Linux USB Installers – A Evaluation of Apps for Windows

So I am a huge fan of Linux, and Windows as well, And quite often I will download whatever the newest release of whatever Linux Distro iso, burn it, reboot, and play with the Live session of that Linux for a while.  If I like it enough I give it some hard drive space to install it on to.  However, recently I was looking for an older Linux Distro to put on a friend’s PC and I discovered that, when I collected all of the Burned Discs, some CD, most DVD as of recent, and I organised them and put them into DVD spindles that I had laying about, well, I had Three Spindles, and each spindle holds One Hundred DVDs..  So my collection was up to AT LEAST Three Hundred burned discs.

I say “AT LEAST” because to be honest, I still about 5 more discs in my backpack, some in my “Emergency Kit” for recovering HDD info, and a dresser drawer that I have not gone through yet.

YES.  That is a LOT of burned Discs, and honestly, they need to be recycled.  But that got me thinking “There must be a better way to test out a Linux LiveCD/DVD session on Real Hardware that does not involve burning a disc.”  Enter USB Booting.  And this is what I discovered.

Please note that I said “Real Hardware”.  This means that VirtualBox is out.  VirtualBox always gives great results, but it is not Real Hardware accurate.

So I have known about  USB/Live Session booting for a while, and as such I have gone through many tools.  So today I decided to grab one of my favorite Distro ISO’s, download it, and try it out by the various Windows apps for putting a LiveCD/DVD to a Bootable USB drive.  This is what I  found.

The Hardware:

Computer: Gateway 2000, AMD processor, Phenom II, Quad Core, 8GB RAM, 1TB SATA HDD (internal), 1TB SATA HDD (external, USB2), Broadcom Wireless wi-fi chipset.

The Flash Disk: PNY 16GB Flash drive, USB 2.0.

The Linux Distro:

First of all, the Live CD/DVD is Xubuntu 12.10 x64.  Xubuntu has always been a distro that I loved, and as such, was a natural choice for me.

The Applications (Windows Only):

WUBI.  Wubi is Canonical’s own Ubuntu installer for Windows, and as how Xubuntu is a form of Ubuntu, it seemed only natural to start with this app.  It has simple options that are easy to understand, and as such, if you are using any Ubuntu derived Distro, it s that way to go.  However, at some point in time Wubi dropped support (at request it seems) for Xubuntu, so this app really is not even a contender.  Oh well, next app.



 Pendrive Linux’s USB Installer.  This app comes up on top of almost every Google search result of “Linux Live USB”, So of course I downloaded it and gave it a try.  It has Xubuntu 12.10 listed, I chose the ISO that I had downloaded, and I even enabled persistent Storage.  I start it up, and it did its job, rebooted, and I was in Xubuntu!  However, It was really, really slow.  Like..  for every one desktop click I did it took about four times as long as it should have to have registered.  Starting an App, namely Firefox, too a Herculean amount of Willpower to keep me from getting up and smashing something, as how it took about 2 whole minutes for Firefox to show up.

So yes, while this app got me in to Xubuntu, It was not really useable.



UNetbootin: I downloaded UNetbootin only to discover that it has not been updated with Xubuntu 12.10, the latest on its list was my choice of Daily Build, or Ubuntu 12.04.  I tried out Daily as how Daily is always more cutting edge, then tried 12.04..  And while I could get in to Xubuntu by both choices, again, there was a drawback.  Neither one would let me access my internal or external hard drives.  The Speed was there that was missing from the prior app, but if I can not get to my files, then the OS is useless.  Oh well, on to the next one.



Linux Live USB Creator: Ok, so, first of all, let me say this, I don’t know if the programmer of this app just went shit-nuts crazy in the GIMP or what, but the layout and graphics is crazy.  Well organised, but still crazy.  Oh well.  Enabling persistent Storage, I selected my ISO, and wrote the file to the USB drive. Rebooted.  Got a Wallpaper and a cursor.  And that’s all.  Nothing else.  Maybe the next time the Developer needs to stay out of the GIMP and write some actual code.  The one redeeming factor of this that I have seen is that it has a way to generate a specific VirtualBox install of your ISO.. That is neat, and I can see that it would be useful… but not what I wanted or needed.  Next App.



Win 32 Disk Imager: This may be the most Minimal GUI app for this type of thing  that I have seen.  It has no options for built-in persistent Storage, it default to a .img (WTF?) format, so you have to change it to .ISO as the file type, but it DOES warn you about “May damage your physical device”.  Anyway, I clicked “Write” and let it do its thing.  So how did it go?  I could boot in to Xubuntu AND it was 100% perfectly usable.  Now if this app had Persistent Storage I would have been super-happy, as how my WiFi device needs a set of drivers that *buntu does not carry by default…


The Results:

In the end, for the basic result of  “boot to a useable desktop”, Win32 Disk Imager wins.  Yes, It has no storage, and as such, I could not install my WiFi drivers that needs a reboot to take effect, I could still use the desktop as normal, no lag, no stuttering what so ever, and I could get to my files.

However, in the end, nothing beats Burning a .ISO to a CD/DVD as of yet.

However, please keep in mind, this is what I discovered and found out.  Your Mileage May Vary.  So to help those out that want to give all of these apps a chance, I offer Download Links below.

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