Monday, May 28, 2012

Install Puppy Linux to USB without a CD (extracting files out)

[This is a rough guide, open for improvement. Leave any tips in a comment, or email me.]

A couple days ago I installed Puppy Linux (Precise 5.4.3) to a USB Flashdrive without a CD. I couldn't find a decent guide for this anywhere, so I figured it out primarily with help from a DSL tutorial. I did the install using Ubuntu Linux (which has built in support for reading iso files). If you are on another operating system, you will need some software like WinCDEmu to read the files from the iso file. You will also need to have Syslinux software to install a bootloader on the device.
apt-get install syslinux

Puppy Linux is great because it will fit on those old 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB USB disks, giving them new life.

Here I will roughly list the steps required to install Puppy Linux to USB.

  1. Format the usb to fat32 file system.
  2. I don't think this is completely necessary, but if possible, mark the usb partition as bootable. (using a program like fdisk)
  3. Prepare (mount) the Puppy Linux iso file so that you can for read/extract the files from it.
  4. Copy all the files from the iso to the usb stick.
  5. Create an empty file on the USB drive named: USBFLASH
  6. On the USB, rename the file isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg.
  7. Edit syslinux.cfg and change "pmedia=cd" to "pmedia=usbflash". (Be aware, editing this file may prevent USB booting if your editor modifies carriage return on the line ends.)
  8. Install syslinux loader to the USB drive in Linux
    syslinux -s /dev/sdb1

    Install syslinux loader to the USB drive in Windows (assuming F: is your usb)
    syslinux.exe -mas F:

Congratulations if you made it this far. You should now be able to reboot into your new Puppy Linux USB installation. Here is another great resource for installing syslinux, which may help on using with Windows-

Puppy Linux pmedia options, and other flags.
quicklist: usbflash usbhd usbcd ideflash idehd idecd idezip satahd satacd scsihd

Comment or leave feedback sepero 111 @ gmx . com

usb stick pendrive flashdrive pen flash drive puppylinux


  1. Can I format the USB to ext3, or does it necessary need to be fat32?
    In case these instructions work, is this type of installation a frugal install or will I get an installation medium that will be used to boot my netbook and run 'Puppy Universal Installer' to install Puppy Linux on to another USB/HD drive?

    1. I'm not completely sure, but I think the usb drive needs to be fat32.

      After booting the puppylinux from usb, it should be almost identical as if you were running it from a CD

  2. I tried the procedure and it did not work. I get a brief flash of blue-) but then I get the Ubuntu bootlaoder. My laptop is set to boot from UBS HDD first USB FDD and USB something else (i forget) before it goes to the real HDD,

  3. Thanks it works very well just tested on Slacko Puppy 5.5

  4. Didn't quite work as described for me. I had to install MBR code to USB drive like this:

    cat /usr/lib/syslinux/bios/mbr.bin > /dev/sdb