Installation on to a USB Key

Just a general question, i know you can install OpenSUSE 11.1 on to a USB key i have already tested that. What i want to know is if there are any problems running the system from the USB key. Here is what im looking to do:

Create a media server using Mediatomb to stream video and music to a PS3, with x3 1TB hard disks in a software raid 5 with / installed on to an 8GB USB key and all the video and music installed on to the raid disk. I know this will work but will the USB key be fast enough to do this and will it last or will the USB key fail after a short amount of time?

Does anyone else run there PC or Server from a USB key and if so can they recommend setup and what USB keys are best for this?

Or is any other form or solid state memory better for this role? The reason i have to use a USB drive is i don’t have space or connections in the current Dell GX270 im using for a 4th HDD for the / system install, and i have played around for the last week trying to get a raid 5 using 3 disks with the / system installed and it doesn’t work the way i want it to.

I use an OCZ Rally2 USB drive, lot faster :wink:

So how was the setup not working? Maybe posting in your other thread
might help?

Cheers Malcolm °¿° (Linux Counter #276890)
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 (x86_64) Kernel
up 6 days 2:42, 4 users, load average: 1.52, 0.50, 0.22
GPU GeForce 8600 GTS Silent - Driver Version: 190.18

Thanks for the reply will have a look at that USB Key.

Anyone recommend any others and any issue with using a USB key to run your system from?


If you want use suse, then the 11.1 kde 3.5 unofficial live usb image is probably faster.

Personally, I’d go for a much lighter distro for this.

Such as???

Whatever you like to rollout if you use SUSE Studio :wink:

Cheers Malcolm °¿° (Linux Counter #276890)
openSUSE 11.2 Milestone 6 (i586) Kernel 2.6.31-rc6-3-desktop
up 1 day 13:45, 2 users, load average: 0.14, 0.09, 0.08
ASUS eeePC 1000HE ATOM N280 1.66GHz | GPU Mobile 945GM/GMS/GME

Malcolm has a good point.

If you use a USB drive, as opposed to a stick, you’re no longer as constrained.

If you use SUSE, using studio you can muck around with the contents, so you can make it lighter.

If you’re using a stick, it might well be easier to go for something like zenwalk, or even puppy or something (assuming they can be persuaded to run the software you need).

But the USB drive (whether flash or not) is probably the better option.

Why not using XBMC ?

It has a live USB version you can install on a USB stick.

Ok thanks guys. Suse Studio is great and just what i was looking for.

As it turns out i have been playing around with the USB stick install and i have had a few problems getting it to boot.

Can anyone point me in the right direction of how to install OpenSUSE 11.1 on a USB stick which it can boot from the USB stick, ie grub setup, and then have x3 1TB HDD in a raid 5 setup.

When i try to do this it installs fine onto the USB stick and set grub to install onto the USB stick by ticking the use / install to install grub to. When i reboot grub doesn’t start. ANy pointer would be great. Thanks

Some references are: and search for unetbootin. (This works if you are running 32 bit suse.) and
Boot and run Linux from a USB flash memory stick | USB Pen Drive Linux

Are you using SUSE studio to create a raw image for placing on the
usb drive?

Cheers Malcolm °¿° (Linux Counter #276890)
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 (x86_64) Kernel
up 11:31, 2 users, load average: 0.72, 0.45, 0.17
GPU GeForce 8600 GTS Silent - Driver Version: 190.18

In that example that i gave no. How do i install the .raw file onto the USB stick?

First MAKE SURE you identify the USB DRIVE witrh fdisk -l :wink:
In this example I’ll use sdb as my usb device.

su -
fdisk -l
Disk /dev/sdb: 7948 MB, 7948206080 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 966 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0xd43c46c2

Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
<no disk partitions defined>

dd if=/path/to/image/my_image.raw of=/dev/sdb bs=4M

Now reboot and set the USB device as the boot drive, the image will
boot and run through the automated install creating your swap as
configured in SUSE Studio so you will have two partitions / and swap.

Now all you have to do is start up YaST (assuming you installed the
raid tools in SUSE Studio) and use the partitioner tool to create your
RAID and mount point.

Cheers Malcolm °¿° (Linux Counter #276890)
openSUSE 11.2 Milestone 6 (i586) Kernel 2.6.31-rc6-3-desktop
up 0:07, 2 users, load average: 0.17, 0.28, 0.18
ASUS eeePC 1000HE ATOM N280 1.66GHz | GPU Mobile 945GM/GMS/GME

Again thank you for the help. Will try this thanks.

Just tested this with an old USB stick and it works great. Just waiting for my new USB stick to come and then i will be going live on my server. Thanks for all the help. Will let you know how i got on with the server.

I’ve been puzzling over this part. I purchased a fast 16GB US stick earlier today (30MB/sec write speed) and successfully copied the 11.2 milestone8 KDE4 i686 iso file on it via the dd command.

I followed the instructions here for 11.2:
Live USB stick - openSUSE-11.2
I preformed the ‘dd’ and ‘fdisk’ commands, but I did NOT then run the install program after the dd and fdisk commands (creating a /dev/sdb2 in addition to the /dev/sdb1 after the dd command).

Currently, all the USB stick does is boot like a live CD, so presumably the install you note is needed. (one can not change/save any different content in the /dev/sdb1).

However I don’t want the install to go on the hard drive, nor do I want to mess with the hard drive’s grub, but rather I want the install on the USB with the install’s grub on the USB (not touching the hard drive). I’m puzzling as to what will happen if I start the install from the USB on to the USB ? Won’t that delete the USB’s /dev/sdb1 and also mess up the hard drive’s grub ? … It leaves me with a bit of trepidation, and hence I’m reluctant to go the next step.

… there is probably more reading needed on my part.

Re-reading this thread, I see the op (original poster) has a plan to do a lot more than I intend.

I am thinking now that a USB-stick install will be bound to the PC that initiated the original installation. Hence one needs to install a live CD version, where that live CD allows the settings to be stored on the USB stick. From what I can see, openSUSE live CDs (moved to a USB stick) do not store their settings on the USB stick. Hence openSUSE may not be the distribution for such an approach. …

Time to ponder this some more … its possible Sidux or Knoppix are better for this approach.

If you have noticed from reading the whole thread im using an image file created using SUSE Studio that is dd on to the USB stick. ANd as you have pointed out this is then tied to the PC you first use it on and can’t be trasported around. This is used to give me a cheap and doesn’t use any drive space in my server to run a 3 disk raid setup with the os installed on the USB stick. Which so far has been working great. Yes it can be a little slower for some reason, but im using it as a medai streaming server so this makes no difference.

If you want to move the USB stick around you need a live one that will allow changes to it. You can create USB sticks straight from Ubuntus menu system but not sure if they allow you to save to them. But im sure the website should sort out your problem.

I tried the solution with the openSUSE-11.1 KDE-3.5.10 openSuSE community live CD. After installing 11.1 KDE-3.5.10 the USB stick could boot, but of course it was PC specific. I then applied the pendrivelinux patch (where that patch is supposed to make openSUSE USB stick work on any PC), and that completely broke the boot from USB stick. The USB stick ended up in an endless loop of trying to do an fsck check on the USB stick after the /root was mounted. ie the USB stick was no longer bootable. So the does not work for the 11.1 KDE-3.5.10 liveCD.

I’m not interested in trying the 11.1 Gnome nor 11.1 KDE-4.1.3 liveCDs with the pendrivelinux patch.

I ended up installing Sidux liveCD on to the USB stick, and that works ok. … it can be moved from PC to PC and it can be tuned with its settings saved. (Edit - of course this reminded me why I don’t like Sidux as a desktop install - although its great as a liveCD).

IMHO ‘slow’ is an understatement. Linux on a fast USB stick is still like molassus. It can be functional, but it is VERY slow. Even a fast 30MB/sec (200x) USB stick like I have is incredibly slow.

I think this depends on what you are using the OS for and if you are installing the whole OS. As i have made mine on SUSE studio it is a very bare system that has very limited software installed but only use’s 1.5GB of space and therefore runs fast enough to be used as a desktop PC. If you are installing the full Live OS on to the USB stick it is bound to be slow as it has loads of stuff you never use, which makes it bloated and run slower. Also if you are talking about slow boot time then this is again a problem you have from running a Live OS and not a fully installed one. I don’t have a slow boot process as it doesn’t have to detect everything like a Live OS does.