How can I install Windows XP or Linux on a pen drive?

Gagan May 3, 2012

Can you give me steps for installing Windows or Linux on a pen drive?

  1. Patrick Dickey
    September 1, 2012 at 11:55 am

    For newer versions of Windows (read as Vista or Windows 7), Microsoft has a tool that will allow you to install it via USB. But, as for creating an actual Windows installation on a USB Thumb Drive, I'm not sure if that's practical. Especially with the more recent versions, as they require upwards of 20GB to maintain.

    For older versions of Windows (read as XP), you could try BartPE if it's still being developed. In fact, he may have one for Vista or 7, but I'm not sure anymore. It's not an actual "Windows" installation, but is a customized Preinstallation Environment based on the Windows CD. You can find it at

    As for Linux, either unetbootin as Bruce mentioned, or some distributions will have specialized ISO files for installing from a USB pen drive. They will essentially be "Live CD's". There are guides available (such as through the backtrack distribution) to make the pendrive "persistent" (so you can update and save work to it).

    Have a great day:)

  2. Shehan Nirmal
    August 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm
  3. Timothy Liem
    August 13, 2012 at 5:40 am

    you can easily install Linux (I refer to Ubuntu as it's the most user friendly distro out there) on pendrive by boot the LiveCD or LiveUSB (create the LIiveUSB by using UNetBootIn). after you click on "install Ubuntu 12.04 LTS" (I assume you will install Ubuntu 12.04), choose the place where your pendrive is connected (usually on /dev/sdb) and install it just like usual. I must warn you that the installation on pendrive takes longer than HDD installation.
    UnetBootIn can't save the application you installed before even it has the option to make a space that will be preserved across reboots. And so far, I don't find this feature work on me.

  4. George Monroe
    July 31, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    have you thought about virtualBox ?

  5. jedswilson
    June 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Hi, in order to boot from a usb you will need a software. there are lot of freeware software available. I recommend winsetupfromusb. you can download and see procedure here.

  6. Himanshu Singla
    May 19, 2012 at 6:26 am

    There are so many reasons why having a Linux distribution on a USB drive can come in handy. From having a “rescue” OS on your keyring to being able to install a new distribution on your EeePC, a “thumb drive” Linux has many uses. But getting Linux onto a USB drive can’t be simple. Right? Wrong. There is a tool, UNetbootin, that makes installing Linux on a USB drive simple.

    UNetbootin can be used on either Linux or Windows. In this article, we’ll be illustrating it for Both.

    Note: Not all USB installations will work on all machines. This can be an issue with your BIOS or your USB drive. If you install an OS that doesn’t work, try another. But after all that work, you might wind up with a machine that simply won’t boot from a USB drive. You have been warned.

    Using Unetbootin with linux:

    1. The first thing to do is download a copy of UNetbootin from Download unetbootin for linux (For our purposes we’ll download the Linux universal install binary (named unetbootin-linux-299).Once that has finished you will need to issue the Following command in order to make the file executable.

    chmod u+x unetbootin-linux29

    2. Once the file is executable issue the following command (from the same directory unetbootin-linx-299 is stored) to see the application running.
    su ./unetbootin-linux-299

    3. But you’re not ready just yet. Depending upon your distribution, you might come across an error involving p7zip-full. This might be in your distribution’s repositories. If you use Mandriva you can install p7zip but you will not have the full package. If you use Ubuntu you can get p7zip-full with the following command

    apt-get install p7zip-full

    4. Before you run the application you will need to insert and mount your usb drive. Stick in your usb drive and then issue the following command to find out where your usb drive is located.


    5. Mount that and then issue the following command. When you issue the command you will see the UNetbootin window.

    su ./unetbootin-linux-299

    6. Once this window is up and running you are almost there. If you have very specific needs for your distribution you will most likely have an image file downloaded to use. If you do not you can select your distribution from the drop down list. First you select the distribution and then you select the version (or release).

    Note: Unless you have a very large USB drive you will most likely want to use a netinstall version of your distribution. If you do happen to have a large USB drive you can go ahead with a full distribution. If this usb drive is for rescue purposes, or just to have a version of Linux with you at all times, a distribution like PCLinuxOS Minime is a greate choice

    7. Once the process is done you will have two buttons to click, Reboot and Exit. Don’t bother with the Reboot button. click the Exit button and UNetbootin will close. You can now unmount your drive and reboot your machine to see if the installation works.Note: When your machine boots you will need to make sure it first boots from the USB device

    Using UNebootin with Windows:

    Download (Download unetbootin for windows) UNetBootin for Windows.

    Download your favorite Linux ISO (Don’t ask me from where just Google it).

    Now Start the Unetbootin.
    Click the disk image radio box and browse to select linx iso
    Now set your target USB drive and click OK to start the creation UNetbootin Live USB Creation from an ISO
    Once the unetbootin insatller has completed, click reboot. now UNetbootin installation is finished.
    Set your system BIOS or boot menu to boot from the USB device and enjoy favorite live linux on USB

  7. zoniweb
    May 5, 2012 at 11:48 am

    For WinXP@USB you can try Hiren's BootCD:

  8. Kyem Ghosh
    May 4, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    visit you'll get loads of applications according to your coice to make your usb pendrive a bootable drive.... I generally use YUMI- multiboot installer and the Universal USB installer.... Here you install your linux to your flash drive and make your linux portable!!! I've got nothing for Windows...

  9. Richard Carpenter
    May 3, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    I used that same guide Bruce Epper mentioned back in the day, and it works rather decently. It is a involved process, but if you follow it through, you shouldn't have too much trouble. Microsoft is talking about Windows 8 "Windows to Go" feature that will do this, but Win 8 is several months away...

    Also, UNetBootin is a great piece of software, I also recommend it. But I would like to also mention Reconstructor, It will allow you to customized ubuntu, letting you tweak it how you like it then lets you make a ISO of the installed copy of ubuntu. After that you can feed the ISO to uNetBootin and make your own custom live usb distro.

  10. Bruce Epper
    May 3, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    The easiest way to install Linux on a USB/pen drive is to use UNetbootin ( Windows is a bit more involved as I have not encountered any tools that will do the entire process for you. There are instructions on how to accomplish it here (,review-1427.html) by using PE Builder. I haven't tried it myself, but I use PE Builder to build custom boot disks for troubleshooting and it works well.

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