The 5 Best Linux Distros to Install on a USB Stick

The 5 Best Linux Distros to Install on a USB Stick


Sometimes you can’t avoid using someone else’s computer. Some airlines limit how much baggage you can bring. Occasionally you have to leave your machine at home. If your computer breaks, you might have to use someone else’s while you wait for a replacement. Except before that happens, you need a way to save your data.

What can you do in this situation? Shove a version of desktop Linux onto a USB stick and boot into it as required. But what’s the best live USB Linux desktop you can install?

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1. Linux USB Desktop for Any PC: Puppy Linux

For some time, Puppy Linux has been seen as little more than a curiosity. Designed to be used on the most austere hardware, it could comfortably chug away on early Pentium machines without breaking a sweat. But it wasn’t that practical. Many installed Puppy Linux on their antique hardware to just to see if they could.

But Puppy Linux never went away. Updates and new versions are still regularly released. Sure, it’s still stripped down and meant for low-end or underpowered hardware. But you can now install Puppy Linux on a USB stick and get stuff done.

Puppy Linux isn’t a single Linux distribution. It consists of multiple versions based on different code but using the same tool and philosophy. One version is based on SlackWare, which is one of the most well-established Linux distributions.

People continue to use it as their day-to-day operating system. People understand it. Then there are multiple options based on Ubuntu, the most popular version of desktop Linux.

2. A More Modern Desktop Experience: elementary OS

Are you a newcomer to Linux who just wants something simple and attractive to keep in your pocket? Check out elementary OS.

elementary OS offers a cross between the popular GNOME desktop environment and what you get on a Mac. The resulting experience is so intuitive, you can pick it up on your own with a few clicks.

AppCenter provides apps built only for elementary OS along with other essentials, like the LibreOffice suite, the GIMP image editor, and the Audacity sound editor. This way you can hit the ground running even if you have no idea what software is available for Linux.

Since elementary OS shares a lot in common with Ubuntu, you can be confident you won’t have to deal with any hardware compatibility gremlins. Plus, it proves to be buttery-smooth, even on low-end hardware, like laptops and cheap Atom and Celeron-powered machines.

This is important when you’re also dealing with the inherent performance bottleneck that comes with booting your desktop from a live Linux USB drive.

3. Tool for Managing Your Hard Disk: GParted Live

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