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How to Run Linux off of a USB Pen Drive in a Netbook

By Edited Nov 21, 2015 1 2

Linux Penguin
***Disclaimer. Though this is meant to be a live distribution of linux and shouldn't harm your computer, I accept no responsibility if this does any damage to your computer or software. Use at your own risk****

Want to try out Linux on your Netbook, but don't want to install it on your hard dive?
What if you could carry around a fully functional and bootable distribution of linux on your Pen Drive using only about 200mb of space.

In this article I will describe the steps I went through to get a fully functional distribution of Linux working on my Netbook, the Acer Aspire One, without the need for a CD-ROM. The Aspire One, and most new computers, have the ability to boot off of the USB-HDD, which is how we tell the computer to start Linux instead of Windows.

I decided to use 'Slax' as my distribution of Linux, as it is an ultra-portable and fully-featured linux distro, that is under 200mb in size, and is meant to run off a USB stick or a live-cd. There are other distributions that may work, like damnsmalllinux and puppy linux, but you'll need to do a bit of research to get them going. For more information and screenshots on slax, check out http://www.slax.org

So let's get started. What you will need:


1 USB Pen Drive (I have a Sandisk Cruzer 4gb)
1 Acer Aspire One Netbook (I have the Windows XP version)

7zip - http://www.7-zip.org/
Microsoft Windows XP (should be preinstalled already)
Slax ISO - mirror 1: ftp://ftp.slax.org/testing/slax-test/slax608-rc4.iso
mirror 2: ftp://ftp.linux.cz/pub/linux/slax/testing/slax-test/slax608-rc4.iso

Step 1: Format the Pen Drive.

This step will remove everything from your Pen Drive, so be sure to back up your files if you need them. Insert your Pen Drive into a USB slot on your Aspire One. In Windows, double click My Computer, then right click your Pen Drive and click Format. Click Start. (note if you are using a Sandisk Cruzer, you need to remove the malware that it comes preinstalled with, see http://www.u3.com/uninstall/)

Step 2: Get Slax

As of this writing, the current distribution of slax is 6.0.7. There are issues with this version and the Aspire One booting, so you need to download a newer beta version, 6.0.8-RC4. You can download it from here:

mirror 1: ftp://ftp.slax.org/testing/slax-test/slax608-rc4.iso
mirror 2: ftp://ftp.linux.cz/pub/linux/slax/testing/slax-test/slax608-rc4.iso

Step 3: Extract Slax

Once Downloaded, open the ISO file using 7zip and copy everything to the root of your Pen Drive.

Step 4: Make your Pen Drive Bootable

When Slax is unpacked to your device, navigate to 'boot' and double click bootinst.bat

This will install syslinux bootloader to your device's master boot record.

Step 5: Boot Slax.

Finally, restart your computer, and when the bootsplash screen shows, hit F12 to bring up the boot device selection menu, and select USB-HDD.

If everything went well, your Acer Aspire Netbook should now boot into a fully functional distribution of Linux. Enjoy.

NOTE*** in this distribution, the wireless network card is not currently functional, and you will need to download and install an additional driver to get it working, see the following for more information:





Sep 22, 2008 5:21pm
Can you use this on other systems too? Or does it have to be a Netbook?
Sep 23, 2008 8:01am
how do u install slax and remove the linplus from the acer aspire one? Is there a full tutorial anywhere?
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