Multi boot USB Linux comes in really handy and recently I just discovered this Yumi software by Lance of Pendrive Linux website that can be used for booting multiple live distros of Linux! Previously my linux project was to install linux itself into my SanDisk Ultra 64GB flash drive, however I could only limit myself to boot 2 linux flavours in the thumb drive namely Ubuntu for its productivity suite and Puppy Lupu for its small size and speed.
While scouring around for some small size linux distros, I revisited PenDriveLinux.com to see what other distro I could try to install into my other pendrives. That’s when I chance upon the live CD installation software. A live CD installation is different from that of a full fledge installation in that you can’t save any modification and setting unless you use the persistence settings. They have two types of live CD installation, a single bootable USB linux software (Universal USB Installer) and multi bootable USB linux (Yumi). The Universal USB installer comes with persistence setting so theoretically (it didn’t always work) you could save any modification that you do with your selected favourite linux distro.
As for the multiboot Yumi linux installer, it did not come with the persistence option though if you are familiar and good with hacking linux configuration files you could also set up a persistence file for your linux distro. Unfortunately I’m not that great at doing that so will just leave it as it is. Besides, I’m still keeping my full fledge functioning Ubuntu and Puppy linux in my SanDisk thumbdrive.
For Yumi, I used a 8GB Kingston DT Mini 10. A live CD multiboot has one great advantage over actually installing linux into your flash drive, it didn’t require a lot of storage space plus you could keep your USB drive in its normal FAT32 format without partitioning into sections with ext2 or ext3 format so you could access the pendrive from your Windows O/S.
Because it uses less storage space, I installed about 6 different Linux distros plus a couple of boot CD utilities. If you like you could download the Ultimate Boot CD. For me, the Gparted and Part Magic were the most useful tool since I frequently do a lot of partitioning a for various O/S installation. Although not necessary, I decided to provide a very small linux-swap space of about 128MB at the far end of the partition in my Kingston DT mini 10 flash drive. Linux don’t really require much swap-space especially if your PC got a lot of build in memory. In the old days, they suggest a swap-space twice the build in memory, however Linux is very efficient in its memory management unlike Windows. With the swap-space in place, any Linux distros booting up will see it and mount it for their usage.
Installing the various Linux live CD distro was a breeze, just follow the Yumi instruction and make sure you are installing into the same USB drive. Note that you can only install the Linux Distros that are listed in the Yumi installer, for those Linux ISO not listed there you could take your chance and install with the other ISO not listed option. I tried that with 2 linux distros, Unity Linux and Puppy Slacko and they both booted halfway and died from kernel panic. I guess it didn’t work because it needs additional commands and settings to get it going. Stick back with the list and you should be generally ok (generally ok, except DSL-Damn Small Linux, this one didn’t work, probably missing some command). The installation list provide some of the more popular Linux distros like Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, Suse and some very interesting tiny linux distros like SLAX, Puppy, Slitaz, Tiny Core and many others.
In addition, you could install various ISO utilities such as antivirus rescue disk as well as various hard disk utilities and management tools. And not to forget the good old FreeDOS harking back to the good old command line DOS!
So here’s my list of Linux distros and utilites that I installed into my 8GB flash drive for multi booting using up about ½ my thumbdrive storage space with much to spare:
- Linux Mint
- Puppy Lupu
- Sugar on a Stick (Fedora)
- Part Magic
You could install more if you got time to spare to download the various distros! Even with a fast fiber optic connection it still took me some time to download the various ISO image files.
Conclusion, the great advantage to Yumi multi boot USB Linux is that you could install many live CD distro (plus CD utilities too) in a single pendrive which is really space saving in terms of drive storage as well as physical size if you compare it with carrying several CDs itself while at the same time the flash drive could still be used for your document and data storage (you can’t do that with a CD!) At the same time is a good way to trial run a linux distro without actually installing it into your hard drive or thumbdrive, and far more speedier than actually installing a distro by getting your Linux distro up and running.
The major disadvantage is the lack of persistence storage making you lose any settings and modification to your linux distro. For that, you would do well to actually install Linux into its own partition space in the USB drive.
PendriveLinux.com – get the Universal USB Installer and Yumi multi boot installer here.