How to Install Crunchbang on a USB Drive (portable Linux)

I discovered Crunchbang on Lifehacker earlier today and couldn’t resist a quick tour by installing it to a USB drive. Crunchbang is a fast and light flavour of Ubuntu, and, if you’re an advanced Windows user curious about Linux, it’s an ideal entry point to explore the world of super fast Linux distros. See how dark and cool looking it is!

crunchbang (linux) desktop running from USB drive

Want to try Crunchbang? Here’s how to install it on a USB drive from Windows Vista:

1) Format your USB stick with a FAT32 partition from Windows. You can get to the format dialogue by opening My Computer and right mouse clicking the removable drive icon. Click “Format” and follow the settings in the image below. You need a minimum 2gb USB stick.

format your USB drive in Windows Vista

2) Download UnetBootin. UNetbootin allows for the installation of various Linux/BSD distributions to a partition or USB drive, so it’s no different from a standard install, only it doesn’t need a CD. The coolest thing about the application is that it’s a “portable” app. You don’t need to install it into Windows meaning UNetbootin will run on your Windows PC without “administrator” privileges. Don’t you just love network admins?


Crunchbang isn’t in the Distribution list supplied with UNetbootin, so choose a download site from here and save the ISO file on your desktop. Add the ISO using the “Diskimage”, make sure your USB drive is selected below and click OK.

3) That’s it – when the installation process is complete, restart your computer and make sure it’s set up to boot from USB. On my HP Laptop, pressing F9 on the boot screen shows a boot order menu. Selecting “USB Hard Drive” follows a black screen, a crunchbang logo, and finally, your new crunchbang desktop appears. Enjoy :-)

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5 thoughts on “How to Install Crunchbang on a USB Drive (portable Linux)

  1. Payne says:

    I feel the method I use here are faster than using UnetBootin, UnetBootin process are longer

    copy everything of CrunchBang Linux files to your pendrive, download syslinux, you can download it here
    use syslinux.exe in DOS prompt to make your pendrive bootable,

    syslinux -maf e:

    rename the file isolinux.sys to syslinux.sys in the isolinux folder
    rename the isolinux folder to syslinux

    its done :) cheers

  2. Wow, thanks for the tip Payne – I’ll give that a try myself some time!

  3. Dan says:

    Crunchbang is a powerful lightweight distro! I love it and am currently running it on my HP Mini 1000 Netbook and I have it successfully installed on a USB, but not using the method described here. There are many people having difficulties on the #! Forum as a result of trying to install Crunchbang(#!) to a USB with Unetbootin. The proper method is here:

    It has been affecting a number of members as it seems the method described in this article does not work with the current release and Unetbootin.

  4. Thanks for the update Dan – this article is quite old.

  5. Dan says:

    Thank you for spreading the word about this great little Distro!

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