Create a Persistent, Bootable, and Virtualized Linux USB Drive with LiLi

Live Linux USB drives are often the go-to tool for virus removal and file recovery, but what if you want to install software on your drive without rebooting? Here’s how with the LinuxLive (LiLi) USB Creator.

We have shown you how to create a bootable Linux flash drive in the past, and even how to do it directly from an existing ISO. These methods still work great, but if you want added features like drive persistence and the ability to open your Linux OS under Windows with Virtualbox, LiLi is the easiest way to go.

Download and Install LiLi

To get started, download the latest version from the link below.

Go through the installer and change the installation location or language settings if you need to.

Once the installer finishes launch the application.

Install Linux to Your USB Drive

LiLi is broken up into steps for you to follow from top to bottom as you select options for your installation.

Step one is to choose your USB drive or portable hard drive for installation.

If you drive is currently formatted in NTFS you will get this popup. Just make sure you check the box to format the drive to FAT32 in step four.

In step two you can choose to use an existing ISO/IMG/Zip file, a Linux CD, or download an ISO file from a list of supported distributions.

LiLi will check your ISO file to make sure the file is good.

Step three will let you select how much space you want for your drive to be persistent.  This will take a significant amount of space on your USB drive, but if you want to be able to save installed programs or files between reboots, it is a necessarily trade off.

OS updates will use up your persistent space, so don’t update often unless you have a lot of available space.

Step four has an option to hide all of the files related to the live Linux distribution in Windows. This won’t affect the files in any way; you just won’t see them when you browse your drive under Windows so long as you have the “show system files” option turned off in explorer.

Enable launching LinuxLive in Window to download portable VirtualBox and allow you to install programs without needing to reboot.

Finally, step five lets you create your new USB drive. Click the lightning bolt to begin.

If your drive is going to be formatted you will be warned ahead of time.

You will be updated about the status of your USB creation in the step five window.

Once the drive is done being created, a browser will open showing you how to use your new USB drive and a finished notice will be shown in the LiLi program.

Virtualizing Your Linux Drive

Once everything is installed, open an explorer window and navigate to your USB drive. Double click VirtualBox\Virtualize_this_key.exe to launch portable Virtualbox running the OS installed on your drive.

If you chose to hide the files, you won’t see any files on your drive except for the ones you will need to.

Virtualbox will open and start your portable OS.

You can install software, updates, or create files from the virtual OS and the changes will stay even after rebooting. EDIT: Our wonderful readers pointed out that LiLi does not recommend using persistence with portable VirtualBox.

You can also boot from your USB drive just like normal.

If you get an error about VirtualBox not starting make sure the portable VirtualBox and installed VirtualBox versions are the same. Otherwise you may get conflicts about the modules not loading in Windows.

LinuxLive USB Creator

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