There’s so much you can do with an Ubuntu installation. But what if you could take that same Ubuntu installation and make it portable so you can have it with you wherever you are?
We’ve looked at several options where you can use Linux with your USB drive, but now we’re going to take a look specifically at keeping a portable Ubuntu installation with you so that you have access to all your apps, settings, and files wherever you go.
All you need to have is a USB drive that’s as large as you need it to be. If you want everything with you, it wouldn’t hurt to buy a 128GB or even 256GB flash drive. In theory, you could also use an SD card, but SD card readers are a lot less common in computers than USB ports. Once you have a USB drive in your possession that’s sufficiently large, you have four different choices for your portable Ubuntu experience.
Live Media Only
Initially, you can simply create an installation media with your USB drive and just boot off of the live environment. This method will allow you to have Ubuntu with you, along with the default apps, and peace of mind knowing that no traces of your activity are left behind on the USB drive or the computer that you’re using. That, by the way, does not mean that all of your Internet tracks disappear too — those are still kept by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and anyone else that might be snooping.
Live Media with Persistent Storage
If you use utilities like Unetbootin to create your Ubuntu installation media, you can also set a certain amount of “persistent” storage space. This will allow you to install extra applications and save some files that will remain whenever you reboot the system or use a different computer.
The problem here is that you can’t easily upgrade your version of Ubuntu when a new one comes out. While it is possible, it gets super messy as the live environment will first want to load the regular packages but then the persistent storage kicks in to load all of the newer package versions.
If you use an LTS version and plan on keeping it, then it may be a path worth trying out, but otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it as a permanent portable solution.
A True Installation
Another option is to make your installation media on a different drive, and then install Ubuntu normally as you would on one of your computer’s hard drives. However, instead of choosing one of those hard drives, you choose your USB flash drive instead as the installation destination.
This provides full flexibility with your Ubuntu installation in terms of data and updates. The only downside to this is that Ubuntu will expect to find certain hardware every time you boot up the system, and if you plug your USB drive into different computers then it’ll encounter different hardware each time.
However, I’ve never personally had any issues with that — just be sure not to install any proprietary graphics drivers. Otherwise they will load even on systems that don’t use AMD/NVIDIA and prevent you from seeing the desktop.
Alternatively, if you need your Ubuntu apps but also the Windows system from the computer you’re using, you may want to try out Portable Ubuntu Remix. You can then load Ubuntu as a Windows application that works seamlessly with the rest of the operating system.
The only bad part about this solution is that it uses old versions of Ubuntu and the included apps. If you need to run newer versions of either or both, then this solution probably won’t work well for you.
Take Ubuntu With You Everywhere
Honestly, all of these options are pretty quick and easy to set up, so if you’ve always thought about having your personal portable Ubuntu installation with you, there’s no excuse not to try it out. Best of all, remember that this is only possible because Linux is open source and doesn’t have to deal with licensing that makes doing the same with Windows much more difficult.
What uses would you have for a portable installation of Ubuntu? Let us know in the comments!
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