bodhi linux

8 Best Portable Linux Distros to Run from USB

Do you want to run some Linux distros from your USB? Well, check this list of the best portable Linux distros to run from USB.

After seeing the best distros that currently exist and their lightweight versions, it's time to show you the best portable Linux distros where you have a wide range of possibilities and covers any taste.

USB flash drives have been entirely supplanted by services cloud storage like Dropbox. But they can be used to increase your digital security. Better yet, by installing Linux on them, they can be used to keep your digital world synchronized wherever you go, or to protect your computer when things go wrong.

When traveling on low-cost airlines, you are limited to the luggage you can carry. Sometimes you have to leave your house without your computer. If the computer breaks, you may have to use someone else's, while waiting for Amazon to send you the replacement.

One of the best ways to solve this is through a portable Linux distro on a USB drive and boot with what is necessary. But what should be installed for this? In most cases you will only need:

  • USB or Pendrive 1GB or higher.
  • ISO Image Linux Distro

So let's see the best portable Linux distros for USB

1. Puppy Linux

puppy linux portable linux distros

For a long time, Puppy Linux has been seen as little more than a curiosity and designed to be used in computers without power in hardware. I've seen it work more comfortably in the first Pentium without too many problems.

Updates and new versions are still published regularly. It can run on low-end computers and low-power hardware. I love it!

There are three different versions of Puppy. One, called Puppy Slacko, which is based on Slackware, which is one of the most consolidated Linux distros. Many people continue to use it as their daily operating system. The second is built around of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, called TahrPup, and the third version of Puppy is the main project, initially founded by Barry Kauler. The most recent releases, named Quirky, have been built with the express objective of running on a USB drive.

The portable Linux distro is recommended for those who want a minimalist system and who have an old computer. The interface is a mixture of JWM with Openbox.

2. Elementary OS

elementary os

People have their preferences concerning the Linux distro that they want to use. This portable Linux distro is often overlooked, especially by older brothers such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint. That has never been understood, because apart from being fast, and built on the solid base of Ubuntu LTS, and it is also very customizable and similar to MAC OSX.

Since it shares a lot in common with Ubuntu, you can be sure that you don't have to deal with the issue of hardware compatibility. In addition, it turns out to be very pleasant, even in low-end hardware, such as laptops and netbooks with modest processors such as Intel Atom, Celeron or Pentium.

3. GParted Live

gparted live portable linux distros

Hard drives are divided into pieces called ‘partitions.' Do you know that? The hard disk of your computer could have only one partition for all your files and folders. Or you can have one partition for the programs, and another one for your documents and files. Or maybe you might need to modify these partitions to resize any of them or remove them.

There is a common Linux tool that is used to manage these partitions called Gparted. Many distributions come with this pre-installed tool. But there is also a portable Linux distro that centers around this tool and is called GParted Live.

When you burn it to a CD (or, better yet, a USB flash drive) you will be able to change the shape of your hard drive as you like. But be careful, since an error could potentially cause your hard drive not to boot or lose your valuable data.

4. AVG Rescue CD

avg rescue cd

When the malware attacks, it may be the end. Your computer works slowly, or maybe not. Everything you do on your computer can be monitored. Worse yet, many of the viruses and Trojans are designed to combat elimination actively. Antimalware will be prevented from updating its definitions, or even from running. But you have alternatives. Through booting into a particular portable Linux distro like AVG Rescue CD, you can scan your system for problems and solve them.

5. Slax

slax best portable linux distros

It fits quietly on any pen drive, uses the KDE desktop environment, and is based on the traditional Linux Slackware distro. Slax is a compilation of Slackware (Slack for the intimates) with the aim of containing the minimum of possible dependencies, this makes the distro is well adjusted and allows, even so, an even more full range of software.

6. Bodhi Linux

bodhi linux

Bodhi Linux may be the prettiest minimalist layout. It is based on Ubuntu and uses the Enlightenment interface at the same time, but recently it has changed to a new Moksha Desktop call.

It cant be said that the download is small. However, it is much lower than that of any popular distro of today; Arch Linux, Gentoo, Ubuntu Minimal, Debian Net Install.

7. SliTaz


35 MB and that's it! Do you want to know something more impressive? SliTaz needs 48 MB of RAM to run! But this is only true if you install it directly. If you run it through LiveCD, you will need 190 MB, but it is still more than the right size.

Obviously, with this small size, it is a simple system and still, complete. SliTaz offers a comprehensive and very functional desktop environment, based on LXDE and Openbox.

8. Tiny Core Linux

tiny core linux

Here is a curious fact about Tiny Core: it is originally a part of another distribution that doesn't appear in this list: Damn Small Linux.

Today, Tiny Core is an independent project. Damn Small Linux (the initial base of the project) is a distro that has only 50 MB in size, and Tiny Core has three different versions. The “Core” version is only 8 MB in size.

Of course, with a size of these you don't even have the graphical interface, it's just the command interpreter (terminal), but if the terminal is not your thing, do not worry; without advancing much in size, you have TinyCore (the default version). This version has 12 MB in size, has a graphical environment and support for internet via cable.

For anyone with a pen drive, you can download the version of CorePlus, which has support for the cable network and support for Wi-Fi.

Wrapping Up: Best Portable Linux Distros

You could have the concern that when you run a desktop operating system on a USB flash drive, you can't save information but I remind you that for that purpose YOU can mount partitions or upload Your data in the cloud: Dropbox, OneDrive or our beloved Drive.

It is becoming more comfortable to use more massive distros such as Elementary OS or Ubuntu (which is also possible) thanks to the cheap USB 3.0 pen drive, which is an increasingly common feature in laptops. This standard offers improvements in reading and writing, which is essential if you are running an operating system.

Read: 40 Best & Useful Linux Shortcuts You Should Know

Now it's our turn to ask you: What do you think about this list of the best portable Linux distros? It has helped you to choose the ones that best suit your needs.

If you want more Linux distros, I recommend you check my another post about best Linux distros for old laptops.

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One Comment

  1. What about the complete and mind blowing Slackware-live provided by the excellent AlienBob :
    – multiple flavors : small with Xfce, pure Slackware-current, Plasma 5 and so on
    – tailor it at your needs if you want (at build or on the go)
    – demo/rescue or persistence

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