So you want to put Linux on a USB Pendrive eh? At least I would assume as such since you are reading this article.
Well, luckily with the joys of awesome distributions such as Damn Small Linux (or DSL for short), this is super easy. DSL is a compact Linux distro that provides only the most necessary components in an operating system, including a graphical interface. DSL prides itself on being 50mb at most, while still providing the most useful tools. This makes it an excellent candidate to use in this project.
First, we need to gather our ingredients for this Linux stew.
1 cup of the latest DSL embedded distro. This file usually takes a file name in the shape of dsl-x.x.x-embedded.zip.
1 oz. of Syslinux version 3.36, which can found in the form of syslinux-3.36.zip.
A pinch of the HP USB Format Utility. (Installation and usage is fairly straight forward, so I won’t go in depth on it.)
And of course a USB pendrive of your choosing to mix it all together. I used the Sandisk Cruzer, 2gig model. The only requirement, is that it does need to be at least 128mb.
Step 1) Plug in the USB pendrive and use the HP USB Format Utility to wipe it. If you are using something similar to the Cruzer I have, the pendrive actually loads as two different drive and this might affect formatting. Simply go to your “My Computer” and right click on the second drive the pendrive creates, and select eject. Then start the formatting. Also, make note of the drive letter associated with the pendrive (in this how-to, we will say it is U:\).
Step 2) Unzip (with your favorite zip file manager) the latest DSL embedded distro onto your USB pendrive.
Step 3) Create a folder under your main PC drive (usually this is C:\, so it is what I will use in examples) drive named “Syslinux” and unzip the syslinux-3.36.zip contents into C:\Syslinux (again, it may not be C:\, it just depends on how your system is set up, on mine it is actually D:\).
Step 4) Open a command prompt, this is done by going to Start > Run > type in: cmd > press Enter or “OK”. If you are using Vista, you may need to open the command prompt as administrator to get this to work. At the command prompt, navigate to the Syslinux folder we created earlier by typing:
and press Enter.
Now type the following at the command prompt:
SYSLINUX -ma U:
Remember “U:\” is our pendrive drive letter for this example, so substitute your own pendrive drive letter for “U”.
Now press Enter. This will make the pendrive bootable, and finish up our installation. Now wasn’t that simple?
You now have an entire Linux operating system on a USB pendrive and it is completely bootable. Just set your PC’s BIOS to boot to USB device and let her rip.
Most of this how-to came from the DSL Wiki on Installing to a USB Flash Drive, but I found many of the links didn’t direct properly, and it was a bit vague. Hopefully this how-to will help those lost on the subject. If you do need further help on all things DSL, feel free to check out the DSL Forums, they are very helpful and very knowledgeable.
Now then, if you are like me and your PC will not boot to a USB device, then we need to trick it into booting to it by using some sort of boot disc. Keep checking back for my how-to on making a DSL USB device boot option with the Ultimate Boot CD.