6 Linux Distros You Can Run Off Your Keychain

6 Linux Distros You Can Run Off Your Keychain

In this age of mobile devices, computing devices like netbooks and slate PCs are becoming more and more popular. A few years ago, the idea of portable OS caught on for a while, but never really went mainstream. The idea has merit though… slim down a fully-functional desktop version of Linux and install it on a USB flash drive. Then, you can boot it off any computer with a USB port and take your OS with you on your key chain. These slimmed down versions of Linux boot in record time and run really fast.

If you’ve got a 64 MB to 1GB USB flash drive laying around, why not put it work as a portable OS? Here are 6 distros I would recommend for this purpose.

Click each screenshot for a larger version.

1. DSL (Damn Small Linux): As the name suggests, this is one compact operating system. Debian-based DSL requires only 50 MB of available storage space yet still includes an image viewer, a web browser, a text editor, an MP3 player, an email client, a PDF reader, and more. You can actually run it off a 64 MB USB drive (but you won’t have much room for storage). Now that is damn small!
dsl 300x225 6 Linux Distros You Can Run Off Your Keychain

2. Feather Linux: At 128 MB, Feather Linux over double the size of DSL, but includes a lot more applications. This OS is based on Knoppix (which is based on Debian) and comes bundled with fully featured applications like Firefox, AbiWord, and VNC just to name a few. This is a great distro for running off a 256 MB USB drive (with a little bit of storage space).
FeatherLinux 300x225 6 Linux Distros You Can Run Off Your Keychain

3. Puppy Linux: One of the more popular mini-distros is Puppy Linux. This operating system is not based on Debian, Red Hat, Suse, Slackware, or any other current desktop distribution. It is completely homegrown. Coming in at just over 256 MB (or 100 MB without the OpenOffice option), this is one solid portable OS! You can run it off a 512 MB USB drive and even have some space left over for storage.
Puppy 300x240 6 Linux Distros You Can Run Off Your Keychain

4. Lubuntu: As you probably guessed from the name, Lubuntu is based on Ubuntu Linux. The name comes from a contraction of the words Light and Ubuntu. It is essentially a very svelte version that has the ability to run off a USB flash drive or CD-ROM. It uses LXDE in place of Gnome. Lubuntu is very expandable (able to use Ubuntu’s library of applications), easy-to-use, and quite powerful.
Lubuntu 300x225 6 Linux Distros You Can Run Off Your Keychain

5. Slax: This mini-distro introduces a new concept… modules. You install the Slax core and then you can install either a basic X11 module, or a full KDE module. From there you can add more modules (e.g. graphics, artwork, security, multimedia, games, etc.) and make it as tiny or as full-sized as you like… 200 MB, 400 MB, 600 MB, you name it. Slax is user-friendly and slick.
slax 300x187 6 Linux Distros You Can Run Off Your Keychain

6. Unity Linux: This tiny Linux distro is based on Mandriva. It is one of the best looking mini-distros, but it comes at a small performance loss. Unity is probably the slowest of the bunch and, at just under 1 GB, it’s the biggest too. Still, its small & fast compared to most full desktop distributions… and man does it look cool! Several other mini-distros like Synergy and TinyMe are based off Unity.
Unity 300x187 6 Linux Distros You Can Run Off Your Keychain

About the Author

avatar KALE: A geek who works in the IT Security field and lives in Dallas, TX. He is also a music geek who has played in several local bands. Previous to his IT career, Kale worked as a photojournalist. He brings technical advice and artistic counterpoint to the podcast.