Most of us may not be aware that you can get an operating system on your USB flash drive. It might surprise many. But that’s the truth. Firmwares available in our PCs allow booting to take place from these drives. In these circumstances, you can easily launch operating systems from a bootable flash drive. These flash drives are commonly referred to as Live USB. Generally, Linux operating systems are available through this method. However, there are some versions of flash drives offering MS Windows operating systems.
You can use Live USBs for special tasks like installing operating systems across a network or loading minimal kernels for embedded operations. You can have Windows XP installed on a drive through a properly configured Windows USB flash drive. If there is extra space in the drive, you can even install the software in it. But for all this, a large disk is required. The final result will be a portable version of an operating system operated upon during emergencies.
Linux operating systems are available in these Live USBs. The functionality and usage capabilities of these Live USBs are comparable to those with live CDs. You can perform many tasks with these live USBs, like distributing and recovering various data. On few counts, live USBs are different from live CDs.
For example, while retrieving data from CDs is almost impossible as they are permanently written, live USBs allow data to be retrieved and modified as per the user’s need. Hence, these drives can be effectively used for personal storage purposes. All the personal applications and configurations can be carried out with these Live USBs. What’s more, they can be employed for a single system intended to be used by multiple users over a network.
Just like any other storage device, Live USBs have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, Live USB’s provide an extra bit of privacy. This is possible because Live USBs can be carried with the user wherever he/she goes, and the data stored in the device is in a safe location. There are few drawbacks associated with these devices as well. As live USBs are small in size, they can get lost or misplaced. Retrieving them could then be an impossible task. The small size of these drives also means encryption and making backups that much more important and a bit tricky.
USB drives have a faster seek time when compared to optical media and hard drives. This is so because they don’t have any movable parts in them. This could also mean programs can start faster in these drives than a hard drive or a live CD.
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In some USB devices, booting can take place slowly owing to low data transfer speeds. Also, booting from flash drives may not be supported by the older computer as they don’t have inbuilt BIOS. Using USB drives for booting an operating system might even reduce the life span of the drives.
Having an operating system traveling with you wherever you go is extremely useful for professionals who are always on the move. There are many online tutorials available on the internet that can guide you in using these flash drives. Make sure you have one.