Pendrive Computer

About: Saving the world..... without a cape.

All you need to get started is a 2 gig pendrive that's laying around.   Here is the reason to do it.  You have higher internet security when it comes to browsing, online banking, onlline shopping, and online bill pay.   Plus it is your personal 'computer' that you can plug into any computer capable of usb booting.  

My case for example:  I have an employer provided laptop, which is managed by a remote IT dept, which I take home at night to do various research and reading for my employer as well as regular usage during working hours.  My employer states they would like the laptop to be business use only if possible and to limit personal usage.   So do I really want to open emails in my personal account or check my bank account on it especially when it is monitored remotely??

The solution is a pendrive computer.   It boots the laptop, creates a ram-disk in the computer's ram that loads and runs the operating system on the pendrive.  It does not use the computer's hard drive and since it operates entirely in ram, when the computer shuts down, no trace of it remains.

I would think this would come in handy while traveling, visiting relatives, etc.   You don't have to worry about their buggy computers, their applications, your privacy, viruses, etc.  Plus it would be your settings, your programs, and you don't need to lug your computer along for the trip.

There are a couple methods to work with your pendrive computer.   Option one is to not allow any saving with the pendrive (high security)   Security experts are stating this is an additional level of security for online banking, investing, purchases etc.   You boot from the pendrive, do your business and shut down.   No cookies, no internet history, no saved passwords, no viruses, nothing.   Everytime you start the pc you are starting fresh with a secure operating system.   Option two is to allow saving on the pendrive so it remembers your browser favorites, network settings, etc.   This in conjunction with a second (storage) pendrive allows you to take your documents, programs, etc along with you to use on any computer anywhere and it would be your "computer".

Are there drawbacks??  Not really in my mind.  Can you load Windows on this pendrive??  NO!!!  So how does it work?  It uses pendrive linux and your choice of linux.   Is linux scary or geeky???  Not really anymore.   It has advanced to be "easier" than windows or macs to use and understand.  Quite a change from the linux of years past.   Can you use any linux??? Just about!!   My suggestion would be to use a very basic form of linux like puppy linux.   Ubuntu linux has too many features to be effective.   Too many applications are built into the body of the install.   Puppy linux is the basic operating system, internet browser, and  the basic office and entertainment essentials.    Does it do everything???  No, but it does enough for probably over 90% of users anywhere.   In fact, I am doing this instructable with it.

If you don't like it erase the pendrive.   Linux is no cost, neither is pendrive linux (although they ask for a donation on their site if you feel like doing so.

So let's get started.

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Step 1:

First prepare your computer for usb bootup.   Some are this way from manufacturer, some are not.   This is normally done through bios which involves tapping either the F1,F2, or DELETE key at the bios splash screen when you first turn on your pc.   You may need to check your computers manual to see how if you don't know.   Or get a knowledgeable friend to help.

Step 2:

Second you need to check that your pendrive is formatted to either FAT or FAT32 format.   To find out right click on your pendrive icon, and go to properties.   If not you can format the pendrive to this format.   This is the way a new blank pendrive normally comes out of the package.

Step 3:

Go to this site and download pendrive linux installer

Step 4:

Download your version of linux as an "ISO" file.

This is my recommendation

Step 5:

Plug your usb drive into your computer, run the pendrive linux installer and follow the instructions.  It will ask you where the linux "ISO" file is located and you will browse to it.   After a few minutes your pendrive is done and loaded.  

Step 6:

Stick the loaded pendrive and second storage pendrive ( if desired) into a shutdown computer.   The computer will boot into your "Pendrive Computer"   Following are some screenshots.

Step 7:

My work laptop with Windows.

Step 8:

Now my work computer is "MY PENDRIVE COMPUTER".   I have a few apps open for word processing, spreadsheet, and internet browsing.   Why it will even multitask!!!

Step 9:

One pendrive for the system and one for storage (if you decide to save) is all you need.   I made a second non-saving system just for secure online usage only, doesn't remember anything once computer is shut down.   And how much are 2 gig usb drives anyway??  You spend more on a couple cups of coffee anymore :)    Thanks for reading.   Have fun with "YOUR" new computer.

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    9 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    There are many ways to use a Pen drive as a key to your windows. Now I tell easiest way for this purpose. You did put the password to the windows.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    How do you add applications to the OS? I might want to add programs or update ones that are already there (or patch the OS). How does that work with this instrucable? I love the idea.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable. Have you tried adding a vpn client to your flash-drive and a VPN server to your "home" computer? I want to try this, since that would get my access to my files on my computer at home and also "hide" my internet from any hackers on the wifi I'd be using.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Nope, haven't tried to do this. Really no need for me. Other than work, I don't do much for data storage. For my personal usage, I do webmail, not an email client (like Outlook) on my pc. For storage, I use Ubuntu One, G-drive, and Skydrive. So I have my files and pictures everywhere I go. Just make sure anything sensitive is encrypted before uploading to cloud storage.

    As far as a vpn client, for Windows I use CyberGhost, I think anyone who is at all security conscious knows you do not do sensitive things like check your banking accounts on public wireless or even anyone's computer other than your own. But if you absolutely had to this is the way to do it.

    What the secure side of the pendrive offers is using your home computer totally void of any tracking cookies, day-zero viruses, undetected malware etc. You have a very secure system to use that hasn't been compromised from continued usage. My wife for example uses her personal laptop for checking our banking and online bill pays. She does lots of surfing, IM, etc. Do I really trust her laptop to be totally void of the agents that tap into our privacy trying to steal passwords etc?? It is just peace of mind for me.

    99.9% of why I use the pendrive computer is during my lunchbreak I like to browse on the internet, listen to music, whatever. I do not want the remote IT monitoring my computer's activity, and I do not want any harm to the computer because it is not mine.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, nice Instructable, thanks!!
    Just gonna ask one thing: do you know a way for installing Linux on a pendrive by using Linux?

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    In Ubuntu you can do it. I've tried it, not worth the effort, the computer is too slow and I mean slow because hard drives run lots faster than pendrives. There are lots of instructions if you search through ubuntu forums. The beauty of Puppy Linux is that it will run on a ramdisk, bigger distros like ubuntu, redhat, etc will not unless you have tons of ram in your computer.

    For this instructable, supposedly you can do it by running pendrive linux through "wine" on your distribution. I haven't tried it, however, I would think it shouldn't be much trouble.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very well written IBLE. I will have to try this. Thanks.