Register a domain and help support LQ
Go Back > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - General
User Name
Linux - General This Linux forum is for general Linux questions and discussion.
If it is Linux Related and doesn't seem to fit in any other forum then this is the place.


  Search this Thread
Old 04-24-2013, 04:56 PM   #1
Senior Member
Registered: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,933

Rep: Reputation: 62
considering a USB (stick) installation? I wouldn't

It has been a few weeks, maybe one month, since I ventured into the world of USB Linux installations by replacing my failing hard drive with a USB stick. I now regret my decision; it was a mistake. There are too many things that can go wrong, and solving them is more trouble than it's worth if your patience or Linux skill is limited.

Distros running too slowly is the biggest problem: it's manageable if you let your distro fill an entire USB stick of 10 GB or more, but still, certain things that tended to run slowly (or make your system freeze for a limited period of time) will become even slower and can freeze everything for longer periods of time. When I browse the internet in Iceweasel, Javascript is a huge pain in the neck on every website that needs Javascript enabled for anything; it continually freezes the browser for anywhere from seconds to minutes, and occasionally freezes the entire system for so long that I have to do something drastic like forcibly logging out of the desktop. I can turn off Javascript (and have tried), but that of course makes some of my favorite sites less useful (sometimes nearly useless).

The other big issue is, I've figured out that some distros simply aren't designed to be installed on a stick, and it's not as though they'll pretend the stick is a hard drive. First, using the distro's normal installer to install to your USB stick doesn't always work smoothly. It depends on the distro, and I've had the best results installing antiX (my usual distro) to a stick, but the two other distros I tried (MEPIS 11, and VectorLinux) either couldn't make it through the entire installation or gave me an installation that worked poorly in some way. Vector installed itself on my stick, but for reasons I couldn't understand, it could never successfully install a bootloader. MEPIS, after completing installation very slowly, ran so slowly on my USB stick that I quickly gave up. (I expected that, really. The MEPIS 11 liveDVD is so bloated that it can't run on my computer without issuing low-memory warnings every few minutes, so why wouldn't a USB installation behave similarly.) Even with antiX being not too bad on this USB stick, it exhibits some strange behaviors that are less annoying but more inexplicable. It almost always refuses to boot properly from the first entry in the GRUB menu (as given when installed); I can get around that by booting into runlevel 3, but even then, it also can't shut down properly. It gets hung up on something every time; I can't tell what the problem is (though I have some suspicions), but it always says either "no more processes left in this runlevel" or...something to the effect of "world regulatory domain" (which creeped me out).

Finally, this isn't an issue with USB installation, but don't use a USB installation unless you're 100 percent certain beforehand that all your USB ports and their controller(s) always work. I've noticed indications that at least one of my USB ports isn't reading devices properly (if plugged into that particular port, the stick with my distro couldn't be detected); and if one is messed up, others very well might be. What a mess. I should have just bought another hard drive.
Old 04-24-2013, 05:05 PM   #2
Registered: Jun 2009
Location: Cascadia
Posts: 877

Rep: Reputation: 239Reputation: 239Reputation: 239
Slax would be a good one to run from a USB stick, as it's designed to do so. My experience has been good, anyway.
Old 04-24-2013, 05:15 PM   #3
Senior Member
Registered: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,933

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 62
I looked into Slax once or twice, but it's too advanced for me. At the time I looked, it had no GUI.
Old 04-24-2013, 05:31 PM   #4
Registered: Jun 2009
Location: Cascadia
Posts: 877

Rep: Reputation: 239Reputation: 239Reputation: 239
Originally Posted by newbiesforever View Post
I looked into Slax once or twice, but it's too advanced for me. At the time I looked, it had no GUI.
It might be worth another look, it uses a minimal KDE4, now. Pretty lightweight and fast, actually. The documentation is good, and adding modules is really easy. As always, I suppose, YMMV.
Old 04-24-2013, 05:38 PM   #5
Senior Member
Registered: Mar 2008
Location: Waaaaay out West Texas
Distribution: AntiX 15 , Linux-Lite 2.4, Slackel 14.1, ChromeOS
Posts: 3,681
Blog Entries: 19

Rep: Reputation: 1239Reputation: 1239Reputation: 1239Reputation: 1239Reputation: 1239Reputation: 1239Reputation: 1239Reputation: 1239Reputation: 1239
Antix frugal with persistence runs well for everyone I know.

I know though that doing a frugal install with persistence can be challenging though.

Edit: By the way. MacPup 529 is easier to run as frugal persistence. Just make a save file when asked on shutdown. No heavy lifting required.

Last edited by rokytnji; 04-24-2013 at 05:44 PM.
Old 04-24-2013, 07:12 PM   #6
LQ Guru
Registered: Mar 2008
Posts: 13,503

Rep: Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720Reputation: 1720
I just don't know how you had so much trouble. For almost every other user, they just install and go.

I have used flash drive installs for many years now.

Many distros are offered pre-installed on usb flash drives.

Last edited by jefro; 04-24-2013 at 07:14 PM.
Old 04-24-2013, 10:56 PM   #7
Registered: Apr 2013
Posts: 39

Rep: Reputation: 1
@ newbiesforever

I remember in another thread I said USB sticks are not designed to be hard drive replacements. USB sticks are designed for temporary storage. They're great as installation disks but not so wise to run a distro full time on them because the many reads and writes can cause problems for it.

If you want a solid state solution then you'll need a SSD drive. They're designed to handle the many reads and writes than USB sticks. But the downside is the price. It is still somewhat expensive.

Last edited by H5X00R; 04-24-2013 at 10:57 PM.
1 members found this post helpful.
Old 04-25-2013, 10:37 AM   #8
Senior Member
Registered: Jul 2006
Location: London
Distribution: CentOS, Salix
Posts: 3,579

Rep: Reputation: 944Reputation: 944Reputation: 944Reputation: 944Reputation: 944Reputation: 944Reputation: 944Reputation: 944
If you want to run from USB, you need a distro that's designed to copy itself onto a RAM disk and run from that: e.g. Puppy, Saluki, Slax. Slax certainly does have a GUI:
If you're a bit challenged on the memory side, then Puppy or Saluki would be better.
Old 04-26-2013, 09:25 PM   #9
Senior Member
Registered: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,933

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 62
I hope this is still being read. I've found another good reason installing your distro to a USB stick might be a bad idea: unless you can somehow find out beforehand, you won't know exactly how your BIOS will handle the OS being on a USB stick, especially if you ever insert any other sticks.

My BIOS exhibits an annoying behavior: if I insert another stick (even if it was already plugged in and I'm only moving it from one USB port to another), then the next time I reboot, the BIOS will automatically place the newly inserted stick first in the boot order--even if that stick contains no operating system. This results in the computer failing to find an operating system. (I can't say why it doesn't automatically try the stick that does have the OS, but it doesn't.)

That's not my BIOS's only problem handling sticks. I discovered that if the sticks are the same brand and even similar model, the BIOS can leave you unable to tell which is which, especially if the full model names/numbers are truncated. I had two Kingston DataTraveler sticks plugged in, and they both showed up in the hard drive order and boot order as "Kingston DataT," despite that they are not physically the same model. I should have realized that if it was trying to boot the wrong DataTraveler, that DataTraveler must have been the one higher in the boot order; but in principle, it's still a problem. There is no way in my BIOS editor to lock the boot order; it changes whenever I reboot with any of the sticks in a different place. (By the way, despite that the sticks are "removable devices," the BIOS classifies them as hard drives; that makes little sense.)

The extreme slowness was bad enough; this is the last straw. I'm returning to a hard drive.

Last edited by newbiesforever; 04-26-2013 at 09:32 PM.


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
boot Slackware installation from USB stick xavier_slackware Slackware - Installation 2 04-26-2012 07:22 PM
NetBSD can't find installation packages on USB stick lucmove *BSD 7 03-14-2011 06:53 PM
Slackware64-current installation via usb stick hangs before setup mr_mandrill Slackware - Installation 9 09-11-2009 09:21 AM
Compact Gentoo Installation? (On usb-stick) konqi Linux - Software 4 04-27-2009 02:51 PM
no cd-usb stick installation plafpluf Slackware - Installation 7 07-31-2008 06:15 PM

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:29 PM.

Main Menu
Write for LQ is looking for people interested in writing Editorials, Articles, Reviews, and more. If you'd like to contribute content, let us know.
Main Menu
RSS1  Latest Threads
RSS1  LQ News
Twitter: @linuxquestions
Facebook: linuxquestions Google+: linuxquestions
Open Source Consulting | Domain Registration