How to Install Puppy Linux to a USB Key- in Depth Explanation for Windows Users

Introduction: How to Install Puppy Linux to a USB Key- in Depth Explanation for Windows Users

Whether you want a light OS to use on unfamiliar PCs, or just want to experience a Linux distro, Puppy is a good choice for a flash drive based system.

Step 1: ISO Recorder

First, you need to burn Puppy's live CD. If you're using Windows XP and don't have advanced CD creation tools, I recommend downloading ISORecorder.
Once you've installed it, you will find a new option "Burn CD Image" in your right-click context menu.

Step 2: Burn CD

Download the puppy .iso and follow ISORecorder's steps in burning a CD Image. Note that ISORecorder for WinXP SP2 cannot image to DVDs, you must use a burnable CD.

Step 3: Change Boot Sequence

Once you have the live CD, reboot your PC and enter setup [usually F2]. Change the boot sequence to boot your optical drive first:
1. IDE CDROM-Device
2. Hard Disk
Save settings and exit.

Step 4: Reboot Into Linux

Your PC will now load Puppy's live CD; it will prompt you to define your mouse, keyboard, and video settings. These menus are fairly self explanatory, just follow them and you should be fine.

Step 5: Universal Installer

In the main menu, navigate to Setup>Puppy Universal Installer.
The installer will take you through the steps of installation. When prompted to choose how to install [partition, etc], pick the first option [install to present partition].

Step 6: Partition

It will likely prompt you to use GParted to partition the drive. Gparted will load on its own- go to Device>Disk Label, then you will be able to format your drive [choose FAT16, as recommended].
Remember to set the Boot Flag on the drive. [Go to Manage Flags> and check Boot.]
Once it has completed, you may close the program- you will automatically return to the Universal Installer.

Step 7: End Linux Session

When Puppy has completed installing to the drive, the CD will likely pop out and you'll be prompted to save your session- choose no.

Step 8: Reboot & Change Boot Sequence Back

Reboot your computer and enter setup again. Re-instate the HDD as first priority in boot sequence. Then enter Hard Drive Boot Sequence to choose the USB as first priority within your available drives.
1. USB Device
2. System BIOS Boot Devices

Step 9: USB Key Complete

You should now boot into Puppy automatically upon restart.
There's no need to enter setup each time you wish to switch to Windows; simply reboot without the USB key plugged in, and the system will default to Windows.

Step 10: Resources & Tips

Note that some pen tablets aren't recognized right off the bat- you may want to favor a standard mouse for the setup. If your mouse doesn't work, F12 will pop up the main menu, and ALT + hotkey will allow you to navigate menus.

ISO recorder can be found here:
The Linux distro can be found here:

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    10 years ago on Introduction

    How much space on a USB flash drive is needed for the Puppy Linux installation? I suppose if the flash drive was partitioned, the Puppy Linux could go into a partition of the right side. The rest of the flash drive could then be used for storage or transfer of info. Yes?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The minimum stick size is 128MB, at least, for the older versions.

    Anything larger than that and you can definitely use the remainder as storage.

    If you're looking to have this run akin to a hard install, you'll want to look into installing Puppy with persistent storage so that user settings are preserved.

    Phil B
    Phil B

    11 years ago on Introduction

    I will have to try this following your instructions. I followed the prompts in Puppy a couple of versions back, but it did not work.

    I just click on the file I download from Puppy and an ISO burning program opens without using 3rd party software.

    I have used Puppy for more than a year when I want to go onto the Internet, but do not want to buy anti-virus software. With each new version I notice I can go almost anywhere on the web and it is fast, but as time goes by certain sites will no longer open or function and my speed slows. Sometimes switching to a different browser in Puppy helps. Sometimes running Chkdsk and Disk Defragmenter in Windows helps. Have you had any experience with this problem?


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Can't say I've experienced this - how are you running puppy when the slow-down occurs [thumb drive/virtual machine/CD]? I believe there's a known issue with Opera slowing down, so disabling caching would definitely help if that's the case.

    Phil B
    Phil B

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I am running it from a LIVE disc (CD). I have not used the e-mail program, only a browser or two.