Create A Persistent Storage Live USB With Ubuntu, Linux Mint Or Debian (UEFI, >4GB Persistance Support)

mkusb create persistent live usb with Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Debian

When you create a regular Linux live USB, you can install software, download files, make changes to the system, and so on, but all of these changes are lost after a reboot. A persistent live USB allows saving any changes you make to the live system, so the they are still present the next time you boot to it.

This article explains creating a persistent live USB with Ubuntu (and flavors like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, etc.), Linux Mint, Debian or elementary OS (it should work with any Debian or Ubuntu based Linux distribution), using mkusb. You'll need to be running Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Debian to install mkusb (it seems you may be able to install mkusb on other Linux distributions, but there's no list of dependencies to install manually, and it may or may not work).

mkusb can create persistent live drives that work in both UEFI and BIOS mode. The persistence storage partition created by mkusb uses casper-rw, so it can have a size of more than 4 GB, unlike some other similar tools.

This tool can not only create persistent storage live USB drives, but also regular bootable live USBs of Linux distributions, wipe a device, and more. The only downside of mkusb is its user interface, which uses Zenity and can be a bit confusing, but other than that the application works great.

A few related articles from Linux Uprising that might interest you:


How to install and use mkusb to create a persistent storage live USB with Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Debian


1. Install mkusb on Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Debian

In Ubuntu, Linux Mint, elementary OS and other Ubuntu-based Linux distributions or flavors, mkusb can be installed by using its official PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mkusb/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install --install-recommends mkusb mkusb-nox usb-pack-efi

For Debian, the mkusb developer recommends using the same Ubuntu PPA. That's because mkusb is only a series of scripts which don't depend on specific Ubuntu package versions, so it works on Debian (unlike most PPA repositories). Manually add the mkusb PPA and install this tool in Debian:

echo "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/mkusb/ppa/ubuntu bionic main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mkusb.list

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv 54B8C8AC
sudo apt update
sudo apt install --install-recommends mkusb mkusb-nox usb-pack-efi

You may also install mkusb on other Linux distributions, but the installation may require installing some packages manually, etc. See the mkusb wiki page for how to do this.

2. Launch mkusb from the applications menu. When it starts, the application asks you if it should run the dus version of mkusb (a revamped interface of mkusb), or another version:

mkusb dus

In this dialog press YES to continue with the "dus" version.

3. Next, you'll see a mkusb window that asks to enter your password on top of a terminal window:

mkusb terminal

Enter your password and press OK to continue. Make sure you don't close the terminal window, as that's where mkusb runs the commands required to create a persistent storage, bootable live USB!

4. mkusb will now present a list of options:

make bootable usb

Select the first one - Install (make a boot device) -, and press OK to continue.

5. Next, another list of options is presented:

create persistent live usb debian ubuntu

To create a persistent storage live USB, click on the third option - 'Persistent live' - only Debian and Ubuntu -, and click OK.

6. mkusb will now ask you to select an ISO or IMG file:

Ubuntu file chooser

Select the Ubuntu (including Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie, etc.), Debian or Linux Mint (Cinnamon, MATE or Xfce) image from your filesystem, and click OK to continue.

7. For the next step, mkusb will present a list of storage devices. Make sure to select an USB or some other removable drive in this step, and not your HDD/SSD:

mkusb select device

Double check that you've selected the correct target device (all data on the selected storage device will be lost!), and click OK to continue.

8. mkusb will now present some persistent live drive settings:

usb persistence settings

In this dialog you can enable upefi (comes from the package named usb-pack-efi, used by mkusb), in which Grub works in UEFI and BIOS mode. You can also enable the msdos option, which can help with some HP computers that can't boot with Grub and GPT. Click OK when you're done.

9. It's now time to select the percentage of available space for persistence:

usb persistence settings

This is the space that will be available for the Linux distribution you're going to install on the USB stick. Drag the slider to the desired persistence percentage and press the OK button. Don't worry about the size of the persistence partition, mkusb doesn't have the maximum 4 GB persistent storage limit present in some other bootable USB creators.

The remaining storage space on the USB drive will be used for a new usbdata partition that's formatted as NTFS, which can be accessed from Linux, Windows and macOS - use this partition to store data on the USB drive that you want to access from other operating systems.

10. In this final step you'll be presented with a confirmation screen:

mkusb yes go ahead

If you're sure you've selected the correct storage device and ISO file, you can now proceed to start creating the persistent live USB.

Select the line that says Go (Yes, I want to go ahead) and press the Go button at the bottom of the window. After this, mkusb will start creating the persistent storage Ubuntu, Linux Mint or Debian live USB.

Now boot the new live USB and select one of the Grub menu entries that says "persistence" (there will also be some non-persistence Grub menu items).

inspired by El Atareao