Creating bootable USB flash drive from an INSTALLATION DVD (not ISO)

I have an OpenSuSE 11.2 32-bit installation DVD from I’ve used it to install OpenSuSE on my laptop and desktop. Now I want to use it to create a bootable USB flash drive for a friend. Can I do it?

I’ve read the OpenSuSE SDB article on creating a bootable USB flash drive from either a network download or an ISO image on a DVD. Neither case seems to apply here, since there’s no ISO image on the installation DVD.

My friend’s hard-drive seems to be wearing out. She’s running OpenSuSE 10.2. Her root partition fsck fails at boot, and Ctrl-D fails to fix the problem. Other partitions seem to be ok, for the time being – including the initial Windows partition, which she has now started using again because Linux won’t come up.

I’d like to install 11.2 for her, but I don’t want to install onto a defective drive. At the same time, I don’t want to replace the drive because I don’t want to dispose of the OEM Windows on partition 1.

I’m thinking that a live Linux running on a USB stick might be the solution. I know that USB memory has a lifetime of about 100,000 read/write cycles, at best, but I don’t know how that translates into time. It depends on how much she uses the system and how often RAM is used in place of persistent storage. I’ve also read that there is even a limit to how many times the USB stick can be mounted before it fails. Are my concerns justified?

Oddly enough, my own harddrive, running under 10.2, failed with the same symptoms a week or two before hers did. The coincidence is hard to explain, since my computer is 11 years old and hers only about 4, and I installed 10.2 about two years before she did.

But you can create one with the DVD with the help of k3b or Brasero.

You should create a .iso from the DVD with k3b
Then use that to make the USB

But you know the DVD is not a running OS / Live Desktop, it just installs.
You sound like you want a live OS

I’m thinking that a live Linux running on a USB stick might be the solution.

A live CD .iso would be better
And this assumes you have a USB booting capable machine?!

I believe the machine does support booting from USB, but I need to verify this.

I want to use the hard-drive as little as possible, since it seems to be defective. I was hoping to put everything (swap, / and /home) on a 16G USB flash-drive – and replace it when it uses up its read/write cycles. Maybe an external USB hard-drive would be a better option.

Can I use the install program on the Installation DVD to install directly to a USB flash-drive or hard-drive?

Would it be better to boot from a live OS CD? How do I then save the configuration? It seems like I would still need /home and /etc on the USB drive. I’m getting lost here!

Well we were lost, because it wasn’t clear what exactly you wanted. Now it is.

Would it be financially unrealistic to invest in a new HD?
And why would you keep the XP install on a dud HD anyway?

Finance is not the problem. The problem is that I want Linux to be minimally disruptive. I don’t want to destroy anything she already has on the drive.

If one partition is beyond repair, then others will probably fail as well, in which case Windows will disappear of its own accord – unless she has the OEM installation disks or buys a new set. I don’t want to force this process or force her to use Linux. Linux should be an option.

Anyway, I’m still wondering whether I can use the installation DVD to install onto a USB drive. If no one else has ever tried this, then I guess I will have to be the first! :slight_smile:

With some help from Google (“Linux install onto USB drive”), I’ve now learned:

  • that there is a Linux distribution developed especially for USB drives (PenDriveLinux)

  • that there are even smaller distributions (e.g., DSL, Puppy)

  • that there is a utility (UNetbootin, see sourceforge UNetbootin) that allows the user to select the distribution and version and install it automatically onto a USB drive

  • that there are even wikipedia articles on the subject

I post here, because OpenSuSE is my first resource – though maybe I should have done more research before posting. I hope it is ok to share the results of that research.

Here are some helpful articles I found:

Why is syslinux is recommended over GRUB? And as an aside, I wonder why LILO has gone out of favor. The comparison chart suggests that it supports everything that GRUB supports.

The need to reduce USB read/write cycles suggests an invention – a hybrid USB/RAM drive that writes into RAM while mounted then writes the RAM data to flash memory ONCE, just before it shutdowns.

You can install to a USB HD or flash drive if it’s big enough and your hardware supports it.
I have never done it myself. My circumstances have never required it.
Puppy is a great little OS, which loads to RAM - But it’s poles apart form the kind of OS you get with openSUSE

If Linux is not a serious priority, you could install Puppy to a USB flash drive.
Though I am still struggling with understanding your methodology

What methodology would make more sense to you?

Are you saying that I should force my friend to get rid of the harddrive and the still functioning partition? That’s what I did on my own computer when the same problem occurred there, but I don’t feel comfortable telling a friend to get rid of the one system that is still working for her.

Are you saying that OpenSuSE is not likely to run on a USB drive, or, if it does run, would run very poorly? My friend is not a developer, and she is not using the computer to store video. She wants something she can use to write letters, browse the internet, handle e-mail and entertain her children. Her storage requirements are probably under 1G. I’m hoping that 11.2 will install in 6G. That leaves 1G for swap, if I use an 8G drive.

I’m looking for a temporary solution that will enable her to use Linux while the harddrive fails gracefully. But you seem to be saying that a USB system would be worse than nothing.

You have a failing HD
IMO, the priority would be to recover data and replace.

You can re-install OEM windows if you have the necessary CD, it might even be possible to image the current install to put back to a new HD

But honestly, I think this is something you could just try and see. As I said I have not done exactly as you are planning.

Reading between the lines I think you’re saying that the biggest problem with simply replacing the HDD is that you have no way to reproduce the Windows XP installation and configuration if you did so. Is that correct? If so I can offer a suggestion or two. If that’s not the problem please say so, and I’ll not interfere with the thread.

Please interfere! It’s not so much a problem as an opportunity: for a long time, I’ve wanted to see whether Linux can run on USB alone, and now I have an excuse for finding out.

I have no absolutely love for the Microsoft monopoly. I just hate to throw things away, even things that are junk – especially when it’s not my computer. And my friend may no longer have the OEM installation disk, if she ever did have it.

In his last message, caf4926 invites me to “try and see”. So I will. I was simply hoping to benefit from the experience others here might have. Thanks for your interest!

Happy reading:

SDB:Live USB stick - openSUSE

In the OP comments were made that this article had been read. It seems that @NonZ has the install DVD but not the .iso and some suggestions were made that they could make a .iso from the DVD
I believe we have tried to explain that the normal method is as explained in the article you point to, that we create a Live_USB from a Live_CD .iso not the DVD

But actually it seems to me that @NonZ is really after making an actual installation to a USB flash drive (Though I recall a External USB HD was mentioned). I have never ‘Installed’ to a USB flash drive, only made a Live_USB.

It’s also not even been established for certain if USB booting is possible. I queried this, because the opening comments suggested/implied that the hardware might be slightly old. Unless this is verified, this whole thread is kind of pointless.

Not pointless: I KNOW my own machine boots from USB and it’s 11 years old. My friend has a 4-year-old computer. I need to verify that it supports USB booting, but I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t. Regardless, I want a USB boot for my own system. And I’m hoping that this thread is informative for others – I’m certainly attempting to make it so.

I see now that a Live USB with persistent storage is what I want. The persistent storage blurs the distinction betwee “Live Linux” and “Installed Linux”. I have BOTH the installation DVD and the live DVD for OpenSuSE 32-bit. I’m hoping that I can use one or the other.

I attempted to follow the procedure in SDB:Live USB stick - openSUSE, but could not find “imagewriter” and “isohybrid” in the standard repositories.

zypper lr
# | Alias                               | Name                                | Enabled | Refresh
1 | contrib                             | contrib                             | Yes     | Yes    
2 | | | Yes     | Yes    
3 | openSUSE 11.2-0                     | openSUSE 11.2-0                     | Yes     | No     
4 | packman                             | packman                             | Yes     | Yes    
5 | repo-debug                          | repo-debug                          | No      | Yes    
6 | repo-oss                            | repo-oss                            | No      | Yes    
7 | repo-source                         | repo-source                         | No      | Yes    

What am I missing?

I DO have “syslinux” installed.

I attempted to install UNetbootin from the contrib repository, but the latest SuSE version supported by the UNetbootin in the contrib repository is 11.1. In addition, the UNetbootin in the contrib repository requires a version of zip that is not in any of my repositories, and produces a “qT Session management error: Authentication Rejected” when I try to run it.

The UNetbootin at the UNetbootin site supports ALL OpenSuSE versions: Should I download the rpm directly and ignore the repositories?

I’ve done more research and I can now focus my initial question better. Here it is: Do I have to download an ISO image if I already have an 11.2 OpenSuSE live cd?

Will the following procedure work?

: Plug in the USB, use "df" to get the X in "/dev/sdX", then unmount the USB
: Use "fdisk" to 
  : format the USB flash memory drive, 
  : create partitions (6G for /, 1G for /swap, 1G for /home)
  : make partition 1 bootable
: Use mkfs to create a file system 
: Use "syslinux /dev/sdX1" to install "ldlinux.sys" in partition 1
: Copy all files from the Live CD to USB partition 1
: Move USB boot/ files to USB /

: Does the file system have to be FAT-16 or FAT-32? Will ext3 or ext 4 work?
: Does a Live Linux use or need a /swap partition?
: Can I put /swap (or even /home on a second smaller USB drive? How do I know what the /dev entry will be for the second USB?

I see other distributions being designed around Live USB. Some distributions have a single tool or menu option that automates the process:

: Knoppix: flash-knoppix
: Debian: Debian Live Magic
: Ubuntu: Startup Disk Creator
: Fedora: LiveUSB Creator
: Mandriva: MCNLive Wizard
: OpenSuSE: Studio Image Writer

In addition, there are now three utilities:
: UNetbootin: UNetbootin - Homepage and Downloads
: Multiboot LiveUSB: LiveUSB MultiBoot
: Portable Linux: Portable Linux

Only the first is in the repositories, and the version there is outdated.

For more information, see:

Weekend Project: Create a Live USB Key Linux Distribution |
Scientific Linux Live CD and DVD - Diskless Client - SL/RHEL
SDB:Live USB stick - openSUSE
How to create and use Live USB - FedoraProject
MCNLive LiveUSB :: Pocket OS
UNetbootin - Homepage and Downloads
LiveUSB MultiBoot – Multiboot LiveUSB
Portable Linux —

The article at is especially informative.

In addition, there are now three utilities:
: UNetbootin: UNetbootin - Homepage and Downloads
: Multiboot LiveUSB: LiveUSB MultiBoot
: Portable Linux: Portable Linux

…And TuxBoot Tuxboot - About

I like to try different Linux versions, it keeps me sort of CONNECTED.
I only use Windows when I get paid to do so, not too often anymore.

My laptops have removable/swappable hard drives so I kept different version of Linux in different drives.
At just over $100. each (250 GIG drives+Panasonic disk caddy) it can get pricey.

Then I discovered that I could just slip in the Install disk or DVD that I created with K3B and tell it to install into the USB drive.
I have several versions of Linux running on several USB Flash Drives. Yes it runs slower than the hard drive version, but I don’t need to carry the laptop all the time.
Most times I can just slip the drive into the host computer’s USB port, go into set-up at boot to make sure it starts from the USB port first and BINGO!

The host computer’s drive remain as they were, (untouched) and the Flash Drive keeps all my data and the rest of my Linux set-up.
Yes you may have to make some minor tweaks depending on the host machine you’re using, but if you keep some extra files on the pen drive, problem solved.

Give it a try, I hope this helped!