For most people using a desktop computer or laptop, there are two operating systems to choose from: Windows and OS X. Mac owners can use Boot Camp to install Windows on their system, and it is technically possible to get OS X running on PC hardware – although this is not something that everyone will want to tackle.
But of course, these are not the only two OSes available; there is also Linux to consider. You could go as far as wiping out Windows and replacing it with one of the many, many varieties of Linux that are out there but this may be too much for most people.
Another option would be to set up a dual-boot system so you can choose between starting Windows or Linux, but this can be tricky and there is the potential for things to go wrong when resizing and creating partitions. If you are just thinking of trying out Linux for the first time, or want to test out a new version, all of this can seem like too much work and this is where a live version of Linux is great.
A live copy of Linux is usually run from CD or DVD and does not need to be installed. This is one of easiest ways to try out Linux for the first time, but LinuxLive USB Creator gives you another option. This handy program can be used to create a USB drive that contains a version of Linux that can be run in a virtual environment within Windows.
The program takes care of every single step of the process, and you do not even need to download the version of Linux you want to work with ahead of time – it can all be done from within the program.
LinuxLive USB Creator is available completely free of charge and can be downloaded from the program website. Hit the Download button followed by Download LiLi, save the setup file and then run through the installation.
Insert a USB drive – it does not need to be empty at this stage, but it will be wiped during the disc creation process – and select it from the drop down menu at the top of the program window.
Move down to the Step 2 section of the program and you can choose your source file. If you’ve already downloaded a Linux distro, or have an existing CD copy, you can select it here.
But one of the great things about LinuxLive USB Creator is that it includes the option to download Linux distros from within the program. Click the Download icon and then use the dropdown menu to select the version of Linux you would like to work with. There are links to many, many varieties of Linux and there’s something to suit all tastes here.
Choose a folder to save the download to and then click the Automatically button. You’ll then have to wait while the download completes.
With your preferred Linux variant downloaded, you can configure the options you’d like to use for your live USB drive in Step 3. Move the slider labelled Persistence and you can specify how much of your USB drive should be reserved for storing your settings and personal files.
When running Linux from a live CD, it is not possible to store files in on the same disc, so opting to use a USB drive in the way opens up more possibilities and helps to create a truly portable operating system.
In the Step 4 section of the program window, tick all three of the option boxes that are listed. This will not only wipe out any files that are currently stored on the drive, but also give you the option of not only booting your computer from your USB drive to start Linux or choosing to start a virtualized version from within Windows.
Click the lightning bolt icon in Step 5 and your USB drive with be formatted and prepared ready for use.
You may need to adjust your BIOS settings so that your computer can boot from a USB drive, and once you have done this you should start your PC with the newly prepared Linux drive inserted.
If you would prefer to be able to run your chosen version of Linux from within Windows without the need to reboot your computer, there is another option available to you. Use Explorer to view the content of the USB drive and execute the file called Virtualize_This_Key.exe.
This will launch a portable version of VirtualBox and enable you to use Linux in a virtual environment.
Having these two options for launching Linux makes LinuxLive USB Creator wonderfully flexible. If you want to immerse yourself in Linux without having to commit to it fully, booting from your specially prepared USB drive is a good option.
But if you would like to be able to run Wndows and Linux alongside each other, using the bundled copy of VirtualBox helps you to get up and running as quickly and easily as possible.