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Press P to see the list of all ["Partition"]s and D to exclude the first partition. Unmark all partitions and delete them. Create a new partition pressing N, P and L . Make it bootable partition selecting the A option (t, 6 to create a FAT16 partition, which allows access to up to 4 GB) and finally press W to store the new partition table and exit from fdisk.

Using fdisk on SuSE (probably other as well):
Using fdisk:
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 * Burned: from a LiveCD using the 'Install to USB' utility.  * Burned: boot from a LiveCD and then use the 'Install to USB' utility.
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  * PuppyLinux, uses FVWM-95 as window manager.   * PuppyLinux, uses FVWM-95.
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  * SPB-Linux , with XFCE4 environment   * SPB-Linux, with XFCE4.


This page is about boot Linux via ["USB"] pendrives in any computer with or without USB-BIOS capability (in this last case, using a ?BootFloppy). You can install Linux in your USB pendrive or buy it preinstalled.

BIOS and USB standard mass storage interface

There are two common BIOS methods for direct USB booting:

  • One method is called the "USBHDD" method and it is used to support the booting of standard USB mass storage devices that are configured like a normal PC hard drive.
  • The other method is called the "USBZIP" method and it supports booting from a USB storage device that behaves like the original IOMEGA ZIP drive with USB support.

Most computers (e.g. just about all Dells) made today have a BIOS that supports the USBHDD method so it's expected that this will eventually become the standard way of booting a USB device. However, many motherboards will support BOTH methods, and many older motherboards have USBZIP support.

You need a USB device with a standard mass storage interface and with at least 128 MB storage capacity (the distros generally use between 50 and 64 MB) to work with Linux.

See StandardPendrive.

USB pendrive location and mount

Most USB pendrives are located at device node ["/dev/sda"] after they are plugged into the USB port.

However, you can verify this location by typing this command inside a ["terminal"] window:

dmesg | grep scsi -A 3

and it should tell you the device name for your USB (SCSI emulated) devices, along with the vendor name.

See: ["dmesg"].

If you cannot find it, you have to load the ["USBStorage"] ["module"]. In a ["terminal"], type:

modprobe usb-storage

and ["mount"] the usb filesystems

mount -t usb-devfs none /proc/bus/usb


Partitioning the USB key

Partition the USB pendrive with ["fdisk"] of ["cfdisk"] (the USB key must not be mounted!).

Using fdisk: Press P to see the list of all ["partition"]s. Use D repeatedly to delete all partitions. Create a new partition pressing N, P, 1 and accept all defaults concerning the size (minimum partition size necessary will be around 60 MB). Set the bootable flag with A, press T, 6 to create a FAT16 partition and press W to store and exit from fdisk.

Enter mkdosfs /dev/sda1 at the prompt to create a filesystem because otherwise the installation steps described under 'Unburned using DSL' later on won't work.

Installation methods

There are two installation methods:

  • Burned: boot from a LiveCD and then use the 'Install to USB' utility.
  • Unburned: download the ISO file and copy its contents into the USB pendrive.

Unburned using DamnSmallLinux

To install DamnSmallLinux download the ISO image and as ["root"] user go the directory with the dsl-*.iso file and type the following:

  mkdir dsl_temp
  mkdir dsl_usb
  mount -o loop dsl-*.iso dsl_temp
  cp -a dsl_temp/* dsl_usb
  cd dsl_usb
  mv boot/isolinux/* ./
  rm -Rf boot 
  mv isolinux.bin syslinux.bin
  mv isolinux.cfg syslinux.cfg
  cd ..
  mkdir usb_pen
  mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 usb_pen
  cp -a dsl_usb/* usb_pen
  umount usb_pen
  syslinux /dev/sda1

See also BootUsb2, IsoBuster, ["Isolinux"], ["Grub"] .

USB Debian distros

  • Debian:
  • Fedora / RedHat:

    • ?PuppyLinux, uses FVWM-95.

  • Gentoo :
    • SPB-Linux, with XFCE4.

More information

See also:

  • ?BootingFromFloppyToUsb .

  • ["growisofs"].