Linux Live USB Creator: install Linux on a bootable USB, or run it from within Windows itself


Linux Live USB Creator is a free, open source program that installs any .ISO file to a bootable USB drive. It offers built in support for a large number of Live CD tools, including a wide range of Linux distros (200+) and a wide variety of other OS’s and other tools.

It will even optionally download your desired LiveCD for you on-the-fly to ensure the latest versions.

Linux Live USB Creator supports ‘persistence’, an option whereby users can save modifications and data on the USB after reboot, allowing for a true computer-on-a-stick experience.

But what sets this software apart from others, such as previously mentioned UNetbootin, is (a) it’s remarkable speed, and (b) virtualization, whereby Linux Live USB Creator will create a virtual Linux that can be run from the USB within Windows without rebooting. To do this it will download and use the latest version of Virtualbox, without any user involvement whatever.

Linux Live USB CreatorRunning Linux in Windows from a USB

Here are some PROS and CONS:


  • Fast:in terms of speed, it leaves UNetbootin (which I have used extensively) in the dust.
  • Wide range of supported Linux distros: almost any that you could think of, including Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, OpenSUSE, Mint, Slax, CentOS, ArchLinux, Gentoo, PCLinuxOS, Sabayon, BackTrack, Puppy Linux, Mandriva, and many others. Many other tools are supported, such as Gparted, Ophcrack, Parted Magic, etc.
  • Burn almost any ISO to bootable USB: including Windows (but apparently excluding Windows XP and MacOS ISO’s).
  • Persistence: i.e. the ability to save your data on the USB, is supported in approximately half the supported distros. Although you cannot update core files or install drivers, you can install software, create files and folders, and even install Linux on your PC’s hard drive (from you USB key).
  • Virualization: will create a virtual Linux on that can be run from within Windows, in a single click. Simply run Virtualize_This_Key.exe from within the VirtualBox folder on your USB key. To do this it will auto-download Virtualbox in the background, without bothering you with the details (see screenshot on top right).
  • Portable version: available, which can work with a portable version of Virtualbox as well.


  • Cannot create a dual bootable USB: for that, you will need to use a tool such as Xboot
  • Persistence problems: (a) only works with some distros, and can be confusing which ones (here’s the list; click on the letters of the alphabet); (b) is currently not working with Virtualization in Windows 7 and Vista, and (c) whether or not the ISO you are about to burn supports persistence is not very clear in the interface (it will read something like ‘built in Persistency’ rather than Live CD.
  • Finding Virtualbox: it would be nice if the program would let you point to a Virtualbox installer that you might have on the hard drive instead of auto downloading it, or even if it would autodetect whether or not you have it installed and use those files directly.
  • No full support for IMG files: these do not support persistence or virtualization, but are burned as is.

The verdict: simply an excellent piece of software. If you’re into Linux it is a must have, but even if you aren’t this software can make a bootable USB out of any .ISO disk image, and do so in remarkable speed.

But what I really like is Linux Live USB Creator’s ability to produce a virtual Linux machine that can be run via booting the USB or virtualized from within Windows itself. Very cool.

Version tested: 2.8.5

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx. 4.5 megs).