Linux on a Bootable Flash Memory Device
Installing a fast, versatlile, and modern Linux operating system in a commonly available flash memory device. Bootable USB linux systems are useful tools for handling many of today\'s computing challenges. It is something I realized after suffering a computer crash. System files had become corrupted, and my backup software wouldn\'t work either. I was in a pinch, because there were records that I needed badly, and they were held captive by a PC that would not cooperate in any way. Compounding the irritation was the fact that that I had backed up documents onto a CD and yet couldn\'t get them because the whole system was down!
Solving the problem was a hours long exercise involving a trip to the nearest library to access and print my documents, then a visit to the local electronics emporium for a system rescue CD, and a return home to fix the problems on my hard drive. After getting my system up and running again, I made a discovery that would forever change the way I used my PC, and forever banished worries about my data.
What was the discovery? Live Linux on a disc. Fundamentally different than the windows rescue discs circulating at the time, a live Linux cisc can be either a CD or DVD that is used to boot the computer into an operating environment independent of its local hard drive. The live stand alone system contains all of the programs the user needs for fixing the PC and / or accessing the internet, doing word processing, playing multimedia files - literally ANYTHING a computer can do. That is a very, very, nifty capability!
First I tried KNOPPIX, a CD that allowed me to scan my Windows drive for viruses, surf the net, and edit a job resume at the same time. Then I found SLAX, a small and fast linux distribution that was easy to customize through the use of installable software modules. One evening, I made one that loads entirely into memory (for speed), provides internet utilities (web browsing, email, audio streaming, etc), and neither touches the hard drive nor leaves any usage tracks when the system is turned off. That completely prevents infection of my main system by spyware, adware, viruses, or any other malware! A few days later, I set up a dual-boot scheme on my hard drive. One side was Windows, and the other a customized SLAX containing an office productivity suite, allowing me to edit documents, work with powerpoint presentations, and build spreadsheets, then save them to my hard drive before shutting down. It was cutting edge in a lot of ways, but not so convenient.
At that time, I was spending a lot of time waiting for my computer to write, erase, or rewrite to my optical discs, and knew there had to be a better way to both customize a distro and save my data and settings (called "persistent changes") in a more convenient manner. A Google search turned up the answer: move everything off of optical discs and onto a flash memory device. Shirt pocket portability combined with full featured computing power - perfect. One flash drive with lots of storage AND its own operating system provides NUMEROUS advantages:
- PC repair: access any data on the hard drive, and repair as necessary.
- PC data recovery / forensics: access and copy any part or all of the hard drive, without altering data.
- Sterile internet access: operate in an isolated manner, preventing malware / spyware from getting into main system.
- Security: a secure, encrypted partition may be used for storing sensitive data.
- Portability: flash drives are small, portable, and some are quite rugged.
- Durability: no moving parts to break; no delicate surfaces to scratch.
- Convenience: flash drives hold as much data as multiple DVDs or CDs, while considerably smaller.
- Flexibility: A Linux flash drive, with persistant changes allows you to compute your way on any system.
Follow the links on this website for step by step installation and set-up instructions. Note that these systems are quite flexible; you can create a USB stick with one or many operating systems. Each optimized for a specific purpose with specific settings.