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Operating Systems on Bootable Flash Drives
By: Barzan "Tony" Antal
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    Table of Contents:
  • Operating Systems on Bootable Flash Drives
  • MS Windows OS
  • *NIX OS Distros
  • Taking a Break

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    Operating Systems on Bootable Flash Drives

    (Page 1 of 4 )

    The notion of running an operating system that boots up from a storage medium without requiring installation comes from Linux distributions; they are often called “live” versions. As time went on, it became possible to distribute not only Linux but also MS Windows in various ways. But chances are that most people have experienced this from live CD/DVDs. Here we’ll talk about getting a “live OS” from flash drives!

    This is the third segment of a four-part series covering the ins and outs of bootable USB flash drives. We've talked about how to make them, what kind of BIOS settings are required to boot up with them, and how to flash your BIOS, and now we're going to get into live operating systems. These environments are very useful even for everyday computer users, not just geek hardware enthusiasts or professionals.

    The main advantage of running an operating system this way is that it does not alter the files, operating system, or any other configuration of the computer from which it's going to be run. The entire OS fits into the RAM (more appropriately, RAM disk), and therefore gives an excellent environment for testing, experimentation, system repair, troubleshooting, and even providing a seamless and secure temporary OS.

    Throughout this article we are going to present to you various free utilities and tools to help you create ready-to-boot "live" operating systems with which you can hook up your USB thumb drive. At first, we'll focus on the Microsoft Windows-based operating systems (XP and Vista) and then describe a few Linux distro alternatives (Ubuntu, Knoppix, etc.). On the top of everything, you can create your own "live flash drives" with the software of your choice.

    Before we begin, you should be aware that this article presumes your familiarity with the techniques required to make a USB key bootable, or what kinds of options you should look for in your BIOS to enable flash drive support, and to organize the boot order accordingly (USB flash drive ought to be first on the list). If you've skipped the previous two articles of the series, please do read them-they've already been published here.

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