Here is a list of 4 Best free USB operating systems that we have come across. Not all of these are based on Linux, and one of these is non-Linux based, still free.
A USB operating system or portable operating system is an operating system that can be installed on a USB drive, and fully functions from there. Such portable operating systems come handy if you like to travel a lot, but do not want to carry your laptop around. In that case, you can just plug-in your USB drive, and use your own operating system on any computer.
All these USB operating systems are persistent, so they store the files that you create on the USB drive, and all those files are available when you turn on your USB operating system next time.
I find such USB operating systems more secure than carrying around files on USB drive. If you are carrying file on a USB drive, then you will have to use some other computer to open those files, and there is a possibility that a copy of your file is left on that computer. This is a big security risk. Instead of that, if you use a USB operating system, then you can just plug-in your USB operating system, directly open the files from that, and not leave any trace on host computer.
Advantage of such a USB operating system is in the places where one computer is shared among multiple people. In that case, each user can have their own USB drive, and have their own USB operating system on that. Then, the user just needs to plug-in his/her USB drive in the computer, and enjoy his/her own personal USB operating system. Some places where this could come handy are like schools, and Internet café.
Here is a list of four best USB operating system that you can download for free.
MojoPac is a USB-based desktop operating environment. As is the case in Slax, MojoPac is specially designed to be used on USB drive. To be frank, this is really the only USB desktop environment in this list that meets all the objectives that I mentioned in the beginning of the article. However, do note that MojoPac is not really an operating system, but does lets you use your USB drive to carry around your applications, and use them.
Another great feature of MojoPac is that you can also install it on your iPod, instead of a USB Flash Drive. So, if you already carry your iPod with you, just install MojoPac on that, and have a USB operating system always handy.
The way MojoPac has been designed is that you start by installing MojoPac on your USB flash drive and after that you can install any Windows application on MojoPac. This includes applications like Microsoft office, chat applications, browsers, even games.
The way MojoPac works is when you plug-in your USB flash drive to any Windows computer, MojoPac uses the Windows files on that computer and then makes your applications run using that. This means even though you have your Window applications installed on your USB flash drive, you never really need to install Windows on it, and Windows of the host computer is used. However, even though MojoPac uses the windows of the host computer, it actually never leaves any trace of activity on the host computer. So, whenever you create any new files or do any web browsing or engage in any chat conversation using MojoPac, no trace of your activity or files is left on host computer.
MojoPac is completely free, and very easy to download. It requires less than hundred MB space to download and install module on a USB flash. Of course, you need more space depending on the applications that you decide to install on your Mojo USB flash drive.
Update (1-Sep-2012): Mojopac is not free now.
Slax is one of the only operating systems that have been specially created just for use on USB flash drives. This is a very neat USB operating system that comes with a lot of modules and a lot of apps that you can use and it makes it very easy to install on USB Flash drive. Slax comes with a very easy-to-use interface so you do not get a feel that you’re using a Linux operating system.
One of the great things about Slax is that you can customize your operating system. You can choose the modules that you want to install and then download your customized installation from Slax’s website. Then it is very easy to just write it to your USB drive to create a USB operating system.
Slax requires around 200 MB of USB drive space and it also comes with persistence feature, so all your files are retained. As I mentioned earlier, one of the great features is that you can choose that which modules you want to install. This ensures that you’re not using the Flash drive space by installing modules which you were never going to use.
You can download Slax free here.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux-based operating systems. The reason for its popularity is its easy-to-use interface, and a wide variety of apps that are available for Ubuntu. it is also possible to install Ubuntu to on a USB drive. You just need a 1GB Flash drive to install Ubuntu on that. Installation comes with all the default Ubuntu apps, which includes Open Office, image editor, instant messaging client, browser, and much more. Ubuntu also comes with persistence feature, so if you create any files on your Flash Drive while using Ubuntu, those changes are retained when you plug-in your flash drive next time.
Even though Ubuntu works fine on a one GB flash drive, it is recommended that your flash drive has been more capacity if you’re going to create a lot of files in that or if you’re going to install lot of applications in that.
Overall, Ubuntu is one of the best USB operating system to carry around in a USB flash drive. Best of all, it is totally free and easy-to-use.
Ylmf OS is a Linux-based operating system which actually looks a lot like Windows operating system. In fact, it has been specially designed to mimic Windows as much as possible. This I believe is one of the strongest steps towards making it easier for Windows users to move to Linux. I’m a strong believer of the fact that the reason for Linux not becoming more popular is simply because it is not intuitive to be used by users who are already using Windows. Ylmf OS like operating systems make it a lot easier for Windows users to start moving toward Linux-based operating systems.
Ylmf OS can also be installed on a USB flash drive so that you can carry it around. Now, the advantage you get by using Ylmf OS USB operating system is that it has a Windows like interface. That means even if you’re not using Windows, the USB based operating system still gives your Windows like feel so it is not terribly difficult for you to use a different operating system while you’re on the move. Ylmf OS requires around 2 GB of the USB flash drive space to be installed.
Update (1-Sep-2012): It is called StartOS now.
You can download Ylmf OS here.