Introduction: Using a Computer Without a Hard Drive.

About: Bytesize articles instead of a trilogy in one post.
You have have seen in an earlier instructable where we set up a working network without a single hard drive. ( ) I would like to give you some other choices  to allow you to use a computer without a hard drive. Although the listing might be out of date is a good place to start to see what is available. is another good place to find linux distros.

Remember try these at your own risk. They are just suggestions for few of many choices. Caveat emptor.

Step 1: Byzantium Ad-hoc Wireless Mesh Networking .

The goal of Project Byzantium is to develop a communication system by which users can connect to each other and share information in the absence of convenient access to the Internet.  This is done by setting up an ad-hoc wirelessmesh network that offers services which replace popular websites often used for this purpose, such as Twitter and IRC.

These services and web apps were selected because they are the ones most often used by activists around the world to find one another, exchange information, post media, and organize.  They were also selected because they stand the best chance of being easy to use by our intended userbase, which are people using mobile devices like smartphones, MP3 players, and tablet PCs.

Unlike most mesh implementations, a Byzantium Mesh requires no specialized equipment that may not be easy to get during an emergency, just an x86 computer with at least one 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless interface.  It will run on just about any x86 computer, including later generation Macbooks.

Step 2: Xbmc

xmbc - THERE IS A DNS PROGLEM!! if you go to google and search for xmbc, you will get to the right site.

XBMC is an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media. XBMC is available for Linux, OSX, Windows, and the original Xbox. Created in 2003 by a group of like minded programmers, XBMC is a non-profit project run and developed by volunteers located around the world. More than 50 software developers have contributed to XBMC, and 100-plus translators have worked to expand its reach, making it available in more than 30 languages.

While XBMC functions very well as a standard media player application for your computer, it has been designed to be the perfect companion for your HTPC. Supporting an almost endless range of remote controls, and combined with its beautiful interface and powerful skinning engine, XBMC feels very natural to use from the couch and is the ideal solution for your home theater.

Currently XBMC can be used to play almost all popular audio and video formats around. It was designed for network playback, so you can stream your multimedia from anywhere in the house or directly from the internet using practically any protocol available. Use your media as-is: XBMC can play CDs and DVDs directly from the disk or image file, almost all popular archive formats from your hard drive, and even files inside ZIP and RAR archives. It will even scan all of your media and automatically create a personalized library complete with box covers, descriptions, and fanart. There are playlist and slideshow functions, a weather forecast feature and many audio visualizations. Once installed, your computer will become a fully functional multimedia jukebox.

They have a live cd or you can install it on a variety of platforms.  I do use it myself.

Step 3: Geexbox

GeeXboX -

GeeXboX is a free and Open Source Media-Center purposed Linux distribution for embedded devices and desktop computers. GeeXboX is not an application, it’s a full-featured OS, that one can boot as a LiveCD, from a USB key, an SD/MMC card or install on its regular HDD. The GeeXboX distribution is lightweight and designed for one single goal: embed all major multimedia applications as to turn your computer into an HTPC. GeeXboX runs on x86, PowerPC and ARM devices.

Step 4: Knoppix

Knoppix -

This website is about Knoppix, a Free and Open Source Live Linux CD. Knoppix is a GNU/Linux distribution that boots and runs completely from CD or DVD and can be used to read and write Windows and other partitions (among other clever tricks).

The Knoppix CD and DVD include recent Linux software and desktop environments. The DVD includes programs such as, Abiword, The Gimp, Konqueror, Mozilla, Apache, PHP, MySQL and hundreds of other quality open source programs.

Knoppix is suitable even for Linux beginners and we encourage you to try it and use the extensive help on our site if you need it. If you would like to learn more about Knoppix, you could look at the FAQs and Documentation, discuss it in the Forum, or just try it out!

You can download for free the latest version of the CD (700 MB) or DVD (4.14 GB). You can also save yourself the trouble of downloading this large file and it burning to disk by buying it for as little as $1.95 (worldwide shipping). Simply follow this link: download / buy page. When you buy a disk we get a small commission that goes towards paying for and running this site. is a resource for users, developers, and testers of Knoppix. The official website for Knoppix is on Klaus Knopper's website at

My first live distro, Saved a lot of data from foobarred mswindows computers. Great at hardware detection.

Step 5: Live Firewall

Step 6: Trinity Rescue Kit

Trinity Rescue Kit | CPR for your computer -

Trinity Rescue Kit or TRK is a free live Linux distribution that aims specifically at recovery and repair operations on Windows machines, but is equally usable for Linux recovery issues. Since version 3.4 it has an easy to use scrollable text menu that allows anyone who masters a keyboard and some English to perform maintenance and repair on a computer, ranging from password resetting over disk cleanup to virus scanning.

Great for rescuing files from an mswindows computer that will not boot, but the hard drive is still good. Not half bad virus killer.

Step 7: Clonezilla


You're probably familiar with the popular proprietary commercial package Norton Ghost® . The problem with these kind of software packages is that it takes a lot of time to massively clone systems to many computers. You've probably also heard of Symantec's solution to this problem, Symantec Ghost Corporate Edition® with multicasting. Well, now there is an OpenSource clone system (OCS) solution called Clonezilla with unicasting and multicasting!
Clonezilla, based on DRBL, Partclone, and udpcast , allows you to do bare metal backup and recovery. Two types of Clonezilla are available, Clonezilla live and Clonezilla SE (server edition) . Clonezilla live is suitable for single machine backup and restore. While Clonezilla SE is for massive deployment, it can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously. Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the harddisk. This increases the clone efficiency. At the NCHC's Classroom C, Clonezilla SE was used to clone 41 computers simultaneously. It took only about 10 minutes to clone a 5.6 GBytes system image to all 41 computers via multicasting!

I use it both as a live cd and an installed server version. Great for doing system forensics backup too.

Step 8: Internet Radio Station.

Dynebolic -

dyne:bolic is a GNU/Linux distribution running from a CD and able to recognise most of your devices and peripherals: sound, video, TV, network cards, firewire, USB devices and more. It is shaped on the needs of media activists, artists and creative individuals, a practical tool for multimedia production. You can manipulate and broadcast both sound and video with tools to record, edit, encode and stream, all using free software!

Step 9: Voip/Computer PBX

Slast -

ST-PBX Live is a GNU/Debian Linux distribution integrating Asterisk, freePBX and other tools to try from CD or install in HD a complete VoIP system.

Cosmopbx -

Another live pbx via cd is Cosmopbx. Boot it  and a few settings and you are up and running in a few minutes. It is not secure and should not be used in a production environment. Great though for demonstration purposes.

Step 10: PC Into Thin Client.

Bootable cdrom that can connect to various terminal servers such as VNC, RDP, Citrix, and etc. Includes the opera web browser in case you need to get online. Should also be install to compact flash for minimal clients (i.e. for use on older equipment.)

2X ThinClientOS is a Debian-based GNU/Linux distribution with a small footprint, optimised for remote desktop computing. It features auto-detection capabilities similar to Knoppix. It boots directly to a login manager which, when coupled with the ThinClientServer, redirects users to a remote RDP/ICA/NX desktop. The distribution can be booted via PXE, CD or installed to a hard disk or flash disk. Updates to the distribution are managed through the ThinClientServer web interface. 2X ThinClientOS requires 2X ThinClientServer to boot up; ThinClientServer is a commercial product, though it is free for up to five thin clients.

Download at:

ee also:

Step 11: Teyeny EyeOS Server.

tEYEny is intended to be a hybrid cloud operating system based on the EyeOS cloud OS and the TinyCore linux distribution. tEYEny combines these by running eyeOS on a local webserver in tinyCore and using a modified Firefox browser to interact with it. Buggy. Use at your own risk.

Step 12: Learn GIS Without Installing It.

Step 13: Owncloud.

Live Cd for testing Owncloud. Use at your own risk. Not tested it yet.


Step 14: Zone Minder.

Video security


Xubuntu Live / Install CD of Zoneminder ( ISO images are currently only for X86.

Step 15: Boot Live.

So I have talked about booting from a web server to do an install. Now we are going to go a bit farther and boot a live image from a web server. Depending on the size of the image, your destination machine will have to have enough memory to handle the load. For our purposes, we will use a very small linux distro for testing purposes. In this case, Slitaz should fit the bill so to speak. Like the web installs we did, you will need a pxebootable device such as a floppy, usb, or cdrom/dvdrom.

Doing a web load has been around a long time, but the average user may not be aware of it. What is really neat about this is that you have older thin clients, they would be perfect for use with the web boot for the ones that will. While I was at it, I was able to get it to boot from tftp server to a thin client. That setup is more involved and for another day. One shortcoming is that Slitaz does not seem to use the usb keyboard out of the box.

:/var/www/slitaz$ ls memdisk slitaz5.iso

If you have been following my articles, you should be aware of how to make the boot media for the ipxe boot. Had to get to files to the web directory to boot from first is the iso of course and the second is the memdisk. If you have syslinux installed, it should be there on your system.

#!ipxe dhcp any initrd chain iso raw


kernel Kernel/memdisk (or append iso initrd=

In doing the research for this, quite a few ways to do this.