I'm new to elementary and i'd like to burn a ISO with persistance on my pendrive, in order to try it before installing on HD, and having a useful rescue system, just in case.

Now, since fat32 formatted perdrive can have at least 4GB of persistance space related, i was wondering if i could as well install directly elementary on the pendrive, from another live system (i.e. a CD), so i can use the entire space of my drive AND I can format it in EXT4, more suitable (i guess) from a linux distro.

That said, is there an ideal size of pendrive for such a system? USB 3.0 of course, but.. the more size, the better? Thanks in advance!

1 Answer 1


I can't speak of experience for a real pendrive. However, I have installed elementaryOS just a week ago on an external hard drive. I have to say that it works like charm for the moment. In contrary to a persistent live os which I never made succesfully. But that might be a case of not trying hard enough.

Three things come to mind:

  • When installing eOS, I had to remove the harddisk of my pc as the installer kept messing up the bootloader on that disk instead of putting a new one on the hdd.
  • Make sure not te make a swap partition on the usb drive. I've read multiple times that it wrecks your thumbdrive. I don't know about a swapfile, but sadly you need one of the two. And that is the reason I choose a hdd I had laying around. No need to worry about wear and tear of excessive writing.
  • You can't install from a installation. So if you choose to install eOS on a pendrive, you will still have to make a live usb (possibly without persistence) to be able to install it on your computer. But then again, you needed when to install eOS to the hdd on the first hand.

A few other things. Linux is perfectly able to read FAT32. so formatting is not really a problem. I has however the restriction of 4Gb. A ext4 filesystem is able to handle larger persistence files. Another thing to think about is usability of your thumbdrive if you still use windows. You need a fat32 or ntfs partition as first partition of the drive if you want to use the remaining space in windows. Windows has no ability to detect a 2nd partition or an extX parition.

As far as size goes, I made a eOS live usb on a 4Gb stick. The image only uses about 1.3Gb of that space. So i'd say 8 or maybe 16Gb is plenty for trying it out. Even 4Gb would be sufficient if you keep your files somewhere else. On the other hand, a full install required 8Gb of my hdd. So you would need a pendrive of at least 16Gb to ensure the install fits on the drive.

The usb 3.0 as absolutely an enormous advantage. The usb2.0 live install is almost terribly slow. The usb3.0 full install is very usable. Not much more delay than a computer of maybe 2 or 3 years old.

  • 1
    That's all I needed to know. I tried a full install on my 16GB pendrive 2.0, and yes, works but it's dead slow. I'll buy a 16/32 thumb 3.0 and try again. So..considering how cheap can be a big sized pendrive nowadays, where is the point on installing a persistence linux live usb (i've read tons of forums about it before asking for help here), also complaining about fat32 4 GB limitation? Maybe it's all about not buying a new one.. indeed, the live system give you the possibity of a new install, which can't be done with a full installation as you pointed above. Crystal clear anyway.
    – Concrete
    Jan 21, 2017 at 23:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.