Five best portable Linux for you

Portable Linux is something that most of the System Administrators rely on to quickly fix a broken system or do some administrative work while on move. Any portable Linux runs on very low profile hardware, as low as 100MB space, 16MB Ram etc, that you may think now out-of order in modern computing world. There are also practices where systems without Hard Disk, Monitors are kept in a corner to perform very specific network task like Intrusion Protection System (IPS), Intrusion Detection System (IDS), Web Server, Mail Server, File Server etc with low security exposure. In these situation portable Linux is the prefered solution. Anyway, there are many other reasons of having a portable Linux in your pocket and that’s the reason of growing community of portable Linux.

In this article we will try you to show 5 best portable Linux that are popular in the community. Obviously, if you are a good System Administrator, you can make any Linux portable. But we are talking about typical portable Linux well-known as “Portable”.

Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is one of the popular linux which is very Small in size, ~100MB! This lends itself to some very useful and unique features.  It provides ‘Live’ booting from CDs, DVDs, USB flash drives, and other portable media and runs from RAM, making it unusually fast even in old PCs and in netbooks with solid state storage media. It requires very low minimum system requirements and has a boot time well under a minute, 30-40 seconds in most systems.  Puppy Linux includes a wide range of applications: wordprocessors, spreadsheets, internet browsers, games, image editors and many utilities. Extra software in the form of dotpets. There is a GUI Puppy Software Installer included.  Puppy is easy to use and little technical knowledge is assumed. Most hardware is automatically detected.  Currently Puppy Linux 5.3.3 which is Slackware compatible and 5.2.8 of Ubuntu compatible. To download and know more about it visit http://puppylinux.org.


KNOPPIX is a very well known live Linux which is by nature “Live”. Means, it has not intention to stay on Hard Disk. KNOPPIX is a bootable Live system on CD or DVD, consisting of a representative collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPIXX runs software from CD and it’s not a tiny in size like other portable Linux. KNOPPIX can be used as a productive Linux system for the desktop, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. It is not necessary to install anything on a hard disk. Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it (over 8GB on the DVD “Maxi” edition).  Visit http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html to know more about it.

Damn Small Linux

Damn Small Linux or DSL is really “Damn Small”. They claim it as a “Biz-Card Desktop OS”. Damn Small is small enough which boots from a business card CD as a live linux distribution (LiveCD). It boots from a USB pen drive or  boot from within a host operating system. Means it can run *inside* Windows, OWOh!!     By nature it’s a Debian Linux with a traditional hard drive install and run light enough to power a 486DX with 16MB of RAM. in can run entirely from RAM of 128MB system to give very fast experience. Thoug it was only a 50MB portable Linux, over time it grew to give more applications like XMMS (MP3, CD Music, and MPEG), FTP client, Dillo web browser, Netrik web browser, FireFox, spreadsheet, Sylpheed email, spellcheck (US English), a word-processor (Ted), three editors (Beaver, Vim, and Nano [Pico clone]), graphics editing and viewing (Xpaint, and xzgv), Xpdf (PDF Viewer), emelFM (file manager), Naim (AIM, ICQ, IRC), VNCviwer, Rdesktop, SSH/SCP server and client, DHCP client, PPP, PPPoE (ADSL), a web server, calculator, generic and GhostScript printer support, NFS, Fluxbox and JWM window managers, games, system monitoring apps, a host of command line tools, USB support, and pcmcia support, some wireless support and many more. Then it’s not a Damn Small Linux. But still portable and enough small to carry with you in pen drive. Visit http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/ to know more about DSL.


Slax, what they call “your pocket operating system”, is a modern, portable, small and fast Linux operating system with a modular approach and outstanding design. Though it is also very small in size, Slax provides a wide collection  of pre-installed software for daily use, including a good looking GUI and some useful recovery tools for system administrators.

The modular approach gives you the ability to include any other software in Slax easily. If you’re missing your favourite text editor, networking tool or game, simply download a module with the software and copy it to Slax, no need to install, no need to configure. Following few steps to build very own customized operating system by using web-based interface here, anyone can rebuild Slax for any of his specialized purpose. Slax is also foundation of some other portable Linux. If you want to know more about Slax you can visit their web site http://www.slax.org/


BackTrack is a Debian based portable Linux specialy designed for Security Professionals. This is very popular for it’s tool set for both information security protection and hackers. BackTrack provides users with easy access to a comprehensive and large collection of security-related tools ranging from port scanners to password crackers. Support for Live CD and Live USB functionality allows users to boot BackTrack directly from portable media without requiring installation, though permanent installation to hard disk is also an option.

It provides many security tools including Nmap, Ophcrack, Ettercap, Wireshark, Hydra, Metasploit etc. Information Security concerns such as Information Gathering,  Vulnerability Assessment, Exploitation, Reverse Engineering, RFID Tools, Access Violation,   Forensics  testing etc are the focus area of BackTrack. Some experts says, if you have BackTrack you have almost everything of Information Security in your hand. Remember, BackTrack is not that small comparing to Puppy Linux, DSL or Slax.

Dear readers, we tried to share few popular portable Linux with you. Our intention was not to see if the portable one is the smallest one or very fast only but also to make sure they give us the required functionality when one needs them most. In short KNOPPIX is the best one for System Administrators who want all system admin related tools, development tools and network daemons ready and BackTrack is for the Information Security guard for you. Puppy Linux, DSL and Slax will meet your demand of small footprint, very fast and ultra portability when it demands. Hope that will help you to make your choice of your portable Linux.

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About Sifat

Sifat is a veteran System Administrator who still loves to make his hand dirty with text consoles. Sifat has 14 years of Operations and Management experience in IT and telecommunication industries.He has proven record of IT planning, Policy Development, IT Process Management, Cost Control and successful leadership for effective and efficient IT organization. He is effective in reducing Capital and Operation Expense by H/W & Software consolidation and virtualization. Sifat is a certified ITIL and VMWare Professional.
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