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Live-USB What is it, what is it for and what are the requirements to create one?

It is normal to see a computer with its respective operating system. However, this way not the only way to use a computer, because even when the hard disk is not working, it can be used through this peculiar technique.

The mystery is using live USBs, too known as Live-USB. This is probably the first time you have heard of an operating system that can be installed on a removable disk, but even if it is new to you, it is a technique that takes time among experts.

So that you nourish and learn all about the installation of these systems on USB, we have written this special article for you. Here we will teach you from its basic concept, until its classification Knowing is power!

What is a Live-USB and what is this type of removable device for?

USB port types

Live-USB devices they are a type of removable memory, which contains an operating system that runs from it and as if it were an OS installed from a hard drive. The name in Spanish means live USB, this refers to the fact that you do not need to install an operating system on a hard disk for it to run. This is the big difference with Booted USB. Most of the operating systems that come with the Live distribution, They are from Linux.

There are also some Windows, but they are not at all recommended as they contain many bugs in their operation. A Live OS works like a normal operating system, with the difference that the documents you save in it during use (logged in), will be removed and the system will be as newly installed, although there are some exceptions. But nevertheless, This is not the only application or detail of this Live OS, since there are other interesting options that we will explain.

Types of Live-USB How are these types of removable disks classified?

How Lives USB ports are classified

The Live-USB are classified according to the type of distribution that they use.

If you want to know a little about the classifications of these OS, in the following list we will show you what are their characteristics and conditions of these distros:

Based on Slackware

  • Wolvix: it can be used from a removable memory of 500 MB and is integrated with a management program known as Wolvix Control Panel and Xfce. The latter is a window manager.
  • Puppy Linux: this wonderful Live operating system can be installed on a 128 MB USB and has a large number of utilities for the basic use of the OS.
  • Linux Look: its weight is a little higher than the previous ones, requiring a 1 GB USB for its installation and it has an excellent range of tools.
  • WiFiSlax– Also known as the Network Auditor, you need at least 2GB of USB storage to install.

Based on Debian

  • Sidux: This distro has a fairly clean and easy-to-use interface. Being a Debian distribution, it is guaranteed to work on almost all computers, even those where the hardware is recently on the market.
  • ICABIAN: the amount of programs and tools that are included in this distro allows you to enjoy a complete system. The great detail of this is the permission to save your files without being deleted when you close the session.
  • Tails– It can not only be installed on USB, but also on other removable discs such as DVD and SD. Known for its anonymous and safe browsing, thanks to the utility of Tor.

Based on PCLinuxOS

It is another of Linux distributions that can be installed on USB no larger than 3GB storage, as well as its derivatives. This operating system is based on the Mandriva and Debian GNU / Linux framework, which is why it is considered as one of the best Live OS.

Next, we will show you the four derivatives of this operating system:

  • TinyMe: it requires 400MB of removable memory and is integrated with a powerful window manager, known as KDE.
  • PCFluxboxOS: its architecture is based on TinyMe, but a little lighter. The window manager of this OS is called Fluxbox and it does not have many features to guarantee good performance.
  • MiniME: uses at least 900MB memory and integrates with the KDE window manager. Like the previous OS, it has a fairly fast information processing speed.
  • PCLinuxOS Big Daddy: It is a variant of MiniME, although with a series of larger programs that improves the control panel and window manager. For this reason, its unzipped weight is greater than 2 GB.

What are the requirements to create a Live-USB?

Take Advantage of USBs in Linux

If we want to install or create a Live-USB, you must take into account a small list of essential requirements for the process to be completely successful:

  • Computer with an operating system, preferably Linux.
  • Pendrive greater than 2 GB, although it depends on the operating system that is installed.
  • Another Pendrive that we will use to make it a persistent Live-USB.
  • A stable internet connection.
  • A selected distro for the Live-USB.

Uses of Live-USB What can I do with a device of this type?

Remove viruses from USB devices

As we discussed at the beginning of this article, Live-USBs have many uses.

Next, we will explain each one of them:

Test USB for Linux

If you don’t want to have a Linux operating system on your computer, you can make use of the USB-Live to test this great system. USB-Live are a perfect alternative for check the great virtues offered by Linux distributions or to learn how is the process in it.

File recovery

If the operating system you are using has some bugs, and you need recover files or folders stored on the internal disk, you can use a USB-Live and retrieve them. It is true that we previously mentioned that the USB-Live they self-format each time the session is closed, however, you should know that there are some exceptions.

If you use one of these operating systems that we mentioned earlier in the Live-USB rating, by simply dragging the folder / file and dropping it to the new location, this being the removable memory, you can save all the information you are handling. For this you can also make use of excellent tools, such as TestDisk and the great Trinity Rescue.

Finding and solving hardware problems

All operating systems have configuration problems or accumulation of errors. These, by not being taken into account, can lead to system crashes for what it takes solve these problems. The fastest solution for this type of work is to use a USB-Live, since you can run with an operating system and find the mistakes of the other.

Search for virus threats

Most of the malicious codes that infect Windows systems, they cannot run on Linux. For this reason, the fastest way to clear an infection is to use a USB-Live from any Linux distro. The process consists of constantly moving files and deleting those that you know are infected. However, if you think this process is quite complicated, you can make use of programs like ClamAV, BitDefender or AVG, who do all the work for you.

Recover passwords

If you have forgotten our Windows password, and you can’t find how to solve the problem, with the simple use of a USB-Live we can solve the problem. The process consists in the insertion of the pendrive and run the Linux system. Then we install chntpw so that proceed password recovery.

Browse anonymously

Because they exist some of the distros that don’t save no files or data on the USB-Live, you can surf the internet without leaving traces of searches or activities in the browser.

OS installation types on Live-USB Compressed or Full? Which is better?

Perform installations with a USB on your PC

In this last section, we will explain the differences that exist between an OS installation on Live-USB, compressed and complete.

We will also show you some of its advantages and disadvantages that will help you decide which is the most convenient for you:


Compressed OS installations on Live-USBs they are easy to do and its compressed format allows you to enjoy a series of applications and tools, occupying a small space. Updating this type of installation is very easy. So much that it can be compared to a file’s copy & paste. You can characterize this installation by being one of the few that occupies a minimum amount of space, where the minimum is 50 MB.

On the other hand, the counterpart of this installation is that it is considered very difficult to install other non-original softwares, or update app individually as they can generate some negations. Just as you can find facilities with little space, there are also some that take up more disk, generally range from 700MB to 4GB. Also, it is considered almost impossible to write to flash memory since most of these OS can only be read.

There are few distributions of this type of installation that allow the saving of data, without being eliminated when closing the system. Being these the negative qualities of the compressed type. Despite the disadvantages that arise, it is possible to do file updates altogether, that is, from the kernel or other. Like install drivers of updated devices.

Like everything, whenever there are positive details, also negative ones:

  • Install or update software. Only tools determined by the system can be used.
  • Create files or folders. Although there are some exceptions.
  • Also unable to install Linux from removable disk (USB) on the disk of our computer.


Unlike the previous type of installation, with the complete you can update apps. The process is very simple and you don’t need to have high knowledge in computer science to do it. These updates include distributions that we have installed in our USB. Other features that you can appreciate from this system, is the full encryption. Also, if you want to customize you don’t need much effort, since window managers and applications have this function.

The base facilities in general they are at least 200 MB, but there are some exceptions so small occupying 40 MB and thanks to the possibility of saving applications and files, these can grow in size. As for its downside, can’t solve extended tasks or complex, since it causes a collapse of the system. But It is something solvable if we use devices with large spaces storage, greater than or equal to 32 GB.

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