XP and Ubuntu (Linux) will be available from the BootMagic Splash Screen when the computer begins to boot. This avoids the MBR and Track 0 conflicts which can make Windows and/or Linux unbootable after just one or two boot ups.

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