If you are going to run Linux off of your flash drive you need to make sure it’s done correctly. There are several options in which you can utilize a flash drive to carry Linux around with you if you needed to. Nothing like having a full blown operating system in your back pocket when you need it!
Make sure you enable persistent data if you are an Ubuntu user. It will let you write a compact ISO file to boot from while giving you the ability to keep your extra installed applications and saved documents. This is also good if you utilize a large amount of systems with the USB drive because the live environment will detect what hardware is available every time it boots.
If you want, you can write a live ISO to the USB, just make sure the USB is appropriately sized for the data. Once that’s done you can use Linux from any computer that allows booting from USB media and there are also tools that can do this for you if you need assistance.
Be warned that if you do this, none of your data will be saved once you shut down the computer because with a live environment, your data is temporarily kept in RAM and not written on the USB drive or computer’s hard drive. As a result, none if it is saved when the system turns off.
This method is not recommended if you want a full Linux environment in your pocket, but it can come in handy as a means to provide security around the information you are using and sharing, knowing nothing is being saved. Financial information, classified information, etc could benefit from something like this.
Lastly, you can always do a full install to your USB. This method lets you literally put the whole Linux system in your pocket. The advantage to this being that you have your own operating system set up the way you want it with you wherever you go. It can be installed and used in any computer you come across or serve as a backup should one be needed due to a computer crash or malfunction.
The thing you will want to keep in mind with this type of USB installation is that you are going to need a USB capable of a large amount of storage. Also, since the system thinks the OS is installed normally, it will make changes to drivers and hardware you’re currently working with. This is predominantly a concern when using proprietary drivers. It’s recommended you don’t use them in this scenario as it can cause some issues with the Linux OS.
In conclusion it’s quite easy to use Linux on a flash drive if you see fit; you will just need to make sure it’s installed properly on the drive via one of the methods mentioned above. Make sure you know which method you used, and the limitations of it, so you don’t end up losing data or messing up a computer by accident. If you do this you won’t have any problems using Linux as a portable OS.