Install Debian Live to a Flash Drive from Windows

How to Create a USB Debian Live Flash Drive using Windows and the Ubuntu Win32 Disk Imager (Image Writer for Windows). In the following tutorial, we cover the process of installing Debian Live to a USB Flash Drive from Windows. Debian Live is a continuing project headed by Daniel Baumann, that offers (usb-hdd) Debian Images and ISO’s of the Debian Live operating system with the Gnome, KDE, lxde or Xfce desktops.

In addition, for those running from a Linux environment, a custom Debian Live ISO or USB Image can easily be created using the Live-Helper scripts.

Note: This Debian Live installation method will format and create a 704MB fat partition on your Flash Drive. In Windows, your drive will appear to be only 704MB, because Windows does not detect the rest of the space which will be utilized for the ext2 persistent feature. Flash Drive restoration methods are linked at the end of this tutorial.

Debian Live 5.0 Desktop Screenshot

Debian 5.0 Desktop Screenshot

Debian and Debian Logos: Trademarks of Software in the Public Interest, Inc.

Win32Disk Imager: win32-image-writer

Distribution Home Page:

Minimum Flash Drive Capacity: 1GB

Persistent Feature: Yes

Installing Debian Live to USB using Windows

Warning: The contents on your Flash Drive will be wiped out. Backup anything you want to save before proceeding.

  1. Insert a 2GB or larger Flash Drive (for Debian Live with Persistence)
  2. Download a Debain-Live Gnome, Xfce, KDE or lxde img (and save it to your desktop)
  3. Download the Win32 DiskImager (and extract its content to a folder on your desktop)
  4. Navigate to where you extracted the contents of the Win32DiskImager and run Win32DiskImager.exe

    Note: you may notice a window saying: An error occurred when attempting to get the device information. Error 8:

    – simply click OK to continue
    Error 8

  5. (1) Browse to and select your Debian-Live .img file (2) Select your USB Device (3) Click Write to write the image to the device Win32DiskImager - usage for Debain Live Image
  6. A progress bar will indicate the progress of the write. Once it has finished, simply reboot your PC and set your BIOS or Boot Menu to boot from the USB Device

If all goes well, you should now be booting from your own Portable USB Debian Live Flash Drive.

How to make the Debian Live install Persistent:

The following information was suggested by Leong Yu Siang. After your up and running from your Debian Live created Flash Drive, do the following:

  1. Navigate to System > Administration > Partition Editor Start the Partition Editor
  2. (1) Select your USB device from the drop down in the upper right corner (2) Right Click the Unallocated Space and select New Creating a New Partition
  3. (1) Set the Filesystem to Ext2 (2) type live-rw for the label (3) Click AddCreating the Ext2 live-rw partition
  4. Once the process has finished, reboot your Debian Live system
  5. At the splash boot screen, hit the Tab key
  6. Add the word persistent to the string and then hit Enter

If all goes well, you should now be booting into your Debian Live with persistence. In order to save and restore any changes you make, you need to perform steps 5 and 6 during each boot.

Another option is to replace the live.cfg file in the syslinux directory on your Flash Drive with this (right click save as) live.cfg file which will add a default persistent boot option to the boot menu.

If you would like to return your Flash Drive to its previous state, you can use this How to Restore your USB Flash Drive tutorial.