Dual-boot USB Flash drive

Demo of creating a dualbooting USB-stick with Linux and Android-x86 - proper installations - not just ISO-files http://youtu.be/V8LB9_-vCro and written companion http://goo.gl/3EuY8b

I have been using a quad-boot USB key for a year or so for repair work, etc.

openSUSE 12.3 Live (persistent)
Parted Magic

Thank you Fraser_Bell, interesting! I will learn about Clonezilla and Parted Magic. They seem to do roughly the same as Ranish and Partimage but probably in a better way and allow using ext4. I will buy a 32 bit USB Flash drive
and put on it at least two partitions: Windows XP (with UBCD4Win) and some Linux distro probably SuSE or Kubuntu.

+Fraser_bell How many partitions does you USB key hold? And what tool did you use for partitioning?

Doing multiple OSs on a USB is tricky there are tools that say they will do it but not sure they work with openSUSE. remember you are putting the ISO image on the USB and ISO was never designed to support multiboot so you have to trick it. USB’s are cheap buy several 8-12 gigs one for each os you want to carry

Basically, you deal with it the same as you deal with a hard-drive.

I use GParted, usually through Parted Magic, which also has a few other tools.

And, what you launch does not always have to be in a separate partition. Some self-contained specialized utilities just need to be called by the Grub line.


But, you do not need to put the ISO image on the USB, you can install directly to the key.

There is a thread somewhere on these forums where I outlined one method of multi-booting a USB key a few months back, but I do not have the time to search for that thread at the moment. I will see if I can find the time to locate it, and if I do will post back here with the link.

Yes but thought he wanted a live USB you can do that with the iso. The live USB can be persistent but you can’t have multiple OS at least I have not seen a working solution including openSUSE. If you just want an instance of the OS you can of course just install to the USB but then you can’t install from the USB, At least without a major effort. In that case you can have multiple OS’s on the USB it is just another drive.

Note that in any case USB’s make a poor substitute for a real drive. They don’t have the ware leveling or redundancy of a true SSD so ware out very quickly if you do lots of write operations which is topical of an OS’s operation.

you can install directly to the key
Yes, that is what i want to do, install directly to the USB key - and I have done that with Linux and Android - which was the starting point of this thread. But I cannot do it with windows. If I format the USB key with FAT32 or NTFS I cannot shrink it with Windows Explorer or Gparted. Or if I format with ext3 using Gparted, I can shrink and make more partitions, but I cannot install the Windows bootsector on them. It seems as though the Windows bootsector somehow overlaps the MBR and one of them becomes corrupt!? And this problem does not exist for Linux (or Android-x86 partitions).

Absolutely right. But, the OP wanted a USB key to carry around for booting other computers with his own operating system(s) instead of the OS that is installed on that computer.

In regards to that, I would not permit it on my own PCs, nor do I recommend others allow it, since somebody booting that way could gain access to all information on the computer, or could do some damage (either deliberate or by accident), or any of a number of nightmare scenarios. Of course, if you are repairing a system, then there is an acceptable reason for booting with an external OS.

Further to that, I might add that the OP will find most publicly provided PCs, such as those in libraries, will have external booting disabled – for the very reasons I mentioned above.

And, I do not know whose “other computers” the OP plans on booting that way, but – again – I can assure you it would not be one of mine.

Trouble with doing an install is that things are set up for the target hardware where as a live image is set to detect and adjust to most any hardware. The reason is quick boots. On an installed system the settings are all preordained to that hardware and booting on anything different can be problematic. The ISO image is made to do the detection at every boot (thus taking longer but more likley to work). So it is not as straight forward as it initially appears.

Again, you make another good point, G.

I did not mention it yet in this thread, but I have elsewhere on the forum: For my main troubleshooting tool, I carry around a USB key with Puppy Linux (so far, boots every USB-bootable PC I have encountered and configures very nicely) and a Puppy Linux boot CD.

Personally, if I was planning a lot of machine hopping, I would be using Puppy Linux, boots darn near anything.

Thanks for the useful tips, Fraser_Bell and gogalthorpe! Yes, I am often consulted by friends and family to help repairing their PC. Have been putting BartPE, UBCD4Windows and System Rescue on my USB Flash drive. Will try to add Puppy Linux!

Puppy Linux will want its own USB key, usually. But, there are ways around that, if you insist. I just prefer to have it on its own key. (Fits nicely on a small key) I add extra directories to the root of the key and in there carry my reference files and a lot of installation files for both Linux and Windows, including things like the latest Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, and even ISOs for openSUSE install DVDs, etc.


But I cannot do it with windows
Puppy Linux will want its own USB key
Took the above as a challange, and here is the result: http://goo.gl/3n8tl8 and http://youtu.be/LHTO66-bfiwdd
It is possible to shrink an NTFS partition with Ranish Partition Manager and then just ignore the conflicts. It is also possible to shrink FAT32 and NTFS partitions with GParted - but (at least for me) the conflicts rather soon took away the ability to boot the first (Windows) partition.](http://youtu.be/LHTO66-bfiw) ](http://youtu.be/LHTO66-bfiw)

Actually for shrinking a NTFS partition I would now recommend using Gparted.

I still recommend that, myself. Just be certain to run a full filesystem check of the NTFS partition with Windows (preferably a mini-Windows external boot, such as found on the Hiren’s Boot CD) afterwards before using the NTFS partition very much.