[lubuntu-users] Is it possible to 'multi boot' ISO's with MKUSB?

Liam Proven lproven at gmail.com
Sun Jul 31 14:16:18 UTC 2016

On 30 July 2016 at 22:58,  <scrooyahoo at riseup.net> wrote:
> Would be nice to have 1 stick that can load:
> 32 bit
> 64 bit
> pae

Something I seldom see mentioned, but I use a lot, is Linux systems
_installed_ onto USB stick.

No, you can't install from them, but they are very useful for system recovery.

There are 2 ways to do it.

[1] Use a diskless PC, or disconnect your hard disk.

This is fiddly.

[2] Use a VM.

VirtualBox is free and lets you assign a physical disk drive to a VM.
It's much harder than in VMware but it does work.


Read the comments!

Every time you want to run the VM, you must take ownership of the USB
device's entry in /dev


chown /dev/sdc lproven:lproven

N.B. May require sudo.

Then it works. If you don't do this, the VM won't start.

Ubuntu 16.04 will not install on an 8GB USB key, but Lubuntu will.  It
puts GRUB in the MBR of the key, so it boots like any other disk.


* Partition the disk as usual. I suggest no separate /home but it's up
to you. A single partition is easiest.

* Format the / partition as ext2 to extend flash media life (no
journalling -> fewer writes)

* Add ``noatime'' to the /etc/fstab entry for the root volume --
faster & again reduces disk writes

* No swap. Swapping wears out flash media. I install and enable ZRAM
just in case it's used on low-RAM machines:


* You can add VirtualBox Guest Additions if you like. The key will run
better in a VM and when booted on bare metal they just don't run.

I then update as normal.

You can update when booted on bare metal, but if it installs a kernel
update, then it will run ``update-grub'' and this will add entries for
any OSes on that machine's hard disk into the GRUB menu. I don't like
this -- it looks messy -- so I try to only update inside a VM.

I usually use a 32-bit edition; the resulting key will boot and run
64-bit machines too and modern versions automatically run PAE and use
all available RAM.

Sadly my Mac does not see such devices as bootable volumes, but the
keys work on normal PCs fine.

Windows can't see them as it does not natively understand ext* format
filesystems. If you wish you can partition the drive and have an exFAT
data partition as well, of course.

I also install some handy tools such as additional filesystem support
(exFAT, HFS etc.), GParted, things like that.

I find such keys a handy addition to my portable toolkit and have used
them widely.

If you wish and you used a big enough key, you could install multiple
distros on a single key this way. But remember, you can't install from

I've also found that the BootRepair tool won't install on what it
considers to be an installed system. It insists on being installed on
a live installer drive.

If you want to carry around lots of ISO files and choose which to
install, a device like this is the easiest way:


Liam Proven • Profile: http://lproven.livejournal.com/profile
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